Plantar Fasciitis and the Windlass Effect

Plantar fasciitis can be very painful. There can be many treatable causes of this foot pain. Today we look at the windlass effect…

Plantar fasciitis is essentially chronic pain in the sole of the foot. It can be very painful. More specifically, it’s pain in the area of the plantar fascia – a triangular shaped band of connective tissue that fans out from heel to toes.

There is so much that can be going on with plantar fasciitis and it’s really important to get to the root cause. It could be weak hips, decreased ankle range of movement or if you’re a runner, too much heel striking.

But what is the windlass effect and how can it be involved?

When your foot is flat and you lift your big toe it winds up your plantar fascia and creates a strong arch in your foot. This is the windlass effect. This same movement happens in the phase of walking/running when you push off your toes – and this strong arch is so important for force production.

If you don’t have full range of movement in your big toe you may not be getting enough support through that arch, which can lead to plantar problems.

So what can you do?

If you notice your range of movement is lacking in your big toe and you’re having plantar pain, work at it. Massage, roll, use a ball. Make sure those tissues are relaxed off and help regain your range.

A foot rests on top of a small red ball to work on the plantar fasciiitis.

Using a rolling ball to relax the foot arch by rolling on the plantar region.

Also remember this is just one potential contributor so please make sure you’re getting everything else checked out and looking at all other possible tissues/structures.

An X-ray of a foot and ankle, showing a heel spur

X-ray of a foot and ankle. Photo by Nevit Dilmen.

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Posted by Libby Meakin

Libby graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Physiotherapy from Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland. She has a hands on approach to treatment and believes in getting to the root of every problem to help avoid future injuries.

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