If you have ever suffered through the pain and frustration of plantar fascitis you have made a vow never to ever go through that experience again. I know I have. A while back I dealt with plantar fascitis for over a year. I found the whole experience to be more frustrating and disappointing than the pain I felt in my foot.
What is plantar fascitis? Plantar fascitis is defined as the “inflammation” of the plantar fascia – a connective tissue (tendon) that begins at the bottom of the calcaneous (hell bone) and runs along the bottom of the foot towards the toes. Since tendon and ligaments do not contain blood vessels they don’t really really become inflamed. The damage is a result of long term microscopic tearing at the cellular level. Due to the plantar fascia shortening during our sleep, morning walking can be most painful. When we get out of bed and begin walking, the lengthening of the fascia feels as though someone is poking our feet with needles. This pain can and most often will continue throughout the day and especially when we run.
Treatment can range from night splints to taking aspirin or other over the counter pain relievers.
Here are my 5 ways to avoid plantar fascitis.
1. Wear comfortable shoes during the day and while running. I have found wider shoes allow my total foot to expand on impact, which seems to take the stress off the plantar fascia. For both day use and in running I choose a shoe with a lower heel to toe drop, which helps in stretching the Achilles tendon, which will have a positive effect to the plantar fascia.
2. Having a proper running form is important. When running – focus on landing mid to fore foot instead of heel striking. Doing so, again, allows the natural shock absorbing compliments of the foot to handle the stress of landing. Heel striking can cause the plantar fascia to absorb a tremendous amount of stress while rolling the foot forward. Something the plantar fascia is not designed to do. ChiRunning is one type of running form that can help in reducing foot and lower leg issues.
3. Running light on ones feet. I read somewhere that when we run we should envision that we are running on egg shells, which forces our stride to shorten and our stride rate to quicken. This concepts keeps us from landing hard on our feet, which in turns reduces the amount of stress the plantar fascia adsorbs Also keeping a healthy body weight will have a positive impact on your feet as well.
4. Smart training practices. By following the mantra of running not “to fast, to far to soon” can keep our training in check. Rapid mileage gain or speed increases doesn’t allow our feet to condition to the new stresses. Developing and following a smart training cycle will help prevent all sorts of running injuries, not just with plantar fascitis.
5. Stretching. Mild calf and lower leg stretching will keep the plantar fascia limber. I find that using an incline of some sort – side walk, incline board, etc. helps me with this process. Rolling a golf ball around the floor with your foot is another way to stretch the plantar fascia. Nice thing to do while watching TV, but if you have a dog, he/she might think it’s time to go play.
May you never, ever experience plantar fascitis. Hopefully these five tips can help you prevent such an occurrence.