Walking repeated on hard surfaces such as carpet laid over concrete can put a lot of stress on your lower body. This is especially true for people with osteoarthritis whose joints ache naturally than others. Pain in your feet, ankles, heels, and knees may be aggravated by standing for long hours on hard floors as well and may eventually lead to other foot problems in the future.
One example is plantar fasciitis which is one of the main causes of heel pain. The plantar fascia (a ligament that connects the heel bone to the toe) becomes inflamed and the pain may extend from the heel, arch, and beyond. Understanding what plantar fasciitis is can go a long way towards helping you make the right flooring choices and hopefully reduce the impact on your feet and joints. Here is how you can cushion your lower body when standing and walking for long hours on hard surfaces.
What causes plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is usually caused by repetitive strain injury to the plantar fascia. Such strain injury can be attributed to excessive walking or running, wearing inadequate footgear when walking on hard floors, and a whole host of other factors. Plantar fasciitis can also be caused by diseases such as reactive arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.
Plantar fasciitis is what contributes to the pain and tenderness on the bottom of the foot. The tenderness is usually felt in the heel, but the entire sole can be affected. Excessive tightness and tension in the foot can also lead to plantar fasciitis like heel spurs which is a calcium deposit that causes the bone on the underside of the foot to protrude.
Plantar fasciitis can make walking and doing daily tasks uncomfortable. It can also make the foot feel stiff and sensitive early in the morning. Walking barefoot may also exacerbate the pain and cause the foot to feel warm, swollen, and tender.
Wearing indoor footwear at home
According to some podiatrists, a good way to alleviate plantar fasciitis at home is to wear supportive footwear. Not only does this lessen the impact felt on your lower body, but it also minimises the tracking of mud and dirt inside your home (which is a big deal if you have carpeted floors). Wearing socks and/or indoor footwear is a great way to reduce the impact on your feet and joints when walking. But if you have achy joints, it might feel uncomfortable to wear indoor slippers all day.
There are a couple of ways you can reduce the stress on your heels and one of them is by using athletic tape. This works especially well for runners who are experiencing plantar pressure due to frequent running. Athletic tape provides support to your feet and keeps them from moving in a way that can exacerbate plantar fasciitis.
Shoe inserts are also effective at soothing heel pain. Also called arch supports, insoles, or orthotics, these provide additional cushioning to your feet and absorbs most of the impact when standing, walking, or running. You can purchase these over-the-counter (OTC) or have them custom made for a better fit. Regardless of which one you choose, make sure it has good arch support as this helps distribute the pressure from your feet evenly.
Lastly, heel cups. With each step you take, your heel absorbs the impact from the ground and puts stress on your plantar fascia. Heel cups are designed specifically for this purpose to help relieve tension and return the impact energy. If you don’t feel comfortable wearing shoe inserts, then heel cups are a great alternative.
Floor choices to soften the impact on achy feet
As we’ve previously mentioned, walking on hard surfaces is one of the main contributing factors to plantar fasciitis. The good news is that you can make your floors less hard on your achy feet and joints. Here are a couple of examples:
- Using wall-to-wall carpeting with thick padding underneath.
- Cork flooring which has a gentle springiness underfoot and mimics the look of wooden floors.
- Vinyl and linoleum with felt or cork underlayment.
- Rubber flooring, which is typically used in garages but is quickly becoming in kitchen flooring applications.
- Cushioning tiles, stone, and hardwood flooring with area rugs where you walk or stand frequently.
For homeowners who suffer from plantar fasciitis, carpeted floors usually offer the best shock absorption out of all the flooring options. The great thing about carpet flooring is that you can add carpet padding or underlayment to further increase its cushiony feel underfoot.
Carpet padding is usually made of a soft material that increases the longevity of your carpet and softens the impact on your lower body. These range from cushioning made of scrap fibre to urethane and rubber materials. On the other hand, a carpet underlayment is a material that provides a little bit of cushioning but is stiffer than carpet padding. It’s usually made of a thin layer of resilient material like cork and felt.
Ultimately, it’s about having the right flooring at home that will alleviate the stress and pain on your feet. By following these tips (along with choosing the right flooring option such as carpets) you can help soothe plantar fasciitis and walk with little to no pain in your heel.