If you’re overweight and suffering from the heel pain of plantar fasciitis, losing weight might seem like an impossible goal. While exercise is an important part of weight loss plans, it’s difficult to commit to walking when each step feels like you’re being stabbed. And it’s a vicious cycle: being overweight increases the pain of plantar fasciitis, and the pain of plantar fasciitis makes it difficult to lose weight.
But it’s not impossible to put together a diet and exercise plan that will help your plantar fasciitis as well as help you lose weight.
Part One: Diet
Whether you subscribe to a particular weight-loss diet or simply exercise more portion control and eat all things in moderation is up to you. However, there are some foods that may be beneficial to plantar fasciitis. Specifically, foods that help fight inflammation –as omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to do – may help reduce the symptoms of plantar fasciitis; they are also generally considered a healthy fat for people trying to lose weight. So if you’re on a diet to help combat plantar fasciitis, these foods can be a one-two punch, both helping you lose weight and reducing the symptoms of your heel pain.
Fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, and sardines are a popular source of this nutrient. It’s also possible to get eggs and dairy products that have been enriched with omega-3, and even breads and pastas are now being fortified with omega-3. However, the highest concentrations are found in fatty fish, so many people find this the easiest way to increase the omega-3 in their diet.
Part Two: Stretching
Stretching is important for anyone who exercises, but it’s no secret that many people skip it. However, it’s absolutely essential if you’re going to start an exercise program with plantar fasciitis. Stretching beforehand can have a huge effect on how painful your heels will be; this is why many people find that the pain of plantar fasciitis lessens throughout the day as the muscles in your feet and ankles loosen.
The specific areas that you need to stretch are your Achilles tendons, and calves. Luckily, with a stair or a curb, it’s possible to do a set of stretches that will hit both these areas. Stand with your toes and the balls of your feet on the curb; the arch and heel of your foot should be hanging over the edge. Alternate lowering your heels below the curb level as far as they will go and then raising yourself on the balls of your feet as high as you can go. If you need to hold on to a wall or surface to keep your balance, do so; this doesn’t compromise the effectiveness of the stretches as long as you don’t use it to carry your weight.
Some people also find it helpful to stretch the arches of their feet. The simplest way to do this is to stand and then scrunch up your toes as tightly as you can; you should feel how this stretches your arch. Then stretch it in the opposite direction by lifting your toes off the ground as high as they can while keeping the rest of your foot flat on the ground.
Part Three: Exercise
As with diet, your choice of exercise is less important than the fact that you keep up with your exercise. However, for plantar fasciitis, it’s important to find exercise that’s not painful – you’re very unlikely to stay with an exercise program that hurts. If walking is comfortable after stretching, then it makes a very convenient form of exercise. But if not, then look into even lower-impact forms of exercise such as swimming, kayaking, and canoeing. In the winter, cross-country skiing is another good choice that lets you get outdoors. Click here to learn more about what you can do for heel pain.