Can foam rolling help plantar fasciitis?
Posted: Oct 24, 2020
Plantar fasciitis is the most common musculoskeletal problem seen in the foot. It is an inflammation and degeneration of the plantar fascia which is a long ligament that supports the arch of the foot. The classic symptoms are pain under the heel and worse pain on getting up from rest, especially in the morning after a night’s sleep. Anything that increases the load on the arch of the foot is going to overload the plantar fascia. This includes being overweight, being active, being on the feet all day and biomechanical problems that affect the alignment of the foot. There are many different treatments that are recommended for plantar fasciitis, with the most effective ones being those that reduce the load placed on the plantar fascia.
There has been a lot of interest in the use of foam rollers to treat musculoskeletal problems lately, and the question gets asked often as to if we can use a foam roller for plantar fasciitis?
It is common to see advice given to roll the foot backwards and forwards over a tennis ball on the ground and that this will help the plantar fasciitis. This would have a similar affect to what a foam roller would have. No research has shown that this is actually helpful, though a lot of people do make use of it. Having said that, there is certainly a lot of health professionals will advise against doing it. It is not harmful, but they think it just does not do a lot of good when compared to the other treatments that can be used and are probably more effective. One thing to consider is that when we hurt ourselves, rubbing the area of the pain always seems to feel better. That does not mean the rubbing actually fixes the problem, it just makes it feel a bit better. This is maybe why so many health professionals are sceptical about recommending self-massage or foam rolling for the plantar fasciitis.
Some new research was recently published on the use of a foam roller for plantar fasciitis. This was a randomized controlled study comparing the use of a foam roller to stretching. Generally in clinical practice it is not a matter of deciding to use one treatment or another like in this clinical trial. Several treatments options are often used together in combination, so the clinical trial is somewhat artificial. Having said that, the trial did show that both worked equally or the foam roller may be a slight bit better, so using the foam roller to massage the arch area of the foot in those with plantar fasciitis certainly does help.
Based on the above it probably is a good idea to use something like the foam roller. There are specific products, such as the Pediroller, that are made to roll in the arch of the foot. They might not fix plantar fasciitis, but based on the anecdotes and that one study, it will certainly make it feel better at the very least. This is more than enough reason to give it a go.
Craig Payne is a University lecturer, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, forum admin, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, blogger and a dad.