Zenith Performance Physical Therapy


Stepping into Relief: A Guide to Conquering Foot Pain and Stiffness

February 19, 2024

Foot pain and stiffness are one of the more common conditions we see pop up at Zenith Performance, either as someone’s main complaint or one of those nagging issues that many have “learned to live with”, as in stopping or cutting back on walks on the beach, long runs, squatting, and more.

Often our patients complain of cramping in the arches, that squatting feels impossible, or they can only run so far before they’re out of commission for the rest of the day due to foot aches. Whether it’s caused by injury or overuse, finding relief and a way forward is essential for staying active.

As physical therapists specializing in musculoskeletal conditions, we love to deliver the goods with a full breakdown of what’s causing someone’s issues and what the most effective treatments will be to keep them moving.

Possible Root Causes:

Before diving into solutions, it’s crucial to understand what might be causing your foot pain and stiffness. Common culprits include:

  • Ankle and Midfoot Stiffness: The ankle and foot need to be able to move in multiple directions. Furthermore, they need to quickly transition between acting pliable for absorbing forces and then pushing off to generate tension and propulsion.
  • Foot Control: For our patients with extra mobile feet and ankles, we often note difficulty with holding a strong arch position using their intrinsic foot musculature, and instead they rely on muscle from around the calves to create balance and propulsion.
  • Overuse Injuries: A sudden increase in activities like running, or excessive standing for prolonged periods can strain the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the feet.
  • Poor Footwear: Ill-fitting shoes or high heels can contribute to foot discomfort and alignment issues. We often examine what may be the most comfortable shoewear given one’s aggravating and relieving factors.

Now, let’s explore some effective initial strategies to address these issues: 

Stretching and Strengthening Exercises:

  • Supination Doming: Practice lifting and holding the arch of your foot while keeping even balance in your heel and ball of the foot. To increase the challenge, do this while standing on one leg.
  • Toe Flexion and Extension: Sit or stand flat on the floor. Slowly curl your toes, then spread them apart as wide as possible. Alternatively, raise your big toes while keeping the other toes flat. Repeat this motion several times to improve flexibility and strength in the toes.
  • Toe Extension Sit-backs: Many lack mobility of the 1st metatarsophalangeal joint (the big toe!), impacting your walking, running, and stairs. Use a gradual progression of this stretch for several sets of 30 seconds to ease into these positions better.

Foot pain and stiffness don’t have to dictate whether you get to walk on the beach or how long you can run for. Give these movements a try for a few weeks between your normal exercises. However, if you want to learn how to take control with expert guidance and treatments, that’s exactly what we provide at Zenith Performance Physical Therapy. Call or text us at 562-502-1767 to schedule a free phone consultation and come in for an evaluation!

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