Does the Cold Weather Make Plantar Fasciitis Worse??

ASK THE PODIATRIST:

Dear Dr. Weinert:  I play college sports and have been diagnosed as having plantar fasciitis, and have done a lot of what my doctor told me to do to keep my feet from hurting.  However, during these cold wet months of Michigan winter, my feet seem to hurt way worse than they did during the fall.  Is this normal?  I haven’t been playing sports that include running, though I have been walking to class and around town. – Anonymous, Rochester, MI

Answer:

Before I answer, I want to explain exactly what plantar fasciitis is for anyone who might not know. Plantar fasciitis is inflammation, usually due to injury, of the plantar fascia, the ligament between the front of the heel bone and the base of the toes that helps to support the arch. It causes severe pain on the bottoms of the feet and causes heel pain, especially in the morning. Excess stress absorbed by the foot may irritate or tear the plantar fascia, making this a common disorder among athletes, especially runners. Plantar fasciitis can be caused by a tendency of the foot to roll inward (pronation) upon walking as well, so malalignment can be an aggravating  factor. Plantar fasciitis is also very much tied to the presence of bone spurs. As to your hypothesis that the cold wet weather is causing the plantar fasciitis to be worse?  Not likely, at least not due to a. the cold, and b.) the wetness.  Plantar fasciitis actually benefits from cooling/icing much more than the application of heat, which sometimes aggravates the condition.  However, this wintry mix is likely a source of pain for you- but why? The answer lies in the stress of walking through snow and routine activities that might be more stressful because of the outdoor conditions.  Additionally, most people don’t think too much about the quality of their snow boots- which often don’t have an insole conducive to keeping plantar fasciitis at bay.  If you’ve been wearing boots without much arch support and walking around town through the snow and muck, it’s not much of a surprise that your foot pain is flaring up again. So here’s my advice, Anonymous:

  • Rest the foot as much as possible. Avoid walking around town, and if you can hitch a ride to class so much the better.
  • Apply ice to the tender area a few times daily to reduce inflammation. Try rolling the arch of the foot over an empty tennis ball can that has been filled with water and frozen; this both cools and stretches the affected area.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers (ibuprofen, naproxen) to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Insert an over-the-counter arch support and heel support cushion into the shoe. Consider getting a quality orthotic– we have an amazing one we can provide you.
  • Try to avoid walking barefoot, since it may put added stress on the plantar ligament.
  • Sit on a bench/table with your knees bent. Loop a towel under the ball of the injured foot and pull, flexing the front of your foot upward. Keep your knee bent and try to press your foot against the towel.
  • Sit on a chair and cross the ankle of the injured foot over the opposite knee. Slowly push the toes backward with your hand until you feel the stretch in the bottom of your foot.
  • Stand facing a wall, about one foot away, with the injured foot about six inches farther back. Put your hands on the wall and gently lean forward, stretching the lower calf.
  • Stand facing a wall, about two feet away, with the injured foot about six inches farther back. Keep both feet slightly turned outward. Put your hands on the wall and gently lean forward, bending the front knee and keeping the back heel on the floor.

If your plantar fasciitis doesn’t improve, make an appointment to see me in my Troy podiatrist office as soon as possible.  Nobody should suffer with foot pain, and you certainly don’t want potential long term damage ruining your college athletic career. Do you have foot pain or foot & ankle related questions?  Ask the podiatrist!  Send us an email to contactus@stopfeetpainfast.com for a chance to have us publish your question and our answer.