Foot pain is well known to strike fear in running athletes. Plantar faciitis in particular can be a long standing issue if not identified early and proper treatments put into place. It is characterized by pain in the bottom of the foot in the tissue that runs from the base of the heel to the toes. It is responsible for supporting the largest of the three arches in the foot, and vital to proper running mechanics.
Symptoms tend to include pain in the morning upon taking your first few steps, redness and swelling in the midfoot, and pain with running or walking.
Short term treatment for this ailment includes taking over the counter anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) such as Aleve for pain and inflammation-BUT, this is a short term treatment for a biomechanical issue, and purely taking pills will not cure this issue. You must be ready to correct a few common mechanical pit falls, including stretching and strengthening weak foot muscles. Fear not my friend, the discipline to take care of your body is well within your ability!
Rolling the foot over a water filled frozen water bottle will bring relief and assist in inflammation reduction, while simultaneously massaging the upset plantar fascia. Do this for 5 minutes 3-4 times per day. This is a crowd pleaser-it often clears up recent flare ups in plantar fascial pain relatively quickly.
Stretching the calf muscles and foot muscles themselves is important to restore fascial mobility.
Use a towel as below:
In some instances of chronic plantar fascia, more aggressive treatment is necessary. See a physical therapist for an evaluation of your foot and ankle. Find a good therapist who will watch you walk and/ or run if applicable to detect the root cause of the plantar fasciitis. Manual therapy including myofascial release and mobilization of the ankle may also be deemed necessary.
In some cases, a night splint may be prescribed to stretch the fascia for long term results. Your physician or physical therapist will help determine if this is necessary.
Above all, analysis of the root cause of the plantar facial pain is important. Below are common causes of plantar fasciitis when walking and running mechanics are analyzed:
1. Weak intrinsic foot strength- this refers to weakness of the foot muscles within the bones of the foot.
2. Tightness in the calf muscles. As addressed in the towel stretch above, this is a good one to decrease all lower leg pain.
3. Weakness in the hip stabilizers. This decreases control of the knee over the foot in a “down river” effect increasing force in the foot.
4. Running in improper fitting shoes. Be sure that your shoes have a quarter inch to half inch gap from the longest toe to the shoe.
5. Running in shoes that are too old. Check the wear pattern on the soles of your shoes. If the tread is completely worn, or one side is significantly more deteriorated than the other, it’s probably time for a new shoe. Mileage in a shoe depends on the individual runner and the brand of the shoe. There are no hard rules here, but if the rubber is peeling off it’s time for a new shoe!
Stay tuned for exercises targeted at addressing these issues, and as always…
Make your day great!