Plantar fasciitis is a serious condition that can cause significant heel pain. It affects the plantar fascia, which is a think bundle of connective tissue linking the heel to the base of the toes. This bundle of tissue is actually made out of collagen, a rigid form of protein with limited elasticity.
The wrong sort of wear can cause small, persistent tears in the plantar fascia, and this, in turn, produces the painful inflammation which leads to plantar fasciitis. Factors that can contribute to the onset of plantar fasciitis include genetics, poorly-chosen or fitted running shoes, drastic increases in mileage, and other forms of stress.
Plantar Fasciitis: The Symptoms
Individuals who experience plantar fasciitis typically encounter either a sharp stabbing pain or a deep ache affecting the middle of the heel or the arch of the foot. Plantar Fasciitis causes significant pain immediately after the sufferer wakes up because of the way the plantar fascia attempts to contract and heal overnight. The first step of the day often triggers pain in the arch or heel as the fascia stretches out for the first time in hours. Similar pains can strike after extended periods of sitting. Sustained activity (e.g. running) tends to make the pain fade as the fascia limbers up.
Plantar Fasciitis: The Causes
The heel pains caused by plantar fasciitis are most often experienced by individuals who train too hard, do too much speed and hill work, or neglect calf stretches.
Certain biomechanical flaws like flat feet, high arches, and tight Achilles tendons can make plantar fasciitis more likely. A gait with excessive pronation is another risk factor. The start of speedwork, increases in training mileage, hard running surfaces (concrete or asphalt), and worn or ill-fitting running shoes can also make the condition more likely. Wearing high heels for extended periods prior to running can increase the risk of plantar fasciitis.
How To Treat / Prevent Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis usually starts out as a minor problem, but it's very prone to worsening over time. Treatment and resolution get more difficult the longer you ignore it. Always wear properly-fitted shoes that are designed to fit your gait and foot type. Run on soft surfaces whenever possible, and try not to increase your regular mileage by more than 10 percent in any given week. Make sure you're getting ample arch support; this is so vital for treating plantar fasciitis that many manufacturers now offer running shoes expressly designed to combat the condition.
Giving the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia ample stretching is also vital. This stretching routine will help.
To treat plantar fasciitis pain, use massage and ice. A good way to do this is to roll a golf ball under your foot and then follow it up with a frozen bottle of water. Remember that your footwear outside of your workouts makes a difference, too. Going barefoot or wearing shoes with poor arch support can prolong the healing process.
If you experience recurring pain for more than three weeks, it's time to check in with a professional care provider. Talk to a sports podiatrist or other expert. You may benefit from a range of different treatment techniques; examples include orthotics, night splints, foot taping, cortisone injections, and anti-inflammatory medication. A full 95 percent of patients experience significant symptom reduction within six weeks of starting intensive treatment. In more extreme cases, physical therapy may help. The most chronic cases (those lasting six months or more) may call for shock-wave therapy, a plantar fasciitis-specific treatment with FDA approval.
Stretches For Preventing Plantar Fasciitis
Although fasciitis pain usually strikes one foot or the other, it's important to subject both feet to treatment. Massage and stretch your feet as soon as you wake up and then three times over the course of the day. The same routine is effective for both men and women.
Achilles Tendon Stretch
Place the affected foot behind your healthy foot. Point the toes of the affected foot into your heel and then lean into a wall. Keep your rear knee straight and let the front one bend. Keep your rear heel in contact with the floor and hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Here is a good visual instruction.
Plantar Fascia Stretch
Sit with your affected foot on your knee. Pull the toes of your foot upwards toward the shin until you can feel the arch of your foot stretching. The bottom of your foot should feel tense to the touch. Hold this position for 10 seconds.
Runners who experience chronic plantar fasciitis that does not respond to the treatments described here may require surgery. Note that this is a complex decision and your physician will need to review many aspects of your overall health before endorsing surgery as the best way to resolve your plantar fasciitis.