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What Exercises should you use for Plantar Fascia Pain?

The plantar fascia is an extraordinary structure that stretches along the full length of the foot and is very important in getting good propulsion in jumps and in walking. However, it is designed to cope with strain in an on and off kind of way, rather than be under constant load. Treating the sole of the foot will rarely fix the problem and often requires the structures around the plantar fascia to be treated to see change.

The three big things that need to be addressed to really fix the issue are:

  • Muscular support of the arches of the foot
  • Fascial mobility throughout the body and especially the lower leg
  • Gentle support to reduce the load on the fascia while it heals.

 

 

1. Muscular support of the arches of the foot

The foot is designed in such a way that it has 3 dynamic arches that are designed to move and flex as we move, rather than be held in one place. These are supported by complex slings of muscles and fascia that work together to power us forward. However, if there is a weakness in the muscles that support the position of the foot, a constant strain is placed on the plantar fascia and it will start to get sore.

Stretching and massaging the plantar fascia will actually often make it feel worse, as it is already inflamed. We need to retrain the muscles that support the arch to take the load off the fascia long term. This can be done with all of the foot intrinsic exercises in the Advanced Foot Control program (especially the ‘Doming’, ‘Toe Swapping’ and ‘Tripod Foot’ exercises). Make sure that when these exercises are done, the heel stays square and the arch stable (not rocking the foot in and out). They need to be done very slowly and deliberately to get the best effect.

2. Fascial Mobility

The Plantar Fascia of the sole of the foot has direct connections up onto the fascia that runs along the whole back part of your body. Thomas Myers describes this as the “Superficial Back Line”. Tension anywhere in the backline can cause pulling and tension down into the sole of the foot, so it is important that when dealing with any issues with the plantar fascia we also look at the mobility of the fascia throughout the back of the body. The Front Splits Fast Flexibility Program is the perfect way to assess and treat the whole backline, and your student will notice dramatic changes in her overall flexibility once she can isolate and release her own tension points.

See our video on cupping which helps relieve any fascial tension in the lower legs.

3. Supporting the fascia

Providing some support to the fascia is essential in allowing the inflammation to settle while you build up the strength to control the foot yourself. A combination of a soft, heat mouldable orthotic in school/running shoes during the day and strategic taping for classwork is often the best option. This taping technique uses Dynamic Tape to reconstruct the dynamic arches of the foot. It is helpful in offloading an overly stretched plantar fascia, and is also helpful for mild Achilles issues.  Alternatively, or in severe cases, rigid strapping tape in a cross-woven web over the sole of the foot to mimic the plantar fascia may be necessary.

You can purchase Dynamic Tape HERE

To get the fastest and best recovery possible, I definitely recommend combining the three approaches above with a short period of rest from allegro and pointe work. You should still be able to do a flat barre and adage to maintain her strength (especially with appropriate taping) however if it is very painful, you may have to wear supportive runners in class instead of ballet flats.

 

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