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 and learn what you can do about your heel pain 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.  It acts as a shock absorber and supports the arch of your foot, helping you walk.

 

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).

Your plantar fascia ligaments experience a lot of wear and tear in your daily life. Too much pressure on your feet can damage or tear the ligaments. The plantar fascia becomes inflamed, and the inflammation causes heel pain and stiffness.

 

What are the symptoms?

The most common 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. (We highly recommend you get a standing desk if you spend a lot of time sitting at work.)

Pain from plantar fasciitis typically develops gradually over time. The pain can be dull or sharp. Some people feel a burning or ache on the bottom of the foot extending outward from the heel.

The pain is usually worse in the morning when you take your first steps out of bed, or if you’ve been sitting or lying down for a while.

After prolonged activity, the pain can flare up due to increased irritation or inflammation. People with plantar fasciitis don’t usually feel pain during the activity, but rather just after stopping.

 

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 be 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.

Watch the video below for three simple stretches and self massage techniques you can start doing immediately and keep reading for more detail in how to fix heel pain.

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.

The Body Mechanic physios have helped thousands of runners manage and fix their heel pain. Many practitioners will advice you to stop running altogether, but we believe, through careful management, taping techniques and changes to your routine, there are alternatives that can keep you exercising.

Book an appointment now with one of our physios, to get back to the sport you love pain free.

 

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 significantly reduces the risk. The most important aspects of good running technique that you need to be aware of are:
  • Posture
  • Cadence
  • Stride Length

(Book in now for a running gait analysis)

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

The Body Mechanic offer a detailed running gait assessment to quickly improve your running. Learn more

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. (we recommend this 3 minute daily ritual)
  2. Calf massage with a trigger point ball (we cover some in the video below)
  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 (come in so we can assess you and show you the right technique for you)
  6. Stretch and wiggle your foot before getting out of bed in the morning to help reduce the initial pain.
  7. Run on grass surfaces and minimise all speed work.

If you are struggling with plantar fasciitis, book an appointment now with one of our physios, to get back to the sport you love as soon as possible, pain free.

If you are currently unable to run, here are some specific ways to keep exercising when injured.

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