In the sports world, plantar fasciitis and heel pain are often associated with high-impact activities like running, basketball, soccer, or football. So it comes as a surprise to many people that the leisurely, low-impact game of golf is prone to plantar fasciitis.
While plantar fasciitis and heel pain can be caused by high impact sports and trauma to the plantar fasciitis, it can also be caused by chronic overuse. Golf, which typically involves long periods of standing and walking, can take a gradual toll on the arches of your feet, leading to heel pain and ultimately plantar fasciitis.
What are the warning signs, symptoms, and risks of plantar fasciitis? And how can you avoid plantar fasciitis on the golf course all together?
Risk Factors in Golf
The plantar fascia–the thick band of connective tissue that supports the bottom of your foot–is amazingly flexible and adaptive. However, like almost any other part of the body, it can be damaged through overuse. The game of golf puts the plantar fascia at risk for becoming inflamed and damaged (plantar fasciitis) in the following ways:
Golf typically involves a good deal of standing and walking. And while it might seem that this low-paced, low-impact exercise would be beneficial, it can be overdone. Standing or walking for long periods of time can exhaust the arch of your foot, flattening it and causing small tears, inflammation, and eventually plantar fasciitis.
An improper golf swing can actually be a risk factor for plantar fasciitis. If you overextend (or twist your feet inward) while swinging–especially in combination with shoes that don’t support your heel and allow your foot to slide around–damage to the plantar fascia can occur over time. Little by little, strain and even small tears from overextension can take a toll and cause inflammation and pain when walking.
Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
It’s important to pay attention to potential symptoms for plantar fasciitis. Early diagnosis and treatment means faster healing and fewer potential complications. Keep an eye out for these symptoms both on and off the golf course:
- Redness and swelling of the heel
- Sharp, throbbing, or aching pain in the heel
- Heel pain that is worse in the morning or after periods of rest
- Heel pain that comes on suddenly and lessens gradually
Prevention and Treatments
The good news is that 90% of plantar fasciitis cases can be treated with easy, at-home remedies. Follow these tips to keep your arches, and your golf game, up to par:
Wear the right shoes: In addition to ensuring that your attire meets the standards of the golf course you’ll be visiting, make sure that your shoes are up to the task of protecting your feet from plantar fasciitis. Shoes should fit properly, support the heel, and have thick, cushioned soles.
Support your feet: Have a pair of shoes you love to golf in but aren’t the most supportive? Simply add orthotic inserts. Not only will they give you extra cushioning and support your arch–one study by Stude and Gullickson in 2001 found that orthotics can improve your swing, your balance, and allow you to drive the ball further!
Use a golf cart when needed: Rest is absolutely critical to preventing and treating plantar fasciitis, allowing the fascia time to repair itself.. Using a golf cart when needed can give you the rest you need and minimize damage while allowing you to stay in the game.
Stretch: Stretching isn’t just for runners! By committing to simple, daily stretches, you’ll strengthen and limber up your plantar fascia and surrounding muscles and ligaments. Stretching is one of the best ways to prevent and address damage to the arch.
Ice: If you notice pain in your foot or heel, apply ice for 20 to 30 minutes, two or three times per day. Icing will help with the pain, as well as decreasing inflammation.
Maintain a healthy weight: Because plantar fasciitis is caused by overuse and impact, reducing the amount of impact generated by walking and standing is an effective way to prevent and treat this condition. By maintaining a healthy weight, you reduce the amount of impact and damage to the fascia.
Work on your swing: Making sure that you’re swinging correctly (and not overextending), can reduce unnecessary strain and impact to your plantar fascia.
Golf ball massage: In this case, the remedy is in the malady! Simply sit in a chair and place a golf ball underneath your toes, then roll the ball from toe to heel, using as much pressure as you can comfortably manage. Massage can help break down adhesions to the plantar fascia and stimulate blood flow to the injured area.
Out on the green, your biggest challenge should be coming in under par–not worrying about your feet. By keeping these warning signs and tips for prevention in mind, you can ensure that golf remains the relaxing, satisfying game it should be!