A Runner’s Guide to Getting Rid of Plantar Fasciitis Pain
We’ve previously talked about why you should start running as a means to stay healthy, stay happy, and to make better decisions.
However, some people who start out running (especially heavier builds and the over 50 crowd) will find that foot pain prevents running for more than a few minutes at a time. In some cases, foot pain issues can be so sever that you can’t run, walk, or even stand up on your feet.
If this is the case, you likely suffer from Plantar Fasciitis.
Plantar Fasciitis is a painful condition to wake up to. As soon as you feel it hit, you want to do everything possible to treat it and prevent the symptoms from coming back in the future. So just where do you start? Understanding what Plantar Fasciitis is and the risks for developing it is a good foundation. From there, this guide will give you at home remedies, treatments from a physician, and teach you how to prevent Plantar Fasciitis from returning in the future.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
The plantar fascia are ligaments on your feet. These ligaments connect the heel to the balls of your feet. When Plantar Fasciitis occurs, these ligaments become inflamed, swollen, and extremely painful. Pain occurs most frequently in the morning and in your heel. The area where your plantar fascia meets the heel is the smallest point, which is why the pain is commonly felt in the heel area (see the wikipedia page).
Risks for Developing Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar Fasciitis occurs in 10 percent of all runners, so you have a higher chance of developing this condition if you are a runner. It occurs more frequently because running is hard on the plantar fascia as it is constantly constricted and then stretched during the process. If the plantar fascia is not working properly, it will not absorb shock like it should. It then becomes prone to micro tears that can take a long time to heal while causing extreme pain. The longer of a distance you run, the more likely you are to experience Plantar Fasciitis.
Another factor that puts you at risk is flat feet or high arches. If you wear shoes that are not designed for these types of feet that will put you at risk for Plantar Fasciitis as well. This is because the plantar fascia is not properly supported, so it will be overstretched and strained causing pain and inflammation.
If you are obese, overweight, or your weight suddenly changes, such as in pregnancy, you are also at risk for Plantar Fasciitis. This is because there is more pressure put on the plantar fascia than it is used to, or that it can handle. If you are pregnant, you may experience Plantar Fasciitis during the later stages of pregnancy.
Tight muscles can also contribute to Plantar Fasciitis. If your calf muscles or Achilles tendon are too tight, the plantar fascia may not be properly supported. The tendon and muscles in your calf attach to your heel, so if they are stiff, your feet will be stiff making it more difficult for the plantar fascia to absorb shock.
At Home Treatments
There are a few things you can do at home to help treat and beat Plantar Fasciitis. Stretching, taping, and rest are the best things you can do at home that requires very little special equipment.
Stretching loosens up your muscles so your feet are more flexible. This allows your plantar fascia to move smoothly and it experiences less strain. Stretching on a regular basis can ease the pain of Plantar Fasciitis and keep it from coming back.
Stretching the gastrocnemius muscles in your calf will help with heel pain. The muscles of your calves and feet work together, so if they are looser, they have a better chance at absorbing shock.
Stand near a wall, about an arm’s length away. Put your right foot behind your left one, and bend your left leg forward. Keep the right knee straight and the heel on the ground. Keep this stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Stand up straight then repeat it three times. Switch to the other side and repeat the exercise.
Water Bottle Stretch
For this stretch, you will need a chair and a frozen water bottle or a cold soda can. Sit in the chair and place the item underneath your foot. Roll the water bottle or soda can back and forth underneath your foot. This stretches out your plantar fascia as well as puts pressure on the area to relieve the pain. Do a few of these rolls and then switch to the other foot. Do not put more pressure on each foot than is comfortable.
While still sitting in the chair, cross one leg over the other. Take your big to and the top of your foot in your hand and pull it towards you. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds, but no longer than is comfortable. Furthermore, do not pull the stretch so that it hurts. Repeat this three times on one foot and then move to the other foot.
Still sitting in a chair, use a towel or an exercise strap to wrap around your foot. This is similar to the stretch above, just using a towel. It should fit under the arches and top of your feet. Pull the towel towards you and hold it for 15 to 30 seconds. It should make for a comfortable stretch that you feel in the bottom of your foot. Do this three times and then switch sides.
Taping is a good way to support your feet so there is less strain on your plantar fascia. You can use athletic tape, which can be found at the local store. The tape limits the amount of stretching to help reduce micro tears.
To start, tape around the ball of your foot. It should go from the bottom, all the way around, and end where it started. Take another piece of tape and wrap it from just behind the toe, around your heel, and end on the other side of your foot. Next, put a strip of tape diagonally across your foot creating part of an X. It should go from the balls of your feet to your heel to fully support the plantar fascia. Put another strip of tape to finish the X on the bottom of your foot. Finish taping your foot by putting a strip of tape horizontally across your foot, from left to right. The tape should cover the entire bottom of your foot for the most amount of support.
As soon as you experience symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis, put your feet up. The plantar fascia has been overworked and overstrained, so they need time to heal. Each time you use your feet, you have a chance of overstretching the plantar fascia, which can create more micro tears and/or delay healing time.
If you are a regular runner, especially long distance, cut back on your activities. Instead of running, walk for exercise and stay away from hard terrain. Put your feet up at night, or when you can throughout the day. This will shorten your healing time, reduce inflammation, and ease the pain.
Ice is another great remedy for Plantar Fasciitis. An ice pack or frozen water bottle will fit comfortably on the bottom of your feet. Leave it on for 20 minutes and then take it off to give your feet a break. You can do this for three times a day until the swelling is gone and the pain is down. The ice helps reduces inflammation to help heal your plantar fascia. Never put ice directly on your skin, use a barrier such as a towel.
Treatments from a Physician
If you have tried home remedies and your Plantar Fasciitis is not getting better after about a week, it is time to call a doctor. They may recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) to help reduce inflammation and relieve the pain. These medications are ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) or you can also use naproxen (Aleve). The medications can be taken orally or be used as a cream that you rub on your feet. It is not a good idea to use the two together as the dosage may be too much.
Sometimes your physician may recommend corticosteroid shots. These are steroid injections that are shot directly into your feet to calm inflammation. Since they are injected at the site, they work within a few minutes of the injection.
Preventing Plantar Fasciitis
One of the best ways to treat Plantar Fasciitis is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. This is not always possible, but there are steps you can take to minimize your risks. Orthotic inserts, night splints, and wearing supportive shoes can protect your plantar fascia and minimize micro tears.
Orthotic inserts will support your arch so it doesn’t flatten out too much when you walk. This protects your plantar fascia and prevents micro tears from occurring. Inserts can also correct pronation that can put a strain on the tendons and ligaments in your feet. There are different types of inserts, some that are placed in the heel area and others that are the full length of the foot. The full length orthotic inserts cradle your feet and prevent the plantar fascia from being overstretched. The heel inserts protect just the heel area. Try both to see what works best for your specific condition.
Night splints are worn while you are sleeping and gently stretch your plantar fascia. The splint keeps your feet at a 90-degree angle, which can relieve the pain of the first step in the morning. It also stretches your calf muscles and Achilles tendon to keep your leg muscles loose. This allows your legs and feet to be more flexible in the morning and keep the inflammation in your plantar fascia down.
There are two types of night splints, the dorsal splint, and the boot splint. The dorsal splint is placed on the top of your foot and holds it at 90-degrees. The arch of your foot, as well as the heel, stay open so it can be more comfortable to wear. The boot splint is a brace that is worn on the calf and all the way over your foot, looking like a boot. It can be larger than a dorsal splint but is just as effective.
Wearing the right type of shoes can protect your feet from Plantar Fasciitis. There are three things to look for which includes cushioning, arch support, and heel support. Supportive shoes are available in running shoes, sandals, slippers, and casual every day shoes. The right shoes will support your arch, protect your feet as you walk, and keep your heel securely in place. Find the right type of shoe for the activity you are doing for the most effective relief.
Treating and beating Plantar Fasciitis does take time and patience. As soon as you feel symptoms, rest and ice your feet. Once your Plantar Fasciitis heals, take steps to prevent it from coming back. By being proactive, you may be able to keep it away for longer periods of time and lessen the pain once it does come back.
Recommended Plantar Fasciitis Resources
See these sites for more info and tips about treating Plantar Fasciitis Foot Pain