Massage and rolling for plantar fasciitis

For those of you that have never done 'rolling' before, don't worry, it's just form of massage. You will have encountered it if you go to the gym regularly. Both normal foot massage and foot rolling have the same aim, which is to stretch out, lengthen and relax the plantar fascia.

 

Massage and rolling can offer immediate relief from pain and worked into a regular routine can provide real long-term management or even a full remission from your symptoms. I do foot rolling 3-4 times a week before and after exercise, and I use spiky massage balls most evenings when I'm sitting in front of the TV. Normal massage using your hands (or a helpful partner or friend's hands!) can also be worked into a regular routine.

Massage

For those of you that have never done 'rolling' before, don't worry, it's just form of massage. You will have encountered it if you go to the gym regularly. Both normal foot massage and foot rolling have the same aim, which is to stretch out, lengthen and relax the plantar fascia.

 

Massage and rolling can offer immediate relief from pain and worked into a regular routine can provide real long-term management or even a full remission from your symptoms. I do foot rolling 3-4 times a week before and after exercise, and I use spiky massage balls most evenings when I'm sitting in front of the TV. Normal massage using your hands (or a helpful partner or friend's hands!) can also be worked into a regular routine.

Using massage balls

I and a good number of my friends with plantar fasciitis like to use massage balls more than hand massage because we find they offer a deeper massage for a longer time, and they are particularly good if you want to massage your feet at the same time as doing something else, like watching telly or reading. Massage balls are not very expensive. If you don't want to use special ones and you have access to decent hard sports balls (golf, squash, tennis etc) then you can use those instead. Personally - I don't have any squash or golf balls, and my dog won't share the tennis balls - and I like spiky plastic massage balls, so I have bought a few online. I've included a few links below to ones you might want to try. It can be a good idea, if you can afford it, to get a small selection because then you can create quite a varied foot massage.

Getting started

To massage your foot using a massage ball, ideally have a bare foot or very thin socks or tights, and don't do it on a really slippery surface because the ball will just shoot out from under your foot. I have laminate flooring and if I'm not in a room with a rug, I put a normal bath towel down flat underneath, and that works a treat.

Technique

I and a good number of my friends with plantar fasciitis like to use massage balls more than hand massage because we find they offer a deeper massage for a longer time, and they are particularly good if you want to massage your feet at the same time as doing something else, like watching telly or reading. Massage balls are not very expensive. If you don't want to use special ones and you have access to decent hard sports balls (golf, squash, tennis etc) then you can use those instead. Personally - I don't have any squash or golf balls, and my dog won't share the tennis balls - and I like spiky plastic massage balls, so I have bought a few online. I've included a few links below to ones you might want to try. It can be a good idea, if you can afford it, to get a small selection because then you can create quite a varied foot massage.

To massage your foot using a massage ball, ideally have a bare foot or very thin socks or tights, and don't do it on a really slippery surface because the ball will just shoot out from under your foot. I have laminate flooring and if I'm not in a room with a rug, I put a normal bath towel down flat underneath, and that works a treat.

Pain and other conditions

I use a hard spiky massage ball because my feet are like tanned leather, but it's important that you go with something that works for you, and never go 'all in' straight away - work up to it. Please take care if you have conditions that mean that you bruise or can damage your skin easily, or if you have reduced sensitivity that might mean you can't judge the pressure easily.

How long to massage

When you first start out just try ten minutes or so, and you can build up from there. I normally do 30 minutes a night and almost always while I'm doing something else (telly, reading , evening working). 

Some massage balls to try

It's a good idea to get a small selection if you haven't used them before - most massage balls come in sets offering varied textures, hardnesses and sizes. 

All the items below are linked to the correct page on Amazon, so feel free to click straight through.

Set of 4 Massage balls from BB Sport - these are the ones I use myself.

Because they are quite cheap I am not too worried about accidentally leaving them at the gym or the dog chewing one up! These have a range of hardnesses in one set from really quite soft up to tough and plasticky.

Set of 3 Massage Balls from ResultSport. These ones have a nice small diameter ball which some people find really effective for getting at tricky areas.

These are all firm and plasticky. The big one is quite large so it's also good for massaging other areas, such as your shoulders, legs or bum!

A good starter set if you don't know what will work best for you

This sits in a higher price range but is still very affordable. It's a lovely quality set with a range of options to try including a foot roller.

Great for sports / gym

A fancier ball set with some different textural options

If you want something a bit more "gym" looking these are great. They are high quality and the black knobbly ball offers a different massage texture to the traditional spikes.

Rolling

If you do have a foam roller or easy access to one, or you don't mind buying a foot roller, then chocks away! I don't know any friends with plantar fasciitis who haven't sung the praises of rolling, but like all equipment-based treatments it really does depend on your access to equipment and how easily you can use it. I use a roller if I'm at the gym because they have them freely available to use, but I haven't bought one.

The best rollers to use for plantar fasciitis have a narrow diameter. You can use a narrow roller at the gym or buy a special foot roller (some ideas below). I find textured ones work much better than smooth. You want a narrow diameter so that the foot bends properly over it - a wide roller will offer a nice basic rub but it won't work the fascia enough - remember that the fascia is a tough bit of tissue so it needs some movement.

Technique

Rollers work similarly to massage balls (above). Put your foot on the roller so that the roller is in the highest point of the arch of your foot, and apply downward pressure. Slowly roll the foot back and forth so that the roller moves from your toes to your heel over the duration of a couple of seconds (or longer if you like). Make sure your foot bends around the roller and doesn't just stiffen against it - your foot should almost be like plasticine rolling around a rolling pin. Just like with massage balls, if you have a particularly stiff or sore bit, once you've loosened up generally you can work harder on those areas.

Foot rollers to try

All the items below are linked to the correct page on Amazon, so feel free to click straight through.

Wooden textured foot roller

I hadn't come across this style of foot roller until recently but a couple of friends swear by them. They are particularly good if you have more limited mobility or have something to keep under your desk.

Basic plastic foot roller

This is pretty cheap but really well made - the gym that I attend has a few knocking about and they withstand a lot of use. Good place to start if you'd like to try foot rolling.

Great for sports / gym

Hot and cold foot roller!

This sits in a higher price range but is still very affordable. It's a lovely quality set with a range of options to try including a foot roller.My friend put me on to this and I think it's pretty neat. It is designed to be put in the freezer or sat in hot water and it'll retain the temperature for a while. Some people do find that warming their feet helps the massage work better and cold therapy is recommended by podiatrists for plantar fasciitis.

A set of gnarly gym rollers from FitBeast

This is a great rolling set, particularly if you want to massage more body parts than just your feet. Looks great, tough and effective.