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Does Cold Weather Make Plantar Fasciitis Worse?

Does Cold Weather Make Plantar Fasciitis Worse?

For people living with plantar fasciitis, the changing seasons — particularly the colder seasons — can exacerbate your symptoms. As we inch closer and closer to summer here in the Chicagoland area, you might wonder if the warmer temperatures will bring relief. 

Read on as  Aamir Mahmood, DPM,  Joseph Wilson, DPM, FACFAS, and the Momentum Foot & Ankle Clinic explain why colder weather can make plantar fasciitis worse and how you can improve your foot health in the warmer months.

Does cold weather make plantar fasciitis worse?

To be clear, plantar fasciitis can affect anyone during any season, but cold weather can exacerbate symptoms.

Several factors may contribute to your weather-related changes in pain, including:

Reduced blood flow during cold weather

Cold weather can lead to peripheral vasoconstriction, or the narrowing of your blood vessels, which reduces blood flow to your feet. This is a normal response to the cold temperatures as your body tries to maintain homeostasis and prioritize blood flow to your vital organs. 

While a normal response to the cold, this decreased blood flow can result in stiffness and decreased flexibility of the plantar fascia — the thick band of tissue that connects the heel (calcaneus) to the toes (phalanges). 

As a result, if you have plantar fasciitis, you may experience heightened pain and discomfort, especially during your initial steps after getting out of bed or after prolonged periods of rest.

Cold weather can lead to tight muscles

The cold weather doesn’t just affect your blood flow. It can also affect your muscles and tendons. 

Here’s how: Cold temperatures can cause the muscles and tendons throughout your body to contract and tighten. This tightening can exacerbate the tension on your plantar fascia and lead to increased pain in the arches of your feet.

Tight muscles in your legs — not just your feet — can also make matters worse. For example, tight gastrocnemius muscles (the large muscles in your calf) can make heel pain worse. The tighter the calf muscle, the more severe the pain in your heel. If you already have tight calves, the cold weather can make them even tighter.

Seasonal changes in footwear

During colder months, you may swap your everyday shoes for heavier footwear with less arch support or padding, such as boots or thick socks. Changes in footwear and the loss of arch support can worsen your symptoms.

Strategies for managing plantar fasciitis

Regardless of the temperature, there are things you can do to help mitigate painful plantar fasciitis symptoms. 

Never skip a warmup 

Before getting out of bed, perform gentle stretching exercises to loosen tight muscles and tendons in the feet and calves. 

Once you’re out of bed, you may find other stretches even more helpful to warm up your muscles and tendons. Foam rollers and towel stretches can help stretch your feet. The downward dog yoga position, seated stretches with resistance bands, and even stretching on a step are all good ways to stretch your calf muscles.

Always stretch before any physical activity, especially if you’ve been sitting for a few hours, and then become more active. 

Wear supportive shoes

Choose supportive footwear with adequate cushioning and arch support — winter boots included! — to reduce the strain on your plantar fascia. Consider wearing orthotic inserts to provide additional support and cushioning.

The Movement Foot & Ankle Clinic team can create custom orthotics based on your unique anatomy, supporting your feet right where you need them most.

Stay active

Maintain a regular exercise routine to promote flexibility, strength, and circulation in your feet and legs. Indoor activities such as yoga, swimming, or stationary cycling can be effective alternatives during colder months, and they also lower impact so they won’t bother your feet as much.

If you do run, cross-train to avoid further injuring your feet. Run on softer surfaces, such as grass, woodland trails, or sand —there are many running trails in the Indiana Dunes National Park!  

Seek professional help

If your feet continue to hurt, don’t ignore the pain. Dr. Aamir Mahmood and Dr. Joseph Wilson can confirm the source of your pain, and depending on the severity of your condition, recommend any of the following services:  

Surgery isn’t typically needed for plantar fasciitis, but should the need arise, Dr. Mahmood and Dr. Wilson can guide you with your next steps.

If your heel hurts, call our Michigan City, Chesterton, Indiana, or Lombard, Illinois, office and explore your plantar fasciitis treatments. The sooner you get started with your treatments, your feet will be ready for next winter!

 

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