When the pain in your heel is up, like 5 or higher on a scale of 10, the most important thing to do is to get off your feet, and to lie down with your feet elevated as often as humanly possible. The inflammation and pain cycle need time to be allowed to chill out, which is exponentially harder when you’re on your feet.
- No unnecessary walking. For me, that meant no little stroll after dinner and no 15 walk to the burger joint I love at lunch. I literally did not walk unless I had to. (This is not so hard when your heel is really letting you know it is not happy.)
- No standing around for longer than strictly necessary. Oddly enough, standing up actually seems to be harder on my feet than walking, so standing around, in any context, whether at work or at a party or doing dishes, is not so good. If you have a job that involves standing, which I’m sure many readers do, you will need to do whatever you can to stand as little as possible when you are not on the job and, if your circumstances allow, consider taking some time off.
- No water aerobics that involves walking or jumping. (Deep water aerobics and swimming are good.)
- No running
- No biking (There are different theories about when you can start biking but definitely when the pain is acute, you just need to be off your foot.)
- No hiking
To seriously rest your foot, you won’t be able to hike or run or bike, for as long as it takes to let your foot get pretty far down the path of healing. If you are a runner, you will need to stop running for a while. I completely stopped hiking and taking long walks, my favorite forms of physical exercise, for several months. This was hands down the biggest drag of having plantar fasciitis. Not everyone will choose to stop hiking or running all together, but for me it was worth it to give my inflamed heel a chance to almost totally calm down before slowly adding back some walks and hikes.
As I write this, five months into my recovery, I do take 30 minute to 1 hour walks and light hikes, but still don’t go on the 3-4 hour (or more) hikes I have always loved. It’s a slow journey, and it’s especially challenging not to push the exercise too hard when you begin to feel better.
At the beginning, needing to lounge around with your feet up may be a pleasure for some, but tough for others. I had to do battle with my internal critic calling me a lazy a** and a big loser.
I felt embarrassed a lot, asking my husband to bring me the laundry from the dryer or to do the dishes so that I didn’t need to stand up. (He’s the main cook in our family, so was doing double duty.) I couldn’t stand lying down for very long, but I did it as often as I could stand, and for most other things, I have learned to turn everything into a sit-down task, even now when my feet are considerably better.
I put the cutting board on the kitchen table and chopped veggies over there. Pull a chair up to clean the work bench in the garage. Sit down when chatting with a friend at work instead of standing by her desk. All those little moments, and ten-minute segments, add up over the course of a day.
- As you go through your day, find 3 things you can do sitting or lying down instead of standing up.
- When you’re resting at home, elevate your feet.