How to Manage and Prevent Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar Fasciitis is the mosquito of the running injury world. It’s everywhere and everyone knows about it. It may be small, but it sure is mighty. It starts off as a nagging annoyance, but grows into something that soon makes you lash out at any unsuspecting passersby. The only thing you can do is squash it before it bites you.
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The Plantar Fascia is a long and thick ligament that runs along the sole of your foot to create your arch. When exposed to consistent impact, as through running, the fascia develops small tears that can grow overtime through overuse. As tears increase, your body develops scar tissue in the heel in response to the injury. This can cause a great deal of pain that can grow overtime and become chronic.
While this article focuses on recovery, the techniques listed below can be used for prevention of Plantar Fasciitis as well. As any good hiker knows, a good spray of mosquito repellant and a body sized flame retardant suit can go a long way in preventing the agony of bites. In the same way, constant preventative care can go a long way in helping you stave off further occurrences of Plantar Fasciitis.
If you currently have Plantar Fasciitis, it’s very important that you address it. Failure to do so can result in permanent scaring in your heel, which may require surgery to resolve. While the techniques below will help you through your recovery, be sure to see your doctor or physical therapist for a full assessment.
Deep Tissue Therapy for Plantar Fasciitis
Breaking up the scar tissue in your foot is essential to combatting Plantar Fasciitis. The reason this condition becomes increasingly painful and unbearable is because scar tissue develops overtime as you repeatedly create tears and stress the ligament. What is only a nagging ache today, may become a sharp dagger of pain tomorrow when the scar tissue has grown.
Runners are a stubborn bunch and we often don’t address a problem until we’re hobbling down the street. With Plantar Fasciitis, it’s important that you begin deep tissue therapy techniques the second you feel a twinge of pain, as scar tissue is harder to tackle once it has grown. Plantar Fasciitis is a condition that lives up to the idea that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
If you are deep in the throes of Plantar Fasciitis, I would advise visiting your physical therapist for deep tissue therapy treatments. Once scar tissue has built up to certain point, it can be hard to combat with the household items I’m about to suggest. Yes, no matter how hard you beat your foot with a rolling pin, your foot will still hurt…probably more than it did to begin with.
On the other hand, if your Plantar Fasciitis is minor, or you’re looking to prevent a future case of it, it’s time to rummage around your drawers for anything that looks amenable to being stepped and rolled on. If your foot is sensitive, my top suggestion would be a tennis ball. As Dr. Axe suggests, roll your foot back and forth on the tennis ball for five minutes, two to three times a day.
If you’re looking for a more intense experience, these
Stretching for Plantar Fasciitis
Properly stretching after a run is crucial to maintaining limber and loose ligaments. Have you ever finished a race, plopped down on the grass in delight, and then not been able to get up twenty minutes later? Yeah, our bodies like to shrivel up like snails in salt the second we give them a break. Remember to stretch as soon as possible after a run. This will help your body cool down and begin the recovery process needed to keep you in tip top running condition.
Pull Your Toes Up
This stretch engages your Plantar Fascia and helps it to regain its mobility after the repeated force of running. To perform this stretch properly, be sure that you don’t pull too hard on your toes. The last thing you want to do is overstretch your Plantar Fascia and introduce even more tears. Gently pull up on your toes, stopping and holding when you feel a slight tug. Hold the stretch for about 15 seconds and repeat with your other foot.
Stretch the Arch of your Foot
As you would expect, stretching the arch of your foot is a great way to combat and prevent Plantar Fasciitis. Again, it’s important to not go overboard. As your arch is what’s causing you pain in the first place, you don’t want to
This first stretching method is great, as it can be done anywhere and everywhere throughout the day. Two to three times a day, or whenever you’re feeling pain, pop off your shoe and give your foot a good stretch. With your foot propped against your knee, be sure that you maintain good alignment in your hips and ankles. There’s no need to cause further injury due to poor form.
If crossing your legs is a struggle, this stretch can be performed just as effectively with a band. Either laying down or sitting up, wrap the band around your toes and gently pull back. Again, the key word here is gently. Only stretch your foot to your capabilities and needs so as to get the maximum recovery benefits.
While it seems unrelated, it’s important to stretch your calves to reduce pain in your Plantar Fascia. Imagine the calf muscle as a big Great Dane playing tug of war with a Chihuahua. While the Chihuahua may have the confidence of a giant, it can’t match the Great Dane’s strength.
Yes, your Plantar Fascia is strong, but it’s also small in comparison to the calf. When your calf is tight, it pulls on your Plantar Fascia like the Great Dane does the Chihuahua. This can cause pain in the arch of your foot resembling Plantar Fasciitis.
The runner’s stretch is a great way to keep your calves loose following a run. I’d also suggest investing in a foam roller and adopting a habit of rolling your calves (and the rest of your body) on a regular basis.
Proper Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis
Shoes can make a big difference in how your feet feel. We all have memories of days, months, or years of wearing the wrong shoes and the price we paid afterwards. Wearing the wrong shoes can cause anything from blisters to permanent injury. Especially when you are suffering from Plantar Fasciitis, you want to be sure you are wearing shoes that promote recovery, as opposed to making it worse. But, don't worry. You don't have to kick your flip flop habit. I have a solution for you.
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Icing for Inflammation with Plantar Fasciitis
When you’re creating tears and scar tissue in your Plantar Fascia and foot, you’re going to find a lot of inflammation as well. Our bodies react to scars as though they’re injuries. As such, a lot of energy gets directed to the impacted area in order to speed up the recovery process, which creates quite a lot of inflammation.
Ice is an athlete’s best friend. It can go a long way in controlling inflammation, subduing pain, and helping you get through recovery. It’s really important though that you do not overdue it. I’ve seen people discover the magical powers of ice and suddenly develop freezer burns from leaving the ice packs on for too long. Never put ice directly on your skin, and don’t leave it there for more than twenty minutes at a time.
There are some great icing products designed especially for the treatment of Plantar Fasciitis. What I love about the socks below is that you don’t have to worry about awkwardly holding the ice to your foot. Also, the soft material of the sock will help you protect your skin from freezer burn and relieve you from the hassle of traditional ice packs. You can check them out on Amazon here.
Plantar Fasciitis is a pain in the, well, foot. But, it is preventable and treatable. In addition to the techniques listed above, be sure to set up an appointment with your doctor or physical therapist for a full evaluation and treatment plan. There’s no doubt that your feet play an important role in your ability to achieve your running goals, so you better take care of them.
Hey, I’m Diana! I’m an occupational therapist and a long distance runner. I’ve run more races than I can count from 5ks through full marathons, including the Boston Marathon. Right now, my PR for the marathon is 3:09 and 1:26 for the half. I’m a bit obsessed with running and sharing what I’ve learned along the way. Let’s crush some running goals together!