For those of you that have never experienced plantar fasciitis (PF), consider yourself very lucky! While I don’t have it now, I have had it in the past and it’s no laughing matter. I still find myself doing foot exercises to ward off a potential recurrence.
What Is Plantar Fasciitis?
As runners, we often hear the word “plantar fasciitis” tossed around casually in conversation—usually from a disgruntled runner who is currently out of commission. The truth is that this particular running injury can be very frustrating AND painful!
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia—the ligament that connects your heel bone to your toes. When the ligament gets inflamed, it hurts REALLY bad. It kind of feels like someone is taking a knife and stabbing the arch of your foot repeatedly– definitely not a pleasant feeling.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis
Standing on your feet for long periods of time
Individuals that stand on their feet (or run) for extended periods of time are more susceptible to developing plantar fasciitis. This is especially true when the bulk of the time is standing on hard surfaces. This occurs due to the constant pressure being applied to the plantar fascia while standing. The prolonged pressure causes inflammation, which in turn causes pain.
Improper or Poorly Fitted Footwear
Plantar fasciitis can also result from wearing the wrong shoes, and that’s why it’s so important to make sure that you are wearing shoes that support your feet and keep them comfy! As a woman, I know that’s not always possible, but try your best to take care of your feet at work too. If you commute to work, pack a pair of sneakers or other comfortable shoes to wear during the commute.
It’s doubly important to make sure that you are wearing running shoes that fit properly and are not in need of replacement. A great way to ensure proper fitting is to visit your local running store (not just an average sporting goods store). Even if it’s a bit longer of a drive, I HIGHLY suggest finding a running-specific store. Getting fitted by someone familiar with running shoes will greatly increase your chances of finding a pair that can help you avoid injury.
When you visit a running store, you will likely be asked about your running history, training, past injuries, and other factors that will help get you in the right shoe. Trust me on this one– I’ve learned my lesson the hard way!
Your feet pronate inward
When your feet pronate or roll inward, you are more likely to suffer from plantar fasciitis. Excessive pronation puts added pressure and stress on the plantar fascia, causing pain and irritation.
You have very high arches or flat feet
Many of us (myself included) need additional arch support. After having three children, I can tell you that pregnancy definitely changes your feet! The added weight of being pregnant can actually cause your feet to flatten a bit– that’s why it’s not uncommon to go up a half shoe size after pregnancy. Flat feet (collapsed arches) often leads to plantar fasciitis because of the added strain on the plantar fascia.
If you have higher arches, you’re at risk too. When you arch is too high, it can be less flexible and able to absorb the repeated shock of landing during running or excessive periods of standing.
Getting rid of plantar fasciitis
The frustrating thing about PF is that the fastest way to get rid of it is to rest. Your first step should be to stop (or at the very least, drastically reduce) the activity that is aggravating the plantar fasciitis. You can ice the bottoms of your feet, in addition to taking an anti-inflammatory medication like Motrin.
As a runner, you should also make sure that you are wearing the right running shoe for your foot. Try visiting your local running store and having them watch you run. They will be able to help make sure you are wearing the right shoe. Also make sure that your shoes are not past their expiration date.
How to prevent plantar fasciitis
One of the things I like to do to decrease tightness in my plantar fascia is to roll a golf ball (you can also use a tennis ball) under my feet. Hear me out—it actually feels really good!
- Make sure you are wearing the right shoes (see above).
- Resist the urge to do too much too soon when starting an exercise or running program—use a running program specifically for beginners or those returning from injury. Make sure you increase your training gradually!
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Regularly stretch your Achilles tendon—a tight Achilles can make you more prone to developing plantar fasciitis.
Have you ever had plantar faciitis? How did you treat it?