Published June 23, 2013
If you’re pregnant, you probably can’t wait to get home and put your feet up.
If your feet hurt, you might have plantar fasciitis, a condition that affects about 10 percent of the population - and probably occurs more frequently in pregnant women, according to Phil Vasyli, podiatrist and founder of Orthaheel and Dr. Andrew Weil Integrative Footwear.
Here, find out exactly what plantar fasciitis is, what causes it and what you can do about it.
What is plantar fasciitis? The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs from the heel bone through the arch and ends at the toes. The plantar fascia’s job is to support the foot and enable the motion that allows you to walk.
Yet, when you’re pregnant, things can go awry. For starters, when you gain weight quickly, particularly during the first trimester, it can put a lot of strain on the plantar fascia and cause it to become inflamed. Exercising and wearing shoes without any support, especially during the summer months, can also make matters worse.
"The result is a sharp pain in the heel, especially after you’ve been sitting for awhile or when you wake up in the morning,” said Dr. Alan Berman, a podiatrist at Somers Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Group in Carmel, New York.
The body's release of the hormone relaxin, which helps to loosen the ligaments for birth, can also be a contributing factor.
“The combination of those two (factors) causes the pregnant woman’s foot to flatten significantly,” Vasyli said.
In fact, changes in foot size and shape can actually be permanent, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.
So what’s a pregnant woman to do?
You might think a shoe insert for your heel would help, but Berman said, “If you don’t support the arch, it’s not as efficient.”
Any drugstore shoe insert will do, according to Berman. Also, nix the flimsy flip-flop and flat sandal and look for a shoe that has good arch support.
Put your feet up
To reduce swelling, elevate your feet as much as possible. You can also prop a few pillows under your feet and sleep on your left side at night, so blood flows back to your heart.
Applying ice can help with the inflammation. Wrap an ice pack with a towel and let your feet rest on it for 20 minutes.
The best way to relieve the tightness and pain is to stretch the plantar fascia. Place a towel on the pad right under your toes and pull back. Stretching the calf muscle with a runner’s wall stretch can also help: Place two hands on a wall, bend your right leg and push your left heel into the ground. Switch sides and repeat.
Sure, you might have a burst of energy, but if you’re in pain, your body is telling you to cut back on too much exercise and extra to-dos.
See a pro
If the pain doesn’t get better, consider seeing a podiatrist or an orthopedist. Plantar fasciitis can linger for weeks, months and even years after pregnancy. It all depends on your body, Berman said.