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  • Writer's pictureAndray Voronov

Walking the Barefoot Path: Building Strength & Combatting Plantar Fasciitis



Hello there! I'm Dr. Andray Voronov, your friendly osteopath at Gravity Osteopathy, serving the good folks of Narre Warren and nearby areas like Berwick, Hallam, Hampton Park, Cranbourne, Clyde, and Clyde North. Today, I'd like to share some insights into a common issue that many of our physically active clients face - plantar fasciitis.


The pain from plantar fasciitis can be incredibly frustrating, especially for those who've recently embarked on a fitness journey. But fear not, as today, we're taking a slightly unconventional route to combat this ailment. We're literally taking off our shoes and stepping onto the path of barefoot exercises!


Understanding Plantar Fasciitis

Before we delve into the world of barefoot exercises, let's take a moment to understand what plantar fasciitis entails. In layman's terms, plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia (or so was once though... but more on that later), a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot, connecting your heel bone to your toes. Symptoms often include a stabbing pain that usually occurs with your first steps in the morning or after long periods of standing or sitting.


There's a common misconception about plantar fasciitis, where many believe it to be caused by a "tight" plantar fascia. But recent research indicates otherwise. The true culprits seem to be factors such as a narrow toe box in our shoes, stiffness in the feet, calves, and toes, and the overall lack of strength in our feet. As an osteopath who has encountered numerous cases of plantar fasciitis, I can testify to these findings. In fact, let me share an anecdote that might surprise you…


A Step Back in Time

In one case, a patient came to me with severe pain in her heel. She was an avid runner and had recently ramped up her mileage, leading to the sudden onset of plantar fasciitis. Like many, she believed her plantar fascia was "tight," and she had been stretching it excessively. However, on examination, I found something different.


Her plantar fascia was not "tight." Instead, it was her calves and toes that were stiff, and her foot strength was lacking. Furthermore, there were obvious signs of a big toe bunion (this is where narrow squash the toes and a boney bump forms on the side of the foot). This combination of muscular and structural dysfunction was leading to blood flow restriction in the sole of her foot. Basically, this means that her plantar fasciia was slowly dying (or what we would call plantar fasciosis). After realising this, we decided to take a unique approach to her treatment. We went barefoot!


Unveiling the Power of Barefoot Exercises

Research has found a strong link between a narrow toe box in shoes and plantar fasciitis. Traditional footwear often restricts our toes' natural spread, leading to muscle weakness in the feet. Walking barefoot, or minimalist footwear, can help reconnect us with our feet and build strength.


But before you start throwing away your shoes and running barefoot on the streets, there are a few things you should know. Barefoot exercises should be approached slowly and carefully, just like any other new fitness regime. Sudden and excessive barefoot activity can cause more harm than good, especially if your feet are not used to it.


One of the primary goals of barefoot exercises is to build strength. But remember, this doesn't happen overnight. Just as a person doesn't become a marathon runner in a week, you won't gain full foot strength instantly. It takes patience, persistence, and a gradual increase in intensity and duration.


A good way to start is by doing toe-gripping exercises. Try picking up small objects with your toes. This activity helps activate the small muscles in your feet, preparing them for more strenuous barefoot activities. Another simple yet effective exercise is to spread your toes apart, hold for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat this several times throughout the day.


As your feet get stronger and you become more comfortable, you can introduce more challenging exercises, such as barefoot balance exercises. Try standing on one foot while barefoot, first on a flat surface, and then on an unstable surface like a cushion. This helps build the intrinsic muscles in your foot, improving balance and stability.


Barefoot, Plantar Fasciitis, and You

So how does all this help with plantar fasciitis? Going barefoot can help you regain control over your feet. It allows you to build up foot strength and flexibility, address imbalances, and take the strain off the plantar fascia.


Remember, though, this is not a magic bullet. It's a piece of the puzzle that, combined with other therapies such as exercise prescription, dry needling, and balanced ligamentous tension, can make a significant difference.


A Journey to Healthier Feet

So there you have it – a brief introduction to how barefoot exercises can help build strength and combat plantar fasciitis. If you're dealing with plantar fasciitis or other foot-related issues, don't hesitate to reach out to us at Gravity Osteopathy. As an osteopath serving Narre Warren and surrounding regions, I'm here to guide you through your journey towards healthier feet.

Don't let plantar fasciitis hold you back. Take off your shoes, step onto the path of strength, and walk towards a healthier future.


Book an appointment today at www.gravityosteo.com/book and take your first step towards overcoming plantar fasciitis.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes. But commonly, due to the way we treat our feet with conventional shoes, rather than plantar fasciitis, plantar fasciiosis (a dying off of plantar fasciia tissue) is a growing problem. Symptoms often include a stabbing pain, especially with the first steps in the morning or after long periods of standing or sitting.


2. How can barefoot exercises help plantar fasciitis?

Going barefoot can help build foot strength and flexibility, address imbalances, and take the strain off the plantar fascia. It helps you regain control over your feet and strengthens the muscles in your feet that may be underused due to over-reliance on footwear.


3. Are barefoot exercises a quick fix for plantar fasciitis?

No, barefoot exercises aren't a quick fix but they are part of a broader treatment plan that may include exercise prescription, dry needling, and balanced ligamentous tension. It takes patience, persistence, and a gradual increase in intensity and duration of these exercises to see improvements.


4. How should I start with barefoot exercises?

Start with simple exercises like toe curls or heel raises at home. Then, gradually increase your barefoot time around the house. As you get more comfortable, you can try walking barefoot outside on a flat, even surface like a track.


5. Can I experience pain while doing barefoot exercises?

A little discomfort is normal when you start new exercises, but if you notice exacerbation of your plantar fasciitis symptoms or other significant pain, you should back off a bit and progress more slowly. Remember, it's always important to listen to your body.


6. How can I get more guidance on doing barefoot exercises correctly?

To get the right guidance tailored to your individual needs, consider booking an appointment with me, Dr. Andray Voronov, at Gravity Osteopathy. We can provide a personalised exercise plan and ensure you're doing these exercises correctly and safely.


7. Can barefoot exercises be helpful for conditions other than plantar fasciitis?

Yes, barefoot exercises can be helpful for various conditions as they help strengthen foot muscles, improve balance, and may help with a range of foot and ankle issues.


8. What other therapies can supplement barefoot exercises for plantar fasciitis treatment?

Therapies like exercise prescription, dry needling, and balanced ligamentous tension can supplement barefoot exercises for a comprehensive treatment plan for plantar fasciitis.


9. How can I book an appointment with you?

You can book an appointment with me, Dr. Andray Voronov, at www.gravityosteo.com/book. We're looking forward to helping you on your journey towards healthier feet.

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