Waking Up With Sore Feet – The Surprising Answer That You Need To Know

The feet are probably one of the parts of our body that are under constant pressure throughout the day. Whether you have a desk job or are on your feet for long periods of time, there are many reasons why you may experience foot pain.

As a runner, you no doubt have experienced such pain at one time or another. In this article, I’d like to address a complaint often heard: waking up with sore feet. 


Understanding Foot Anatomy

Plantar Fasciitis

To better understand why your feet can be painful especially in the morning, let’s take a closer look at how the feet work.

The plantar fascia is a band of ligament that connects your heel bone to your toes and is also responsible for supporting your arch. (1) When the plantar fascia gets tight or inflamed, it results in a condition known as plantar fasciitis. Repeated strain on this ligament leads to pain and swelling.

Some factors may increase your risk of getting this condition. If you are a runner or athlete, wearing wrong footwear, overtraining and activities that cause tension in the legs. This condition is common among runners and overweight people and can also be a result of overpronation of the foot which is hereditary.

Determining If You Have Plantar Fasciitis 

Since there are other possible causes for your sore feet, the first thing you need to do is determine whether it really is plantar fascia.

  • Considering the fact that it is estimated that up to 10% people will experience plantar fasciitis in their lifetime, the chances that this is the cause are quite high.

Experts outline 3 signs to look out for:

  • The pain is at the base of the heel on the front of the heel. The rest of the foot does not hurt when pressed but this spot does.
  • It pains when you put weight on it for the first time in the morning but then subsides and comes back as you put more weight on it during the day
  • The big toe on the affected foot cannot stretch as far as the one of the unaffected foot
  • Along with these three signs, you may also have mild redness and swelling. (4)

Although these three sings can be quite conclusive, it is still advisable to consult a physician before you decide to self-medicate. Although initially not required, imaging tests may also be performed to help diagnose chronic plantar fasciitis. Ultrasonography, MRI, and radiography are some of the imaging tests that can help rule out other conditions.

Treating Plantar Fasciitis At Home

Treating Plantar Fasciitis At Home

The good news is most people are able to recover from the condition with a year completely and only 5 out of 100 require surgical treatment. With this in mind, let’s talk about what you can do to speed up your recovery. (1)

The goals of any treatment method fall into either of the three categories:

  • Relieve inflammation
  • ​Allow tears to heal
  • ​Improve strength and flexibility

These suggested treatment methods should be done daily until the tendon is totally healed. Also, remember not to perform any exercises if you are still in pain. Sports including running should also be postponed until the pain subsides.

Goal #1: Reduce Inflammation

Reducing inflammation is one of the first aid treatments for plantar fasciitis. Use the PRICE method (Protect, Rest, Compress and Elevate) to help reduce swelling. 

  • This method should be performed especially during the first 48 hours when pain is at its highest. (5)

When applying the cold compress, remember to use a towel and not to place ice directly on the skin. Also, only ice the area for up to 10 minutes per hour. 

Goal #2: Allow The Tear To Heal

One of the ways you can relieve the pain under the heel is to tape the foot. This works to help unload the strain on the ligament and allow it to heel. Taping also reduces the tension in the arch of the foot.

Aside from taping, wearing sandals designed for plantar fascia can help reduce the tension in the foot. Flat soled shoes usually make symptoms worse so wearing the right footwear can protect the heel when you walk.

A professional may also massage the plantar fascia trigger point to try and relax the ligament. Some of the common techniques used include: (6)

  • Spreading the metatarsals
  • Light stroking the top of the foot
  • Deep pressure with the heel in hand and circular frictions.

Goal #3: Improve Strength And Flexibility

Once pain is reduced, strength and flexibility exercises can be performed. These exercises are designed to stretch the plantar fascia and improve movement. Ideally, these exercises should be performed before you take the first step in the morning. (7)

  • Plantar Fascia Stretch - place your heel on the ground and pull your feet upward with your hands. Hold this for 30 seconds and repeat up to 5 times. Some types of splint and socks could help for this objective.
  • Ball Roll - find something round such as a tennis ball and place it under your foot. Then roll the foot over the object repeatedly. Do this for 10 minutes daily.
  • Towel Stretch - place a rolled towel under the ball of your foot while holding the towel in both hands. Then, pull the towel towards you while keeping your knee straight. Hold this for 30 seconds.
  • Marble Pick-ups - this helps to strengthen your ligament. Place marbles and a cup on the floor in front of you. Then, try to lift the marbles and place them in the cup using your toes.
  • Towel Curls - place a towel under your foot and scrunch the towel as if you want to pick it up. Try and return the towel to its original position.

Preventing The Condition

Preventing The Condition

Since running puts a lot of pressure on the plantar fascia, it is important that you are aware of what can be done to prevent it in the first place. 

One of the mistakes that many runners make is landing on the heel instead on the midfoot.

  • Try to always land in the middle of your foot instead of heel striking so that your planter tendon stays relaxed. (8)

Another tip that can help relax you're plantar is training yourself to relax your legs, ankles, and calves whenever you run.

  • ​If your legs or glutes are tense, this tension can pull on the tendon when you move.
  • ​Also, when running, instead of using your legs to move forward, use gravity to move forward.

Wearing proper shoes is another easy prevention method. 

  • ​Make sure that the running shoes you use are specific to your pronation and foot structure.


Waking up with sore feet is one of the first and most common symptoms of plantar fasciitis. Although this may not be the only reason, it is the most popular and knowing how to determine if you have is important.

Once you confirm that you have the condition, apply the three methods mentioned to reduce inflammation, allow the tendon to heel and strengthen it.