Volleyball is a sport that requires repeated pounding on the knees, ankles and feet. Every rally involves jumping and landing, sometimes off-balance and many players may eventually develop foot pain such as plantar fasciitis.
The plantar fascia is the tendon that connects the heel to the toes and supports the arch of the foot. Because the plantar fascia bears the brunt of the impact from the pounding of running and jumping, it has a tendency to break down and develop microscopic tears in the connective tissue. When this happens, athletes will feel pain in the mid-foot or arch area.
Plantar fasciitis is a very common volleyball injury and it can persist for months or even years. If you have it, there are several things you can try in order to treat it. Not all of these methods work for everyone, so there may be some trial and error involved and it may take some time to solve your particular problem. Below are some techniques and tips that have worked for others.
Rest and Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
If you have the luxury of being able to get off of your feet for a while this is probably your best course of action. Avoid putting weight on your feet as much as possible and don’t participate in high impact exercise for a while. The tiny tears will eventually repair themselves and your pain should subside.
Doctors also recommend icing your foot regularly and taking pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen, which reduce inflammation.
Massage and Stretching
Your trainer or physical therapist may also recommend stretching and massaging the feet as a treatment for plantar fasciitis or an addition to your warm-up routine. As the pain worsens, the tendon gets tighter and tighter which can exacerbate the problem. Massage and stretching helps to lengthen the tendon and put it back into a relaxed state, which will help it to heal.
If you don’t have a masseuse on staff, grab a tennis ball and place it under one foot at the heel. Place all your weight on the ball under your heel and then take it off. Each time you remove your weight from the ball, slide it a little further up your foot and repeat until you reach the toes. Do this once per day and it will act as a mini-massage for your feet. If it is too painful to put all of your weight on the tennis ball, start in a sitting position and apply pressure to the ball that way until you can tolerate standing on it.
Because most athletes can’t or won’t take the time off to heal their injury, there are a few other methods that might help. If you have access to an athletic trainer/physical therapist or are pretty good with athletic tape, you can try applying athletic tape to your feet before you take the court. Taping up the bottom of your feet provides the arch support you need and helps to alleviate any pain you might be having in your heel or mid-foot and can get you through the game.
Athletic tape can be very effective in alleviating the pain of plantar fasciitis and is a cheap, quick and easy alternative to your other options. A plantar fasciitis tape job requires small strips of tape across the bottom of the foot secured by longer strips that wrap around the heel and twist across the arch. There are several instructional videos and websites that cover the application process for this type of tape job. Here is a particularly good example.
An orthotic is an insert placed inside the shoe that provides support to the foot wherever it is needed. There are many different types of orthotics available that utilize many different types of materials and they vary widely in price. You should always wear orthotics in both shoes even if only one foot is causing you pain. The imbalance caused by wearing just one orthotic can cause other problems including knee pain.
You can find a simple orthotic in most drug stores that you can purchase for $10-$20. These can be effective but if you have an unusual foot structure or more than one problem to address, you may find that you need more customization. If so, you can visit a podiatrist who can create a custom orthotic for you.
Custom orthotics involve taking a mold of your feet and creating an insert that provides support exactly where you need it. This process can be expensive – a custom orthotic can cost several hundred dollars – but if other methods don’t work, it can be worth every penny.
If you don't want to spend a large amount of money on a custom orthotic, there are some semi-custom orthotics you can purchase for $50-$60 online and in certain drug stores. With an injury such as plantar fasciitis, there is no one cure-all that works for every person. Use what works for you and be willing to change your course if the method is not effective.