I’m not talking about sore feet from walking around the mall for too long. I’m talking about “can’t stand upright or walk at all” kind of sore feet. The kind of pain that makes you seriously consider going back to crawling.
I suffered from this kind of excruciating pain for over a year before I finally discovered how to stop foot pain.
It was the worst in the morning; I hobbled like an 85-year old for the first half hour of every day – all hunched over and stepping as if I were walking on hot coals.
It would eventually taper off enough so that I could at least walk upright but then, if I sat too long at my desk at work, it would be bad again when I tried to get up out of my chair. And, again, I would have to walk gingerly (hot coals) and struggle until it seemed to work itself out a bit.
It got to the point where I would literally dread getting out of bed in the morning. And, at work, I would wait until there was nobody around me before I got out of my chair so no one would see me hobble. I felt ridiculous and I knew that I looked ridiculous. (I’d caught myself in the mirror more than once)
I went to a reflexologist (foot massage therapy) which felt great and, at his suggestion, I started rolling my feet over frozen water bottles and golf balls. I kept a golf ball at work and would roll it under my desk.
FYI. Be careful rolling your foot across a hard surface. I found that it felt really good to massage those foot muscles but then started pressing too hard and wound up bruising the bottom of my foot. Uuugh. I can’t win.
All of this worked temporarily but the pain would eventually come back.
When it got to the point where I just couldn’t take it anymore, I finally went to see a podiatrist.
I met Dr S a few years earlier when I took my daughter to get treatment for her ingrown toenails and I had been to see him for my plantar fasciitis. So I knew he was a good guy and I got an appointment immediately.
As I sat in the examination chair; I saw foot casts on the desk, orthotics posters on the walls and foot stickers on the floor. I was thinking to myself that it’s a good thing that I have medical insurance through work because I suspected I would need x-rays, gait analysis and maybe new orthotics. None of which are covered by OHIP (Ontario government insurance).
Dr S came in and he was very nice and smiled a lot; just as I remembered. He also seemed genuinely concerned about me and promised that we would get to the bottom of my problem. I explained my pain and he sat down to inspect my feet. As he took my foot with one hand and lifted it up, he grabbed my calf with his other hand to steady my leg.
He looked at me with eyes wide and put my leg back down. The examination was over. He said:
I know what you’re problem is.
He told me that my calf was so tight that he could bounce quarters off of it. He checked the other one and it was the same. He asked if I ever stretch out my calves.
He said that he had never felt calves so tight and told me that these tight muscles go all the way down into my feet. These tight calf muscles were literally pulling on my Achilles tendon which, in turn, was causing stress on the plantar fascia which is the flat tissue that covers pretty much the whole bottom of the foot and supports the arch.
I already have Plantar Fasciitis so this extra pulling was only exacerbating my existing condition.
I had no idea that my calves were so tight or that this could cause foot pain but it’s all connected. It seems that tight calf muscles can lead to calf pain, foot pain, heel pain (plantar fasciitis), Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, knee pain and even hip and back pain.
Whoa! The calf is one bad ass set of muscles.
The pain is worst in the morning because, during the night, my foot is slack. When the calf muscles contract, they pull the tendons and ligaments in my foot back with them. So, when morning comes and I try to flex my foot to walk, the muscles and tendons need to stretch out all over again and my tight calf muscles don’t want them to. Hence the pain. The same thing was happening when I would sit for too long.
Think of an elastic band, you can pull it and stretch it but it always wants to snap back to where it’s comfortable.
Dr S. didn’t order any costly x-rays or try to sell me a new set of orthotics. Instead, he showed me a simple stretch and told me to do it as often as I can.
Standing Calf Stretch: Keep your right leg forward, foot flat on the floor, and extend your left leg straight back, placing your heel flat on the floor. Don’t bend your back knee. Lean into the wall until you feel the stretch in the calf of the straight leg. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides. (pictured above)
The first time I did it, I couldn’t believe the resistance. My calf muscles had been so tight for so long, they were not going to give way easily. I realized that this was not going to be fixed over night.
I started doing this calf stretch every opportunity I had. Seriously, every time I passed a wall or a counter (yes, you can use a counter too), I would stop and stretch.
It took a long time but it worked. I don’t have foot pain anymore. None. I still do the calf stretch to keep them limber but not as often. Now that I am aware of the tendency of my calf muscles to tighten (muscles have a memory), I can feel when they’re tightening and know that I need to stretch them out.
I’ve provided a link below that will take you to a page showing the standing calf stretch and some other stretches. You can also Google more stretches to stop foot pain. Pick whichever one works for you and I would suggest you start now and stretch your calves often so you don’t end up in the kind of pain I experienced.