Plantar fasciitis is a painful inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick, fibrous band of connective tissue that runs from the heel bone to the ball of the foot. It’s a very common injury among runners and, unfortunately, a tough one to conquer. I’ve known runners who have spent anywhere from several weeks to over a year trying to get over this ailment, and I’ve dealt with it myself more than once.
The main symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain under the heel bone that feels the worst first thing in the morning or after you’ve been off your feet for long periods of time. As you walk or run on it, it tends to loosen up and the pain fades in varying degrees.
Inflammation of the plantar fascia results from overstressing the connective tissue due to one of more of the following causes:
- Increasing your mileage too quickly.
- Poorly fitting or worn out shoes.
- Having low arches or insufficient arch support.
- Gaining weight, thus putting a greater load on your feet.
- Spending too much time on your feet.
You can reduce the likelihood of developing plantar fasciitis by:
- Reducing your weekly mileage.
- Ensuring that your shoes are in good condition and have proper arch support.
- Regularly stretch the plantar fascia and adjacent muscles and tendons, particularly the calf muscles.
- Reduce your weight if possible.
- Stay off your feet as much as possible when you’re not running.
Fortunately, there are several conservative treatments for plantar fasciitis that you can do on your own.
- Icing. The well known RICE formula (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) works well for plantar fasciitis. In fact, icing the area several time per day for the duration of the pain is the treatment that has always worked for me with this injury.
- Taping. Here’s a good video with a demonstration and instructions on how to tape your plantar fascia for support.
- Massage. Massaging the affected area can help break down the inflammation, as can rolling a tennis ball or other round object under your heel. This serves the same purpose as a massage while stretching the fascia as well.
- Temporarily wearing a heel lift inside your shoe. Heel lifts can help take the strain off the plantar fascia, allowing it to heal. Be sure to stop using the lift once you have the injury under control as the heel lift can throw off your biomechanics and contribute to other injuries if you wear them for too long.
For advanced cases, I always recommend a visit to a licensed physiotherapist, particularly one with a sports background. Physiotherapy techniques such as EMS (Electrical Muscles Stimulation) and ultrasound can also help significantly.
When you return to running following a bout of plantar fasciitis, make sure you start with a small amount of very easy running and gradually build up to your regular program. Don’t do any speedwork until you’re completely free of pain and have built up to your usual weekly mileage.
Plantar fasciitis is one of the tougher injuries to beat, but with patience and an intelligent treatment program, you can be back on the roads without too much of a disruption in your training.
As with all injury advice on this site, the information here is intended for information purposes only and is not intended to replace qualified medical advice.