I developed plantar fasciitis a short time ago: the plantar fascia runs along the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes, and overuse, aging, and/or inflammation in this area can cause severe pain in the foot. As a martial artist, I felt devastated. I could no longer walk barefoot, even in my own house on carpet. I couldn’t jump or run. Walking was excruciatingly painful. How would I ever be able to keep up my practice and my workouts?
Luckily, I had friends and family who had also experienced it. The first advice was to get some good martial arts shoes. I resisted: our style never uses shoes, and I didn’t want to look… well, dumb. Lazy. Soft! But he had a point. All the martial arts shoes I looked for online, since none were available within driving distance, were men’s shoes. Reading the reviews, I saw complaints that it was difficult to pivot in the shoes. That was unacceptable. If you can’t pivot, you can destroy your knees. I ended up buying Jazz shoes. They were designed for dance, shaped for a woman’s foot, and they were a good temporary solution, giving me solid arch support and allowing me to work out on concrete floors.
On my way to my first tournament where I would wear shoes, I felt extremely nervous about how the other advanced blackbelts and Grandmaster Kim would respond. I didn’t know if I would be ordered to take them off (they would not be allowed during sparring, of course). As it turned out, nearly all of the other martial artists around my age had suffered plantar fasciitis, and they were envious of my shoes.
More advice from experts: Stretching the calves was key for me, especially before walking around first thing in the morning. I stretched my calves repeatedly throughout the day. I was also shown how to roll a golf ball under my foot, working it under the ball, the knife edge, the heel, and up and down the arch. The pain made me cry at first. I couldn’t believe how agonizing it was. But I saw results immediately. Other recommended exercises were walking on my toes, jumping on a trampoline, and sitting on my heels with “live toes”: And ice was helpful. Always use ice before heat, not heat before ice.
The point is, it can take one to two years— yes, years— to recover from plantar fasciitis, so “rest” as a treatment doesn’t mean lying around with your feet propped up. Spend two years like that, and you’ll have a lot more health problems than sore feet! “Rest” means alternate exercises if you can’t jump, or using arch support to relieve wear and tear. “Rest” means giving up those cheap flip flops and tennis shoes.
If you love being active, it’s important to remember that if you are careful and willing to work at recovery, your feet will improve. I’m still doing all of my exercises, and rolling that golf ball under my feet (it doesn’t hurt anymore), but I am back to being able to jump and play and workout without shoes and even going barefoot for short periods on concrete. I’m just more careful now. For more information, try Mayo Clinic or WebMD online.