As a runner, you must be (painfully) familiar with the agony associated with plantar fasciitis.
The fact is, this injury is a runners’ recurring nightmare.
That’s why today, dear reader, I’m sharing with you my comprehensive guide to Plantar fasciitis.
With my help today, you’ll have all of the tools you need to handle and deal with this infamous running injury.
So, are you excited?
Then here we go…
The Exact definition
Before I get into the ins and outs of treatment and prevention, let’s first give a short description to this condition and discuss what is it all about.
So, what is Plantar Fasciitis?
Spelled PLAN-terfash–ee-EYE-tus (what a mouthful!), and also known as Runners Heel, this condition is one of the most common causes of heel pain for both runners and non-runners.
Plantar Fasciitis is a painful inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is a fibrous band of tissue that stretches from the heel—the calcaneum—to the middle of the foot bones, connecting the heel in the bone to the toes.
In other words, Plantar Fasciitis is when the bottom of your foot hurts like hell.
It’s especially common in runners
Plantar Fasciitis is the most common reported cause of chronic heel pain, according to a report published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research.
And when it comes to the running world, Plantar Fasciitis accounts for roughly 8 percent of all running injuries, according to a retrospective study of 2000 running injuries.
The Process of The Injury
Plantar Fasciitis occurs when tiny tears in the fibers of the fascia start accumulating due to too much tension—especially where the fascia meets the heel bone.
For the most part, the condition starts out as a minor irritation, but as you log in more miles, it can develop into a debilitating injury.
This is especially the case if you don’t take the right treatment measures from the get-go.
Thus, and because of this, it’s vital to catch the condition as early as possibly then treat it promptly. Otherwise, suffer the dire consequences.
Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
The root cause of the Plantar Fasciitis is, of course, overuse.
Nevertheless, chances of developing the condition may be increased by the following factors:
Here are a few:
- If you do too much too soon—that’s the classic mistake. In fact, if you push yourself too quickly to run a longer distance, then you are setting yourself up for injury.
- If you an overweight runner. The extra pounds overload the delicate and fragile plantar fascia, leading to irritation and pain, and eventually, the onset of the condition.
- If you are a woman, then you are twice more likely to get it than men, according to research.
- If you are running in improper running shoes. Shoes with little or not enough arch support, heel cushion and/or sole flexibility, might do more harm than good.
- If you’re running with bad form. Follow the guidelines on these tow posts to learn and master the ins and outs of proper running technique.
- If you have mobility issues. It’s been suggested by research that a tight Achilles tendon—the large tendon at the bottom of the calf muscles above the heel—can result in the injury.
The Main Symptoms
Plantar fasciitis is characterized by a gradual onset of sharp pain on the bottom of the heel near the inside of the foot.
Nonetheless, for a more accurate self-diagnosis, you are more likely to have the injury if you have any sort of intense heel pain.
This is especially the case on taking the first few morning steps. That’s known n as first-step pain by the way.
As you get loosened up, the heel pain might fade, but it may score a comeback later in the evening.
Also, if you have pain following prolonged sitting, or when you climb stairs or after you stand for a long time.
Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis
As I have already clearly stated, the condition can be a real nagging injury that only gets worse the longer it’s present. Hence, the sooner you put in place an aggressive treatment plan, the better off you’ll be, both for the short and long term.
For that, here is the step-by-step treatment plan you need to follow:
Your first line of defense against Plantar Fasciitis (and other running injuries for that matter) is to rest it up.
In other words, take a break from running, or, at least, scale down drastically on your weekly training volume.
There is no way around it.
So, stop anything that makes your foot hurt—in case it’s the running or any other high-impact exercise, such as jump rope, plyo training, intense weight lifting and the sort.
How long should you rest?
Well, there is no wrong or right answer to this question because it largely depends on how severely you were injured in the first place.
But pain intensity and frequency is a good rule of thumb to follow.
Plantar Fasciitis does not occur overnight. In fact, it takes place as a result of injuries that have accumulated over time.
By the same token, you’d need an extended break to fully recover. It might take a few days (not likely, though), a few weeks (the most likely scenario), a few months (in extreme cases of the condition).
2. Massage for Reducing Pain
When it comes to easing the pain, manipulating the tissue of the plantar fascia is one thing you can do. Hence, at the first sign of pain and/or soreness, be sure to apply some self-massage to the bottom of your foot.
And here is how:
Get a golf ball or any other hard, round object, then gently roll your injured limb back and forth over it. Start by doing this for a few minutes a day the, then build it up slowly for 5 minutes a day.
You can also try rolling a frozen water bottle under the injured foot.
Another approach, a more aggressive soft-tissue approach, is Active Release Technique, or ART for short.
Of course, I couldn’t find any scientific literature that proves the effectiveness of these methods when it comes to speeding up recovery. Nonetheless, feel free to try them and see for yourself.
3. Get the Right Footwear
As I have already stated, poor footwear could be to blame for the condition.
Thus, opt for running shoes with cushioned heels and good arch support—especially if you have a bad history of heel pain.
If your current shoes are not up for the job, then toss them aside and get a new pair.
Be extra careful with your casual shoes. In fact, what you wear on your feet while carrying on with your life also has a significant impact on the speed of your recovery.
Also, make sure you are not wearing shoes that are too flat or are walking barefoot at home. Not only that, avoid also excess walking or standing, and do not walk on hard surfaces especially barefoot.
4. Try Orthotics
In some cases, consider trying out Over-The-Counter (OTC) orthotics for more arch support—especially during the initial treatment phase, and/or if you have a bad history of the condition, or have faulty foot mechanics (especially for you high arched folks).
According to research, orthotics can reduce pain and may help fix faulty foot mechanics—one of the main causes of plantar fasciitis.
OTC orthotics are widely available and are not that expensive—unlike the costume option in which you have to wait at least for a few weeks to receive a pair.
Just be sure to use them in both shoes, even if you got injured in only one foot.
If the OTC option didn’t work, then you might want to see a podiatrist for a costume set.
5. Kill the Pain
In cases of extreme pain, try some cold therapy on the affected area. For that, use an ice pack (either using an ice pack you can buy at the store or a bag of frozen peas or corn wrapped in a towel) for 10 to 15 minutes a day.
Or, you can also take an over-the-counter painkiller such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or paracetamol
6. Stretch it
Stretching is another thing you can do to speed up recovery and prevent re-injury.
Do this several times a day. Just be sure to stretch both feet. You can perform the stretches right before a workout, first thing in the morning, and whenever you feel soreness or pain following a run.
This regular calf stretching is what you might need for plantar fasciitis treatment and prevention plan.
A good stretching routine includes three to five sets of 30 seconds.
Here are some of the best exercises:
Towel foot stretch
Achilles Tendon Stretch
Plantar fascia stretch
7. See a Doctor
This goes without saying, but if pain persists in spite of taking some of the above measures, then you must go and see a sports podiatrist.
In such cases, treatment options such as cortisone injections, foot taping, night splints and other tools might be considered to reduce symptoms and speed up recovery.
In fact, in some extreme cases, physical therapy might be required to restore full function to the plantar fasciitis.
Prevention of Plantar Fasciitis
As I always say, prevention is better than cure.
Fortunately, a good plantar fasciitis prevention plan is not complicated at all.
Here are the main things you need to do:
Get the right shoes with the enough arch support and cushioning. For that, head to the near running store and have your gait and foot type analyzed.
Cross train. If too much running is to blame for your condition, then replace the junk miles with cross training workouts. Some of the best options include CrossFit, biking, swimming, weightlifting and yoga.
Strength training. Resistance training is key to preventing injury.
So, do plenty of foot-oriented exercises to strengthen the muscles, tissues, and joints around the foot and ankle.
Some of the best exercises include calf raises, squats, toe walking, and single leg balancing.
Lose the weight. The extra body weight does you no good, so, you’d better off maintain a healthy weight. By doing so, you’ll not be putting any undue pressure o your feet.
Take it easy. In the end, the best way to prevent Plantar Fasciitis is to stay within your fitness level the entire time. Learn to recognize the limits of your own fitness, and aim to gradually and safely overextend them.