We Asked a Podiatrist: Why Do My Feet Hurt When I Wake Up?

Some people wake up and start thinking about what they’re going to make for breakfast. Others spend those first morning moments lingering over that amazing dream they just had. As for me? The first thought that pops into my head each and every morning is, “Why do my feet hurt when I wake up?” The answer, friends, lies in something called plantar fasciitis.

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Why do my feet hurt when I wake up?

“A top reason for foot pain when you wake up is secondary to a condition known as plantar fasciitis,” says Dr. Suzanne Fuchs, a foot and ankle surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Palm Beach. This causes heel and or arch pain, she explains.

“The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that forms part of the arch in your foot. Overuse injury, repetitive strain or tension on the plantar fascia causes pain at its origin on the bottom of the heel bone,” says Dr. Fuchs. And the reason why this happens in the morning is because the plantar fascia shortens overnight.

“During sleep or sitting for long periods of time, the fascia shortens which causes tightening, especially the first few steps. After walking for a bit, the pain usually improves because the fascia loosens.”

My sore feet have only gotten worse since Covid-19...What gives?

There are two possible explanations for this, says Dr. Miguel Cunha, founder of Gotham Footcare in New York City. Firstly, because you are walking around barefoot at home more often these days (hello, WFH life). “Walking barefoot on hard surfaces allows our foot to collapse which can lead to a tremendous amount of stress, not only to the foot but to the rest of the body,” he cautions. He also says that since Covid-19, many people are doing at-home workouts in inappropriate footwear (oops, guilty). “Whether they are creating their at-home workout, doing barefoot exercises while working out to their gym’s Instagram videos or going just a little too hard on the weekends, it’s important to mimic the routine you normally had pre-quarantine and wear the appropriate foot gear.” Duly noted.

Got it. So, what can I do about it?

Well, for starters, you should definitely get yourself a decent pair of workout shoes (see Dr. Cunha’s earlier note) and stop going barefoot at home all the time. But here some other tips:

  • Get stretching. “I recommend stretching not just the plantar fascia but also the Achilles tendon which can oftentimes be the culprit,” advises Dr. Cunha. Here’s how: Place your toes on the wall with your heel on the floor and then bring your hips towards the wall as you keep your knee and leg extended. And to stretch the plantar fascia, try this technique: Sit and cross your leg, then place the painful foot onto your opposite knee. “With your hand, bend your toes and massage the arch with your hand by kneading the arch with your thumb. Apply deep pressure with your thumb along the course of the plantar fascia from the heel all the way towards your toes.” Repeat these exercises five times daily.
  • Invest in a night splint. “This device helps to stretch the fascia while you are sleeping,” explains Dr. Fuchs. You can order a night splint online (this one boasts over 2,500 five-star reviews and only costs $25) but your best bet is to make an appointment with a podiatrist to get one fitted.
  • Cool down. Freeze a water bottle while it’s laying down, suggests Cunha. “Then proceed to roll your foot on the frozen water bottle for about 20 minutes, three times daily.”
  • Seek professional help. If the above treatments don’t ease the pain after a week, visit a podiatrist to discuss other options including custom orthotics, physical therapy, appropriate shoe gear, cortisone injections, Platelet Rich Plasma and/or Amnio injections, and shockwave therapy.

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...