How to treat Plantar Fasciitis
The past few weeks we’ve shared some articles on various ailments that plague both new and veteran runners. Plantar fasciitis is no exception! Just say the word ‘plantar fasciitis’ and you can turn a fellow runner white with fear, then watch them quickly double check their sneakers! Plantar fasciitis (PF) can linger for months, and there is no instant cure which can make it a very frustrating running injury. In this article, I will give you useful tips on how to treat Plantar Fasciitis.
Symptoms of plantar fasciitis can develop suddenly, or have a more insidious onset. PF can be the result of an acute tear of the fascia, or a series of chronic, repetitive micro tears that worsen and inflame over time. The pain is felt on the underside of the foot, and usually worst in the area just in front of the heel. People describe it as feeling like they are ‘stepping on a rock’. A telltale sign, is that the pain is the worst (excruciating) when first getting out of bed in the morning. Once they start walking, the pain is mild to none.
The plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue that begins at the distal end of the achilles tendon and extends over the heel toward the toes, covering the bottom side of the tendons and muscles in the foot. Fascia tissue does not have good blood supply like muscles. This is a problem when the fascia is torn, because it slows healing. Also, medication is not very effective because it must be transported to tissue via blood supply. This makes PF a very frustrating injury for runners who are anxious to heal quickly and return to full training loads.
Cause & Prevention
There are several common causes of plantar fasciitis. As such, early intervention is crucial to identify the issues when you first notice symptoms. One of the main cause is wearing worn out or inflexible shoes. If you suspect this may be a problem, change shoes. Also, be careful when selecting shoes! If you have a high or low arch, be sure to get fitted for the right shoe for you. Color, style, or your favorite pro athlete/friend recommendation are NOT good reasons for selecting a pair of shoes.
But PF can also be caused by physiological factors such as being overweight, having tight calves. If this is your problem, reduce incline on treadmill or hills and keep calf muscles flexible by regular stretching. If you spend a lot of time on your feet, be sure to wear appropriate footwear and think about investing in a comfort mat. Also, remember that walking barefoot on soft surfaces (like sand) is not recommended.
Symptom management as you heal
If after all you managed to get PF, there are a few things you can do to manage your symptoms as you heal.
Roll or stretch your foot and calves
Freeze a plastic water bottle. After runs, or long periods of walking or standing, place the frozen water bottle on the ground. While seated, roll the frozen bottle using gentle pressure under your affected foot. You can also use a golf or wooden ball or a wooden foot roller. Anything to stretch the fascia. And you can also use a massaging stick or foam roller to stretch and roll your calves. If you feel like treating yourself, a professional massage will definitely help too.
Wear the Strassburg sock at night to promote healing with the fascia in a flexed position. It also reduces the early morning pain. Purchase it online or at your local running store.
Change shoes or wear inserts
If you determine that a recent shoe change (either everyday shoes, heels, or running shoes) has led to a case of PF, find shoes that put less strain on the fascia or use a heel lift while healing. Also, replace your shoes if they are too old and/or have too many miles. Finally, consult an orthopedist to determine if you need inserts.
Stretches are crucial to recovery
A big part of prevention includes stretching. I recommend three in particular to heal PF. You need a combination to stretch both your inner and outer calf muscle. Both of those muscles can strain achilles which contributes to straining and tearing of the plantar fascia.
1. Traditional runner’s lunge
2. Toes against the wall
3. Heels hanging off a step
Plantar Fasciitis is a common injury amongst runners. While it can linger for months or even years, things can be done to prevent it or treat it. Early prevention is crucial so be sure to identify the issues when you first notice symptoms. Shoe selection and shoe age are very important. So are tight muscles or weight.
Be sure to roll or stretch your foot and calves, especially after long or tough runs. If you are already feeling pain, the use of the Strassburg sock is recommended. Also, be sure to change shoes when worn out and consider wearing inserts.
Finally, remember to stretch after your runs. Combine stretching both the inner and outer calf muscle. See the pictures above for ideas.
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