Plantar Fasciitis – what can you do about it?

According to research, 80% of all cases of plantar fasciitis show a spontaneous improvement within 12 months. This is great news. If you are willing to put up with a sore foot for a whole year, then you have an 80% chance that it might start feeling better!

If you are happy with those odds, stop reading now and start waiting. If you want to take a more proactive approach then read on . . .

 

What is the Plantar Fascia?

The plantar fascia is a thick fibrous band of connective tissue which runs along the sole of the foot like a fan, from the inner edge of the heel to the base of each of the toes.

 

Plantar Fasciitis in runners. What can you do about it?

What does it do?

It supports the arch of the foot by acting something like the string on an archers bow.

 

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar Fasciitis is thought to be a traction and overuse injury which usually occurs where the plantar fascia attaches into the heel bone (calcaneous)

 

What are the symptoms?

The principle complaint is pain on the inside edge of the heel. It is usually at its worst after prolonged periods of inactivity such as first thing in the morning.

 

What causes Plantar Fasciitis?

Unfortunately, no one really knows the answer to this question. There have been numerous studies performed over the years, but the findings remain fairly inconclusive. There are a number of potential risk factors which have been “proved” by one study, but “disproved” by another – which at best leaves it uncertain.

These potential risk factors include:

  1. stiff ankle joint
  2. pronated foot type
  3. low arches
  4. high arches
  5. poor footwear
  6. weak foot muscles

 

What should you do about it?

Although hard scientific evidence is lacking in the treatment of plantar fasciitis, there are a number of approaches that can ben taken to help reduce the pain. These range from massage, rolling, stretches and taping techniques, through to cortisone injections and even surgery to “release” (a.k.a. chop) the attachment off at the heel

 

Who should I see?

Your first point of call should be to an experienced health care professional who deals with runners. In an ideal world, try to see a practitioner who is actually a runner. Their advice and treatment approach will be influenced by their knowledge of running.

 

Could your running technique be to blame?

A common assumption is that the repetitive impact caused by landing on your heel when running is what causes Plantar Fasciitis. One study has, in fact, shown that the high impact forces that occur when you overstride (poor running technique) can be a contributing factor in developing the condition.

At The Body Mechanic we have found that the most likely technique-related cause for Plantar Fasciitis is landing on your forefoot with your foot in front of your body. A lot of people make the mistake of deliberately trying to land on their “forefoot” or “midfoot” when they are running. This tends to have the effect of dropping the forefoot and stiffening the foot which can quickly overload the plantar fascia, calf muscle and achilles tendon.

According to current research and understanding, the ideal landing is for your foot to land close under your body/hips and for your foot to be relaxed when it lands. In appropriate footwear this will tend to be a “flat” landing where the whole foot contacts the ground at the same time. In thick, cushioned shoes, it is possible that someone will still contact the ground heel – first (heel-striking), but if their foot is under their body, the impact and stress on the plantar fascia will be significantly reduced compared to a landing where the foot is in front of the body.

 

What are the treatment options?

Two of the most important factors to consider in the treatment of plantar fasciitis are:

  1. Gait Analysis – How do you run? An optimal running technique signifiacntly reduces the risk. The most important aspects of good running technique that you need to be aware of are:
    • Posture
    • Cadence
    • Stride Length
  2. Biomechanical Screening – a thorough biomechanical test of your body should be carried out to identify any potential risk factors. Likely risk factors include:
    • lack of ankle flexibility
    • tight/weak calf muscles
    • tight hip flexors
    • inefficient gluteal muscles

 

Self help options

There are several things you can do which should help you to reduce and manage the symptoms yourself, although these are best done in conjunction with qualified medical help

  1. Calf and achilles stretches
  2. Calf massage with a trigger point ball
  3. Plantar fascia stretches
  4. Massage sole of foot (with thumbs or a ball)
  5. Learn how to tape your foot to support the plantar fascia
  6. Stretch and wiggle your foot before getting out of bed in the morning to help reduce the initial pain.

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