First and foremost, feet are about grounding. They are our primary connection with the earth on which we stand and walk. From this connection, we build our foundations for how we stand (and possibly what we stand for) with any level of “standing ground,” and move with varying degrees of “sure-footed” agility. Blocks or tension in the feet can disrupt (or stem from) any of these processes and aspects of being.
Plantar Fasciitis literally means inflammation of the connective tissue on the sole of the foot. When acute, or sharply painful, resting and soft touch can help relax the tissues. Therapeutically, or preventively, there are a number of ways to work on or around the painful areas that can be beneficial longer-term.
Stretching out the tissue on the bottom of the foot can provide extra flexibility and mobility, to reduce cramps and spasms, and encourage space and softening in general. The simplest way to stretch out the plantar surface of the foot is with the toes a few inches up a wall and the heel on the floor. Keeping the knee bent releases the calf muscles, focusing the stretch on the foot. The closer the toes and ball of the foot are to the floor, the deeper the stretch will be.
In addition to stretching, feet are a fairly accessible place to self-massage. My favorite way to get into the bottoms of my feet is with my elbows. If you can sit comfortably cross-legged, or with one foot on the opposite knee, so that the sole of your foot is facing roughly upwards, it should work for you too! Starting out slowly and gently, use your elbow to feel around the tissues on the bottom of the foot. To apply deeper pressure, lean into your elbow rather than trying to push or muscle it around. The more you flex your elbow, the smaller the point of contact will be, therefore increasing the pressure in any one spot. For a broader pressure, keep your elbow at about a 90° angle. Be sure to be gentle enough that you’re not inflicting sharp pain on yourself. Even light pressure can help bring circulation into the area and encourage tissues to soften and relax, and can be very beneficial for more acutely inflamed areas. Moving slowly and holding pressure on specific spots can also help to re-program over-reactive nerve connections.
If elbows don’t work for you, or just for the sake of variety, you can also use a tennis ball, golf ball, or racquetball. Either sitting or standing, roll one foot at a time around on it. Since you’ll have most of your weight on one foot at a time (the one without the ball under it), it may be helpful to stand near a wall or chair for balance. Again, moving slowly and gently at first, you can slowly increase pressure and sink into places that are particularly tender, as long as you work with care and stop short of any sharp pain.