Plantar fasciitis can be a debilitating condition for runners. It is pain that is experienced typically underneath the foot (or feet) on the in – step usually with weight – bearing activities. There are many different treatment approaches, as a quick “Google search” will tell you. Therefore, as a Physiotherapist and an avid runner, I want to give you a different perspective. Firstly, some key tips and suggestions which may help prevent developing plantar fasciitis. Secondly, more lasting ways to help ease symptoms if you have developed plantar fasciitis. Most importantly, there is no quick fix. However, following the advice with consistency, should make this condition a short – lived one or preventable.
Tips to prevent plantar fasciitis
I experienced plantar fasciitis in my right foot while training for the Comrades Marathon. Many runners and active individuals have come for treatment with this condition.
I knew what I was in for.
What did I do?
- Catch it early. Make sure that you recognise that the pain underneath your foot is not just from a training run, but the start of plantar fasciitis. How do you know? Usually starts with tightness – calf, front of the leg, underneath the foot. Then it can develop intermittent pain during or after running and develop further to any weight – bearing activity with constant pain.
- Recognise possible causes. With training – a sudden increase in load of training, speed, hills, intensity or type (road to trail or v.v) could aggravate your fascii. Gym work, such as ballistics and plyometrics (example – burpies and skipping), places more load on the plantar fascii. Other possible causes may be wearing high heels, sudden change in shoe from supported to minimalist or vic versa, prolonged standing and lastly a change in training style.
- Reduce or stop what is irritating the plantar fascii. Temporarily. The plantar fascii is an extremely strong structure. It is in pain as a warning that it is not coping with the load.
Management approach for plantar fasciitis
Once you have identified what may be aggravating the plantar fascii, reduce or stop the activity. However, it is important that you are able to find an alternative so that fitness is maintained and the surrounding structures are strengthened. Most importantly, and so you don’t go crazy!
Low impact activities are a good choice with some cardio and then some strength training. A full assessment by a Physiotherapist can determine which structures may need strengthening as well as some manual therapy initially, to ease the pain.
If you are in a painful phase, the suggestion is to AVOID stretches until the fascii calms down. Gentle strengthening can be started, however this should be guided by a Physiotherapist who has fully assessed you and can treat you appropriately.
- Try to increase your step rate, cadence, as this will decrease the pressure through the plantar fascii
- Quieter running is preferred
- Initially a flatter running terrain may be more beneficial and then progress to hills
If you have had plantar fasciitis, what did you find that worked well? Were you able to run through the pain and it got better, or did you have to stop for a long period and rest. Did you do cross training and was it helpful? Share your experience of what worked, or didn’t, for you. Finally, have a look at strength training for trail runners for more advice on how to approach a strength program.