You tend bar. You wait tables. You work hard. You’re on your feet all day and you won’t stop.
This puts you into two categories: you have Plantar Fasciitis or you’re at risk to get it.
Plantar Fasciitis, as we discussed before, is an ailment caused by extensive stress to the feet. The plantar fascia, a thick ligament that connects your toes to your heel and forms the arch of your foot, suffers repeated small tears. Eventually it becomes inflamed, causing deep pain in your heel and calf.
It’s deceptive. It feels like leg pain but is truly a foot injury.
It’s debilitating. It will take you off the floor and put you in a desk.
But we won’t be tricked or transferred to the mailroom. We understand this foot-gnawing monster and we have ways to elude it.
You are an athlete. Bartending is a sport. Take care of your body and you’ll stay in the game.
1 – Watch your Weight
Being overweight is a major contributor to plantar fasciitis. An extra ten pounds on every step you take adds up.
I’m not saying you have to mind your weight like a prize fighter. We’re in a business that promotes long fasts followed by bad food and drink decisions late at night. Make a couple of small changes. Have fruit and vegetables around to graze on during the shift rather than convenient french fries. Eat more salad.
Have a decadent meal once a week rather than every day. Make it your day-off goal to work for.
2 – Be a Mountain
Mountain, or Tadasana, is the most basic of yoga poses. It appears to be simply standing, but is truly standing powerfully rooted to the earth. It builds strong feet that actively clasp the ground. Your plantar fascia will withstand more activity if they are part of a strong foot.
You don’t need a yoga mat. Just a couple of minutes and a soft floor.
Stand barefoot with your feet parallel. Lift your toes and extend your arches. Turn your toes strongly into the floor. Spread them out and concentrate on supporting your body with your whole foot. Realize your feet have four corners. Use them all.
Take in a deep breath. Lift your chest, shoulders and neck. As you exhale, focus on standing firmly over your powerful feet.
3 – Toe Raises
Stand with the balls of your feet at the edge of the stairs and your heels off. Holding the railing, dip as low as you can go then lift as high as you can go. No need to go fast. Be gentle with this at first, especially if you already have foot and heel issues.
Do this for a minute or two at home, at work or wherever you can. If it burns real nice, you know it’s working. Once you get strong at this, you can add a dumbell.
Walk around on your toes if you don’t have stairs handy. Strong toes and feet mean strong arches that won’t suffer microtears. Look at the way a cat’s legs bend. They’re always on their toes. Their heels never touch the ground. Think how springy they are.
Image by Eighty Six
4 – Get (or make) a Slant Board
When I went to a podiatrist for my plantar fasciitis, they put me on a slant board. You stand on it with your feet tilted upward. Your calves naturally stretch. Spend a few minutes on this routinely and your achilles tendons will become longer and springier, reducing the stress on your plantar fascia.
Theirs was hinged and adjustable so it could be used at a variety of angles. I picked an angle that worked for me and built my own. If you have a few tools and rudimentary carpentry skills, it’s not tricky. Or you can buy one. By any means, use it.
While watching TV, talking on the phone or lifting light weights, spend time on the slant board a few times a day. Put one in the break room or in the back of the house.
A little stretching goes a long way.
5 – Shoes Matter
We touched on this a little in Puddle of Pain. Shoes are critical, but very personal. I can’t tell you what will work for you, but you need cushion and support. Leave all your flats, heels and fancy dress shoes at home. Better to have ugly shoes than ugly pain.
You can’t value shoes until you’ve walked in them for a while, so be prepared to return them. Don’t wait until your last pair has disintegrated, especially if you are buying them through the mail or online.
This is the most important part of your uniform. Choose wisely.
6 – Orthotics
I’ll warn you now. I’m not a doctor, just a guy with feet, and I don’t wear orthotics. I’ve tried many kinds, from expensive prescription ones to $5 grocery store insoles. I liked the cheap ones better, but I no longer wear any.
I wear solid, wide work shoes with memory foam insoles. This works for me. It may not work for you.
By all means, see a podiatrist but trust your own judgement. Doctors, like all of us, have opinions, biases and blind spots. They don’t have all the answers and they certainly don’t agree with each other.
I believe if your car ran out of gas in front of a podiatrist and you went inside with an empty gas can, they would suggest orthotics for your problem. But that’s just my own experience.
7 – Yoga and Barre
I’m a fan of group fitness classes. I need a scheduled time to work out and someone to yell at me, I mean direct me. Otherwise, laziness is easier.
Anything that makes you stronger without pounding your feet is good, so I avoid running. My favorite classes for restaurant workers are yoga and barre.
Not only will yoga increase your flexibility throughout your body, it’s great for core strength. In addition to Mountain, Thai Goddess and Downward Dog are great for your feet.
Plus, your life is loud and chaotic. Spend an hour doing something quiet and peaceful. Turn the volume in your head from eleven down to zero and the whole world will be more clear.
Barre is a fantastic way to strengthen everything from your toes up. It’s a fitness regimen derived from ballet. You may think it’s soft and swan like, but spend a little time watching dancers and you’ll realize they’re all fantastic athletes.
Yup, the dudes too, so don’t think you’re too manly to do a barre workout. I do it. Give it five minutes and you’ll want to stop, drop and roll because your legs are on fire.
Unfortunately most group fitness classes don’t jive with our schedule. They’re built for the masses of 9 to 5 workers and are often in the morning or evening.
Yoga, barre and other fitness videos are easy to find. Find some on YouTube and follow along on your own time. Better yet, buddy up with a coworker for motivation and accountability.
Let Your Feet Be Feet
Some people believe you should firmly support your arches, wear stiff shoes and push your feet into a better shape. I disagree.
The human feet are complex products of evolution designed to carry you around with speed, power and grace. Trust them, listen to them and be kind to them.
Above all, understand what plantar fasciitis is. It’s caused by a lack of foot strength and flexibility. Don’t be lacking.
A little time each day for the body that earns your money is much better than repairing it once it’s broken.