When your feet hurt, there are many different conditions that could be causing your pain. When the pain is localized in the heels, many times, the cause of the problem is plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the thick, connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your feet. And, while there are a whole host of treatment options that can help relieve this pain, the one we'll explore in this article is:
- minimally invasive
- carries few possibilities of complication
- can be done anywhere
So, what's this miracle cure I'm talking about? Foam rolling!
What is foam rolling and how can I do it on my feet?
Foam rolling is already a staple in most runner's cool down routines. It helps loosen up tight muscles by applying firm yet gentle pressure to the affected area. The same is true when it comes to foot rollers: they should be used to create pressure on the bottom of your foot. The roller you use could really be anything, but is typically a hard stick made of (you guessed it) inflexible foam material.
When it comes to larger areas of your body, you don't really need to worry about how much pressure you apply with the roller. Your feet, however, are a little more delicate, so you should start by applying gentle pressure, and working your way up to harder pushes. When you're dealing with heel pain, that gentle pressure may loosen up tight foot muscles that are pulling on your plantar fascia and contributing to its inflammation. Go to hard, though, and you could further irritate the sensitive area.
With that said, here's how to foam roll your foot. Find any trigger points on your soles (tight spots or knots.) Place those areas onto the foam and gently roll, back and forth, for about 20 seconds per knot. Now, remember, foam rolling hurts, often quite a bit at first. But it's important to roll through that initial discomfort if you want to loosen up your feet. If you only apply gentle pressure, and move slowly using back and forth motions, the pain will decrease and your spots of tension will begin to loosen up.
For newbies to foam rolling, I'd work on one spot in a day, giving your foot a chance to get used to the new sensation. If you experience tenderness during a session, give your foot a day off between rolls. And if discomfort increases while you roll, or feels sharp instead of dull, stop rolling right away and come see me to make sure you're not creating new problems for yourself. Otherwise, I bid you, go forth and roll away. (With, that is, a few exceptions...keep reading to find out if foam rolling is not right for you.)
I have diabetes. Can I still foam roll my feet?
Unfortunately, if you have diabetes or any circulatory condition, I can't recommend foam rolling your feet as a safe therapy option. Because your feet may have compromised circulation, the risk of creating a wound on your feet is not worth the potential benefits. If the foam roller even mildly irritated your foot, creating a slightly rough patch of skin, and you failed to notice the problem, the results could be potentially devastating. For that reason, I'd advise that you speak to your podiatrist about alternative treatment options if you're dealing with heel pain and diabetes. There are plenty of non-invasive alternatives, like padding and stretching, that will help you find relief without any of the risks.