Banish heel pain and get moving faster with these top-notch recovery tools.
Your Feet Deserves Some Love
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Sure, your feet might feel tired after a tough workout or a long night in high heels, but if you're constantly plagued with sharp pain, it could be something more troublesome. Plantar fasciitis is no joke, and finding relief can be difficult. So, what is it, exactly? Plantar fasciitis is characterized by pain in the thick connective tissue on the base of the feet between the heel bone and toes. "Pain in the plantar fascia is poorly understood and likely has many causes including overuse, poor flexibility in the calf and foot, and obesity, as well as changes in training, such as abrupt increase in mileage in runners and walkers, faulty running shoes, and very high or very low arches in the foot," says Matt Bayes, M.D., sports medicine and regenerative orthopedic specialist at Bluetail Medical Group in Chesterfield, MO.
People who suffer from plantar fasciitis typically experience pain during the first few steps in the morning or after a prolonged time sitting. And why the pain usually resolves itself after further movement, that doesn't mean it's any less painful and frustrating, especially for those who are active.
"Part of the reason plantar fasciitis is so difficult to treat is that it has so many possible causes, as well as the fact that you walk on the fascia with every step you take," says Dr. Bayes. Still, there are some ways to mitigate the pain, like these brilliant running tips that prevent foot pain, and the recovery tools that follow.
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"Using a foam roller to roll out the hamstring and calf can be painful initially, but it helps to loosen the tissue," says Dr. Bayes. Having a mini roller around is a great way to make sure you don't skip this crucial stretching. This version fits nicely under your arch and heel to extend throughout the whole foot.
Try this: HealPT Mini Massage Foot Roller ($12; amazon.com)
Hot and Cold Restore Roller
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You probably already know that hot and cold therapy works to ease body pain and sore muscles. A hot and cold recovery tool provides a dual mobility treatment (massage and temperature), says Kenneth Jung, M.D., foot and ankle surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles. While a smooth or textured surface of these recovery balls will apply the much-needed pressure for relief, you can DIY it with a frozen water bottle under your foot, says Dr. Bayes. Whatever method you choose, simply roll the ball or bottle under your heel and extend throughout the sole.
Try this: Restore Hot & Cold Therapy Kit ($15; gaiam.com)
Foot and Calf Stretcher
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Massaging the plantar fascia and calf stretching can provide relief and maintain flexibility, says Dr. Jung. A foot and calf stretcher like this one will increase mobility and build strength in the foot, he says.
Try this: Gaiam Wellbeing Foot & Calf Stretcher ($25; gaiam.com)
Posterior Night Splint
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Lying in bed for hours can exacerbate the heel pain in the morning. Sleeping in a splint, which keeps the ankle in the dorsiflexed-stretched position, may help come morning. "It can be worn during sleep or extended periods of reclining/sitting," says Dr. Jung. You can also bring one to the office to keep by your desk. (Related: The Best Standing Desks for Work, Approved By Shape Editors)
Try this: Plantar Fasciitis Posterior Night Splint ($22; amazon.com)
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Using a massage ball provides direct pressure to the plantar fascia, says Dr. Jung. You might also want to try a lacrosse ball, baseball, or golf ball, he adds.
"Place the ball on the floor, then in a seated position apply light pressure down onto the ball with your foot, keeping the ball under the most painful part of the heel and arch," says Dr. Bayes. "This will loosen and massage the injured tissue."
Try this: Healthy Model Life Spiky Massage Ball ($9; amazon.com)