Plantar fasciitis is a common running injury that causes a frustrating pain in the sole of the foot or at the heel – it comes in sharp bursts and can make running torture. Typically, the pain is bad in the morning, then eases with warming up, then comes back to “bite” you at rest or the end of the day, sometimes with stiffness in ankle or big toe, too.
Your plantar fascia is a thick fibrous band of
connective tissue that starts under the heel and runs along the sole of the
foot towards the toes. It keeps the foot bones and
joints in position and enables us to push off from the ground, plus it helps
limit how much we can flattening the arch of our foot. Plantar fasciitis
occurs when your plantar fascia develops micro-tears or becomes inflamed. This
tends to be made worse by bruising (e.g.
heel-striking) or overstretching the plantar fascia.
Californian research concluded that tightness or weakness in the soleus can also
contribute, since the soleus is used to stop the foot collapsing on
Your shoes might be doing the damage,
too. Wearing shoes with poor arch support or stiff soles can be a factor. It’s
also important to replace old runners before they stop supporting your feet. A
lot of figures get chucked about for shoe lifespan, usually they’re in the
range of 650-800km – but the lower the
profile, the quicker they wear out.
Preventing plantar fasciitis – what you can do
Use your toes
team from Canada studying the role of the big toe in running noted a lack of
plantar flexion (pushing toes down) at the big toe resulted in a lack of energy
generation during the press-off from the ground. This caused more energy to be
absorbed and dissipated through the foot, causing more stress on the plantar
fascia. They concluded that forcing the big toe downwards primed the lower leg
muscles for greater force return and helped protect the foot.
You can work on this by:
“toe clawing” on carpet
sprint drills (even if you’re an endurance runner)
Running on soft sand, where the technique is to clench your toes at the point of impact
picking up a pencil on the floor with your toes while sitting
exaggerating the toe push while walking.
Strengthen your soleus
some type of calf / toes press exercise for high reps (20+) with a bend at the
Avoid heavy heel striking
you do heel strike, make sure you have a well-cushioned shoe and avoid striking
out in front of your hips.
Get the right shoe for you
you’ve had plantar fascia pain, get proper advice on a shoe has the right
heel-to-toe drop for you and the right build for your level of pronation
If you have
plantar fascia pain, try these stretches be two times a day, doing each
three times, holding the stretch for 40-60 seconds unless too uncomfortable.
Gastrocnemius stretch – stand
with both feet flat on floor, one directly in front of the other. Keeping the knee
of the back leg straight, lean forward but keep most of your weight on
your back foot until you feel the stretch in the calf and Achilles tendon
of the back. Vary the distance between the feet to find which one works best
Soleus stretch – do the
same as above, but this time bend the back knee – this relaxes the gastrocnemius
muscle so you can focus the stretch on the soleus. Lower your body, keeping
back upright and most of your weight on your back foot.
Flexor hallicus longus (FHL)
stretch – Stand close to a wall or step with your feet one in front of the
other. Rest the undersides of the toes of your front foot against a wall/step
while your heel remains on the ground. Bend the front knee a little to gently
push that knee towards the wall. You should feel a stretch low down in the calf
and towards the inside of the shin.
1. Riddle DL, Pulisic M, Pidcoe P, Johnson RE. Risk factors for plantar fasciitis: A matched case-control study. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2003; 85(5):872-877.
2. Riddle DL, Schappert SM. Volume of ambulatory care visits and patterns of care for patients diagnosed with plantar fasciitis: A national study of medical doctors. Foot Ankle Int. 2004; 25(5):303-310.
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