Today let’s have a closer look on another running injury a lot of runners know just too good. In this post we focus on the foot area, obviously a body part that needs to be in best shape in order to run for hours and dozens of miles each week.
I don’t have the data but from what I hear and read I suggest that almost half of the runners come to a point in their running life, where they notice a stinging pain on the bottom part of the foot.
Often it is described as stepping with the heel on a nail. Not a good condition to go running, is it?
So today let me shed some light on plantar fasciitis, what is it, how to treat it and how to prevent it in the first place.
As the name plantar fasciitis indicates by the ending -itis, it’s a kind of inflammation. This injury, also called runner’s heel, concerns the connective tissue on the bottom of your foot that supports the arch of your foot.
The tricky thing about the runner’s heel is that the injury often starts out easy with a slight discomfort in the heel and gradually gets worse and once it’s a real issue, it’s hard to get rid of it.
It’s not entirely clear what the reason for plantar fasciitis is but there are a couple of things that contribute to the issue. A sudden gain in weight or the repetitive nature of strain on your feet in running are things that are often related to this nagging injury.
Also with this injury the main symptom you notice is “just” pain. The pain occurs on the bottom of your foot in most cases right beneath your heel. But the entire bottom part of your foot can be affected from the heel to the toes.
Plantar Fasciitis: Areas of pain
Often the pain is most severe in the morning after getting up when you take your first steps. It could also be worse after other longer periods of rest or right after you finished a workout.
As already mentioned the tricky thing is that a plantar fasciitis often starts out slowly. In the beginning it can feel like you stand on something with your heel and you look but nothing is there.
Another sign that you have a runner’s heel is a decreased and painful dorsiflexion, meaning the movement from your foot, or toes, upwards towards your knees.
If you get your foot checked at a doctor he will search for tight spots and maybe even do an x-ray to rule out a heel spur or even a stress fracture or other injuries.
Often a plantar fasciitis will heal out with time but it may take up to several months. Of course you have to check what might be the reasons or contributing factors and work on those.
Here I’ll give you some advice for treatment and exercises while rehabilitation from the injury.
As plantar fasciitis is quite common not only for runners and it’s not something very severe (despite your pain may suggest otherwise), there is no strict order to stop exercising completely.
However if a body part is injured obviously resting is a good thing to do and I recommend you to take it easier with running during the injury. Just make sure that the pain doesn’t increase and your heel gets better with time.
For example you could cut your weekly mileage and replace a run with a cross training session.
Well there are several things you can do at home in order to make your situation with runner’s heel improve.
First, and I know that’s hard enough, try to rest your foot. As said you don’t need to stop running completely but take it easy.
Another thing many runners made good experiences with is massaging the bottom of your foot. You can do this simply with a tennis ball you roll your foot over. Or there are some kind of small foam rolls in different shapes for that purpose.
If you are not doing it already it’s now time to stretch your calf muscles properly. Increase the amount of stretching you do to 60 seconds 4-6 times a day.
You can also try several exercises like pulling a towel with your toes and forefoot around the floor every morning for some minutes. Or pull your big toe into extension for as long as you can several times during the day.
Also try to not walk around barefoot during the injury and keep your trainers on as much as possible.
Icing your heel several times a day might also be a good idea for pain relieve and fighting the inflammation.
If you need to stop running due to plantar fasciitis you might wanna stay fit and keep your level of endurance.
For this purpose cross training comes into play. And there are many options you can choose from. Since runner’s heel is a foot issue it should be easily possible to replace running workouts with cycling. I consider cycling as one of the best ways to keep working on your endurance and fitness while you can’t run because of an injury.
Of course you can also go swimming or try other sports and activities that aren’t to hard and painful for your foot. Rowing might also be an option.
Also the time of an injury is also great to work on your base and do strengthening exercises for your leg and core muscles.
If you are lucky and do your rehabilitation correctly, chances are that you don’t need to miss out on running completely.
But if you do, make sure you get back into running slowly to avoid getting injured right again.
Try to run for a minute and stretch your calves for another minute. If there is no pain you can repeat it up to five times. Slowly build up from there. If there’s any pain in your heel, stop and get back working on your recovery.
If you’re able to run straight again for fifteen minutes and don’t experience any pain during the run or afterwards (or the next morning), you can get back into regular training.
But always remember: Don’t overdo it and increase your mileage slowly!
In order to prevent plantar fasciitis try to work on what may be the cause(s) for it. Reduce weight if you’re a bit over what you should and get rid of old and worn out running shoes.
Probably the best to prevent plantar fasciitis is to work on your running form. Don’t overstride. Try to land on your fore- or mid foot and land right beneath your center of mass. Heel striking is to hard on your heel even if you have heavy cushioning on your running shoes.
What works in treating runner’s heel is also good to prevent it. Try to do regular stretching after every run. To relieve strain on the plantar fascia you should stretch your calf muscles thoroughly.
Also try to run on soft surfaces and don’t do radical changes to your running like suddenly increase of your training volume or change of terrain or surface.
To wrap up this post on plantar fasciitis, I’ll encourage you to check out these additional resources on running injuries.