Plantar fasciitis is an injury that strikes fear in the heart of runners all ages and abilities. It plagues every one of all fitness and backgrounds levels, from the beginner to the elite.
In fact, the condition is so common in the running community that it is often referred to as ‘Runners Heel.’
Eighty percent of cases of heel pain—as well as 1 in 10 cases of all running injuries—occurs thanks to plantar fasciitis.
Here’s the good news.
There are plenty of things you can do to ease the symptoms and protect your heel against injury.
Here are a few.
What’s the Plantar Fascia?
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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
Preventing Plantar Fasciitis When Running
Treatment may take up to a months-long combination of rest, ice, rehab, and even medication. That’s why you’re better off not getting injured in the first place.
When it comes to dealing with plantar fasciitis, the adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” couldn’t be more true.
Keep on reading to learn more about protecting your plantar fascia and preventing any future pain.
1. Roll Your Plantar Fascia
A great measure to soothing fascia pain and preventing injury is rolling your foot over a cold-water bottle, especially following a run.
This helps keep the inflammation in check while staying loose.
Get a frozen bottle of water and roll it under your foot for 5 to 10 minutes following a run, paying special attention to your arch.
Place good pressure on each spot—the medial, center and lateral positions—for 20 to 30 seconds before moving to the next area.
2. Stretch Your Plantar Fascia
Calf tightness could contribute to the onset of plantar fasciitis.
Tightness in both your Achilles and plantar fascia can pull on the plantar fascia, irritating and enfeebling its attachment to the bone.
According to research out of the University of Rochester, stretching exercises that specifically target the plantar fascia can help soothe pain in patients promotes long-term recovery.
Perform these stretches several times a day, especially right away in the morning or following a run. A great routine would be three or five sets of 20 to 30 seconds.
Here are some of the stretches you need to be doing:
Run On Soft Surfaces
According to many experts, running on hard, uneven, surfaces can increase the risks of injury—plantar fasciitis is no exception.
Opting for softer running surfaces reduces the impact and stress your feet absorb as they strike the ground—thus less inflammation and stress to your fascia.
Staying on even surfaces reduces your risks of landing wrong and straining or twisting a tendon or ligament.
That’s why, whenever possible, try running on soft, even surfaces. Go for well-groomed path in the park instead of the sidewalk.
Improve your Running Form
Your form also matters for preventing plantar fasciitis.
Theoretically, overpronation, or landing with a severe heel strike, may put extra stress on your plantar fascia, increasing injury risk.
That’s why you should pay attention to your foot pronation and the way your feet are landing throughout the running gait.
Try landing evenly on the middle of your foot instead of the heel. This should minimize the impact to your heel while keeping your plantar tendon relaxed.
Check out some of my blog posts on tips for improving your running technique.
Wear the Right Shoes
Your running shoes should offer plenty of support across the entire foot. They should cushion your heel with a thick sole, and don’t allow your heel to move around.
Remember to replace your running shoes every 400 to 500 miles since their structure wears down over time.
Your casual shoes also matter. Avoid heels that strain your arch during daily activities.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
This should go without saying, but it’s so important that I feel like I have to add it to the list here.
Any sudden or chronic weight gain can contribute to the onset of plantar fasciitis.
When you carry extra pounds, you’re putting a lot of strain on your heels, plantar fascia ligament as well as the arch and ball of your foot. This causes inflammation, pain, and eventually, may lead—or contribute—to the onset of plantar fasciitis.
Add to this the fact that your feet can absorb up to two and a half times your body weight while running. The faster you run, the more strain your feet take in.
In other words, for every ten pounds of weight, you’re getting 25-pound of impact.
Losing that weight can minimize the load on your plantar fascia ligament and the other structures that support your feet.
Strength training has been shown to aid in the prevention of many overuse injuries. Again, runners’ heel is no exception.
By strengthening the muscles surrounding your midfoot, you’ll be able to provide more support to the whole structure, reducing your risks of injury in the process.
Here are a few of the exercises you need
Toe Spread & Squeeze
Know Your Limits
One of the best things you do to prevent overuse injuries—not just plantar fasciitis—is to listen to your body and train accordingly.
Pay attention to any red flags of fatigue and soreness as much as you focus on pursuing your running goals.
Whenever you’re trying to increase your weekly mileage, do so slowly and gradually—doing too much too soon places too much stress on your feet, resulting in injury.
There you have it
The above measures are some of the best you can implement right now as a part of your running routine to help reduce the risks of developing plantar fasciitis.
If you suspect you have plantar fasciitis—or any other overuse injury—visit your doctor or physical therapist for an evaluation.
The best way to determine the culprit behind your pain and provide a quick path toward full recovery is by doing a full examination of the biodynamics of your ankle, foot, and gait.
As a runner, your feet are your best ally. They take wherever you want to go. But you have to take good care of them to lead a healthy, active life. The rest is up to you.
Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.
In the meantime, thank you for reading my post.
Keep Running Strong.