Plantar fasciitis is the one of the most common causes of heel pain, a condition that involves inflammation of the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot, connecting your heel bone to your toes.
What causes it?
Stretching and tearing of the ligament (the largest in our body, incidentally!) can cause it to become irritated or inflamed, and while runners think of it as a running injury, it’s more common amongst overweight, sedentary people, as well as those who spend many hours standing. It’s also more likely in people who already have foot issues like high arches or being flat-footed.
But it also only happens in societies where people wear shoes. Increasingly, it’s causes are being considered a combination of genetic predisposition, bad luck, lifestyle and what’s on our feet.
Traditional shoes (and sports shoes) are heeled, narrow and rigid, wrecking the foot’s potential to be strong, agile and flexible. While a lot more research needs to be done, studies like the one comparing regularly shod and unshod schoolkids in India showed the regularly unshod kids had wider feet (a sign of foot strength) as well as presenting with fewer flat feet.
So while shoes might be a key problem – so are our bodies, especially after a lifetime of being encased in these stiff, narrow, rigid shoes.
But if you are a runner, already fit, healthy and active – slowly building up to a barefoot movement lifestyle might help you also build your foot strength and keep you moving happily – without plantar fasciitis.
Speak to a barefoot specialist first. Go slowly. Spend more time barefoot at home, then slowly add time in barefoot or minimalist shoes. Work on the flexibility and strength of your foot, ankle and calf. Get off that chair! If our feet didn’t evolve to spend their lives encased in traditional shoes, our hips didn’t evolve to sit folded up in chairs all day. Your whole body will thank you. Enjoy! There’s nothing like the feeling of reconnecting your feet to your brains and the world around you.