I remember when I started taping and wrapping my feet. I would wrap the tape so tightly that I either had to sit or, if I stood, I had to deal with the fact that my toes would be blue. This all started before the age of ten. I remember my feet hurting so badly that I told my mother that I was scared that the bottom arch of my foot was going to literally rip and snap.
I remember my mother putting each of my feet into hard plastic boots before tucking me into my youthful, flower-power pink sheets at night. I remember having to wear the ugliest and clunkiest “pronator” shoes in 3rd grade when all my friends wore pink light-up shoes. I remember hating the 1-mile run day at school because it meant that I wouldn’t be able to participate in dance class later that night.
I know some of these things might sound youthful and childish, but to a child, not wearing the pink shoes and not getting to do dance class are a huge part of a child’s world.
Today, as a certified personal trainer and Muscle Activation Techniques™ specialist in Schaumburg, I have the honor of working with many individuals that experience this type of foot pain. Just like my foot pain took me away from my pink light up shoes, foot pain in adults can take them away from playing with their kids, from recreationally running, from exercising for their health, and from wearing the kinds of shoes they want to wear. This type of foot pain can compromise anyone’s quality of life. This type of foot pain is called plantar fasciitis.
I struggled with plantar fasciitis until I was twenty-one. I saw many foot specialists, walking and gait analysts, and different body workers. Many confirmed that I had plantar fasciitis and that I was an “over-pronator.” All these professionals looked and assessed my lower legs and feet. This completely made sense to me because I was having pain in my feet.
My plantar fasciitis went away when I was 21 and has not returned. My fasciitis went away when I was assessed and worked on by a Muscle Activation Techniques™ specialist. This inspired me so much that I ditched what I was planning to do with my professional life and decided to become a Muscle Activation Techniques™ (MAT™) specialist. After a few years studying this modality, I started to understand why this technique made such an impact on how my feet felt and functioned. I would like to explain this idea to you in the most simplistic way that I can.
An MAT™ Specialist is trained to assess and address muscle function issues in all major joints of the body. This is crucial to discovering the main cause of your symptom because physical symptoms (including plantar fasciitis) generally have a mechanical contribution. In less technical speak, almost all of your aches and pains (even if you blame them on “getting old”) are linked to how your body moves and, mostly, how it doesn’t move. An MAT™ specialist is searching for areas of your body where you do not move well and where your muscles do not function well.
It is common that when someone has “plantar fasciitis,” the symptom is blamed on protonated feet (aka, flat feet). I would like to use this idea to show you what I mean by “there is a mechanical contribution.”
Try this activity:
- Start standing. Feel how your feet are making contact with the ground. Rotate your body so that your entire chest and pelvis are facing your left. Take your attention to your feet. How do they feel? Do you notice that your right foot feels “flattened” and your left foot feels more “arched?”
- Start standing. Observe how your feet feel. Without moving your right foot from the ground, take you right knee and turn it in. This may also look like you are turning the front of your right knee to face the left leg. Observe how this makes your feet feel. Do you notice that the right arch feels more “flattened?”
- Start standing. Observe how your feet feel. Without changing anything else in your body, bend your right knee. How does this make your right foot feel? Do you notice that the arch feels more “flattened”?
I am using these three exercises to show that moving areas of the body can cause the foot’s arch to feel and be flat. It is extremely important to note this.
When it comes to plantar fasciitis, the muscles of the foot are struggling to support the foot. This could be a problem with the muscles of the foot. The muscles of the foot may need to get stronger. If that is the case, try these exercises. Another option, and I see this a lot, is that muscles at another joint are not functioning well, causing the foot to have to overwork.
Remember in Exercise 1 when you rotated to your left? Do you remember how your right foot flattened to the ground? This is an example of how a problem with trunk or core muscles can lead to too much work being placed on the feet.
Remember in Exercise 2 when you rotated the knee inward? This also flattened out your right foot which can cause a lot of stress at the foot. This inward motion of the knee is actually caused by the hip. This is an example of how issues in the muscles of the hip may allow too much stress to be transmitted to the foot.
Remember in Exercise 3 when you bent your knee? This is an example of how knee muscles can contribute to issues with too much stress going to the foot.
If you are struggling with plantar fasciitis, chances are everyone that has tried to help you has only looked at your feet. Here are 5 tips to help you strengthen the muscles that could be contributing to your plantar fasciitis issues.
- Participate controlled weight training for your core and trunk. It is important that your spine and core are supported well with strong muscles (remember how Exercise 1 affected your feet?). Do exercises such as crunches, side bends, and rotations.
- Participate in controlled weight training for your hips. It is important that your hips are supported well with strong muscles (remember how Exercise 2 affected your feet?). Do exercises such as the leg press, hip abduction, hip adduction, and hip flexion exercises.
- Participate in controlled weight training for your knees. It is important that your knees are supported well with strong muscles (remember how Exercise 3 affected your feet?). Do exercises such as knee flexion and knee extension.
- Stop stretching. Have you ever heard of the idea that exercise should be progressive? For example, if it is your first time doing bicep curls at gym, should you start with the 100lb dumbbells? No, you should start with what you can do and progress upwards from there. Additionally, if your elbow is hurting, do you think it is a good idea to do the biceps curls that day? Probably not. My point is, every exercise is not good in every circumstance. Stretching is an exercise. Unfortunately, stretching is often not progressed properly and is suggested to people in a way that “it is good all the time,” no matter what. Because of this, if you are struggling with fasciitis that is not going away, I recommend that you stop stretching.
- See an MAT™ specialist. Strengthening exercises are good because they make sure muscles are contracting well to keep your joints working well. But, to contract well, muscles have to be able to receive and send neural signals to and from the brain and spinal cord. I am going to call this signal exchange “communication” to the brain. Resistance and weight training will not always improve the muscle’s communication to the brain. This is where MAT™ can help. For muscle to do a good job at keeping your joints from putting too much force on your feet your muscles have to be (1) strong (improved with weight training) and (2) communicating well with the brain (improved with Muscle Activation Techniques™).
I know, from first hand experience, how frustrating plantar fasciitis can be. I wish you luck in your journey to work with this symptom!
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