Lately I’ve been treating quite a few people with foot and ankle discomfort, and the most recent patient I’ve treated was myself!
During a recent vacation that I took with my family, we did A LOT of walking, and although I’m a pretty active person, the continuous walking on uneven and unstable surfaces took a toll on my feet and achilles tendons…resulting in a lot of pain at the end of the day.
The reason the achilles tendon is so commonly affected and irritated is because it is attached to the 2 large calf muscles, and as we walk it’s constantly being worked. When we walk on uneven surfaces or for excessively long distances – without properly preparing for the activity, the tendon can become overworked and result in pain and discomfort in the muscles.
So what did I do to help myself? Here are a couple of easy things I did to prevent my pain from getting worse:
1. Stretching my calf and foot muscles: A couple times during the day I set aside a few minutes to stretch, as my muscles really needed it. A simple calf stretch and foot stretch were both very helpful – see below!
Calf stretch: the easiest way to stretch your calf is to hang your heel off of the back of a step, as you straighten your knee, you will feel a nice pulling sensation in your calf region, hold for 30 seconds, 3 times, up to 3 times per day.
Plantar fascia stretch – to stretch the bottom of your feet: simply sit in a chair, grab the bottom of your toes, and pull upward until you feel a stretch into your foot, hold for 30 seconds, 3 times, up to 3 times per day
2. Self massage: Because the muscles were so tight, they needed some manual release to loosen up. I got a hold of a small ball – you can use a lacrosse or squash ball – and simply rolled my foot on the ball for 1-2 minutes. This shouldn’t cause any pain, it should be relieving. Also, I rolled my calf muscles on the ball – place the ball right under the area that’s the most sore, and apply pressure into the ball until you feel a release, or simply roll your leg along the ball. This should also be a relief. Also, a very effective tactic for foot discomfort is to use a frozen water bottle, and roll your foot along that.
3. Proper footwear! When on vacation it’s tempting to just wear flip flops or sandals…which is the mistake I made on a couple of the days that we walked a lot. (Yes, I should know better!) Because of the lack of support in the sandals, my foot and calf muscles were pulled on and became more irritated. So proper footwear, such as good tennis shoes with proper arch support, is very important in preventing foot and ankle pain.
These tactics plus getting a little bit of rest worked very well for me, and I hope this is helpful for you too!
Everything starts from the ground up, so making sure your feet are well supported can prevent pain in other areas too – including knee, hip, and even back pain!
As always, thank you for reading, and feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions, or if you need some help with any pain or discomfort!
Cheers to your health,
"We help active adults and athletes get back to doing the activities they love, without relying on painkillers or injections."
Shaheen Siddiqui, PT
Specialist Physical Therapist