So You’ve Got Plantar Fasciitis…
Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most frequently occurring running injuries. I sat down with the experts to learn more about what it is, how you can get it and what to do if it happens to you.
What exactly is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is tendonitis of the plantar fascia. The word “plantar” refers to the bottom of the foot. The “fascia” around it is a web-like ligament that connects your heel to the front of your foot, and “itis” indicates the inflammation of anything in the body. When the tissue at the bottom of the foot -which works as the support and shock absorber- gets inflamed, a runner likely has plantar fasciitis. This injury leaves no human behind as it can occur in less experienced runners and the most competitive, advanced runners, and even those who do not exercise at all.
How to know if you have it and what to do next?
Plantar fasciitis can occur from the irritation caused by many different things like overuse, continually running on a “dead” shoe (See: How Long Do Running Shoes Last?), poor running mechanics, and even stepping on something (i.e. a rock) the wrong way. In short, it’s a tricky injury that can be produced from the perfect storm of many different causes. It even presents itself in different locations on the foot, anywhere from the toe, down to the heel.
Confirming that you have the problem is the first step. You may not be able to feel it when you are lifting your foot up off the ground, but you’ll feel the pain at the bottom of your foot when you’re loading it or taking a step. It will also probably hurt to the touch, or when you first get our of bed in the morning. In advanced cases some want to crawl to the bathroom! Pain while standing on one foot, lifting your toes from the ground, and when stretching your calves may be less obvious indications that you are on the plantar fasciitis train.
If you think this may be you, Greg Laraia, ACT. from Custom Performance Physical Therapy says that you have the best chance at a quicker recovery if you take early action. As soon as you feel tightness in your foot, do something to address it. Plantar fascia gets very irritated very quickly and when it starts to rear its ugly head, it’s going to either take a turn for the worse or it’s just going to linger for a while if you don’t do anything to make it better.
Greg recommends trying out some of the exercises below for about a week and if it doesn’t go away during that time, stop in to see a physical therapist.
Some exercises to help mitigate symptoms:
Mobility – Take a lacrosse ball or a foam roller to the bottom of your foot. You can roll it forward and back, side to side – every direction that you can to start to work on mobility of the foot and the fascia.
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Stretching – Some light calf stretching may be a good idea if it doesn’t elicit more pain while doing it. The goal with this is to involve the foot as little as possible while still stretching the calf. To do this, you can lie on your back, wrap a towel around your toes, and gently pull them toward you repeatedly to feel that calf stretch without putting too much strain on the foot.
Toe Yoga – The goal of toe yoga is to be able to move and splay your toes in the way that you move your hand. You want to be able to build strength and control in your feet so that you can apply power to the ground efficiently while you’re running. Check out this video on how it’s done here.
All of this being said, do not try to do physical therapy on your own. There is no replacement for the manual work of a PT, especially for plantar fasciitis.
What shoes are good for this injury?
It’s important to acknowledge that shoes will not fix any running injury, but there are some shoes that can set you up to succeed through recovery and beyond. When talking about shoes to help manage plantar fasciitis, there’s not just one type of shoe you should get. It depends heavily on what your foot responds to – everyone is different biomechanically.
While at home – “I’d rather see you walk around barefoot” says Greg. He suggests letting the foot be free so the toes splay out and start to build that strength when you’re at home. If the pain is extreme and you need the foot to rest and recover, you may want to wear a pair of comfortable shoes as you’re moving around the house. Let the discomfort level be your governor here.
While walking around town – Greg suggests to get a shoe that feels super soft and comfortable for you and to wear them as often as possible whenever you leave the house. With this, you’ll be able to baby the inflammation until it begins relent instead of straining it while putting it further into discomfort. You may only spend one hour a day running or less, but think of how much time otherwise you spend on your feet. For this reason, it’s important to look at all of your regular footwear, not just your running shoes.
While running – Kate Reese, fitting expert from Brooklyn Running Co., says that recommendations for shoes during bouts with plantar fasciitis will vary depending on the part of the healing process that you are in. In general, wearing shoes that are more supportive while experiencing discomfort and inflammation is best. She recommends having more support so that it can allow the fascia to heal.
She always looks for a shoe with a higher drop, (which is the difference in height between the heel and the ball of the foot) while someone is trying to combat plantar fasciitis. This helps deload the posterior chain, so the shoe does some of the work for you. The goal here is to allow your foot to rest while still being active.
Looking for a more rigid shoe is also best as it provides more structure, whether you have a high arch or a flat foot. If you can bend the shoe in half, that means your arch is going to be working hard which is not what we want during the healing process. No matter what, the shoe that you choose should feel comfortable. You should never feel like it’s jamming into your foot.
Insoles can be used as another tool in your toolbox to continue to support the foot as you’ve moved on to the part of the healing process where you are slowly returning to your desired level of activity. Eventually, you can start to wean yourself off as you return back to your healthy self and then stop using them all together once you’re ready. You can be fitted for an insole that works best for you at Brooklyn Running Co. (in store or virtually) when your body may be ready for this step.
When in doubt, the best answer always comes down to this: every single body is different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to plantar fasciitis. “The shoe is not going to make much of a difference if the person does not move well in the shoe” says Greg. The main goal is to first strengthen the foot, and then rely on shoes as a second option. Taking the time for an in-person or virtual fitting process with a Brooklyn Running Company is always a best bet in terms of getting the shoe that is right for you wherever you are in your healing journey.
By Kara Dudley