What Causes Plantar Fasciitis and How do I Get Rid of It?
Written by Nuno Costa
One of the more common injuries with running is Plantar Fasciitis and it shows up in the form of heel pain (you will know it if you have it). The pain is not fun and it is most noticeable first thing in the morning. The thick band of tissue, which is called the plantar fascia, runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to the toes. When you have plantar fasciitis that thick band of tissue becomes inflamed. As you go about your day and start moving around, the pain normally decreases but can return after sitting or standing for long periods of time.
What does the Plantar Fascia do?
The plantar fascia tissue provides support for the bones of your feet and absorbs the strain that’s put on them throughout the day. Running and other movements we experience in CrossFit, as well as regular exercising, can put additional strain on the feet. Movements we commonly see such as double-unders and box jumps (bounding movements) can aggravate this injury further.
What causes Plantar Fasciitis?
There isn’t clear evidence according to the research for what the cause of Plantar Fasciitis is. (1) There is speculation that an increase in mileage for runners could be the cause, but there’s also thoughts that shoes may be the cause, like not having enough arch support or wearing shoes that are worn out and no longer support the foot during running activities.
There are a few other things that could cause a runner to experience Plantar Fasciitis. If a runner has super tight calf muscles then this will reduce the flexion of their foot. Remember the plantar fascia attaches to the heel of the foot which connects to the achilles, which is connected to the calf muscles, so tight calves can greatly affect the range of motion that the foot should naturally have.
Also, being overweight will put more pressure on a person’s feet. It’s not uncommon for someone to start running to lose weight but the amount of mileage they choose can put a lot of extra strain on their muscles and tendons. This is especially true if they aren’t strong to begin with so it could lead to a quick break down in the tissue area, causing Plantar Fasciitis.
How do I get rid of it?
Most people think the first solution to fixing plantar fasciitis is to get orthotics to fix the arches. This could be a solution that works for some, but not the only solution out there. Spending some time doing self myofascial release with a lacrosse ball on the plantar fascia is going to greatly help. We’ve been taught to look upstream and downstream from the affected area, which means rolling out your achilles and calves.
Another solution to help reduce some of the inflammation is to apply ice. The bottom part of the foot isn’t the easiest place to do this so try this: freeze a small water bottle and when it’s solid ice, roll the bottom of the foot on the ice bottle and this will provide icing and a massage to the affected area. You can also stick your foot in a bucket of ice water to reduce the swelling.
Other common treatments for Plantar Fasciitis – besides resting and icing – are stretching, doing heel lifts and possibly investing in some night splints. Night splints could be extremely beneficial since the plantar fascia generally relaxes when you sleep (this leads to the extreme pain when you get out of bed). Night splints help keep the toes up in a stretched position as you sleep and recover since most of the time, sheets weigh the feet down and the feet are in a relaxed position. You can also have your foot taped to do this same thing if you don’t want to purchase night splints.
It is also advised to look at your running mechanics and, more than likely, there’s a breakdown in the muscles around the area causing the injury. So make sure you spend time learning how to run properly. Refer back to the three concepts of running: ideal position, falling and pulling. Take the time to do your running mechanic drills before each of your running sessions and avoid any movements in the gym that aggravate it.
You don’t want to have abnormal foot mechanics so the best way to see if you do is by videotaping yourself running. If you are over pronating while running then the achilles is going to be in a compromised position (lifted) which could be causing some of the strain in the plantar fascia area. Try quickening your cadence/shorten your stride to help minimize the load/impact on the foot.
If your foot is weak and needs strengthening then try out a minimalist shoe and/or doing foot strengthening exercises. Walking around barefoot will also help you strengthen your feet so try to do this as much as possible as long as it doesn’t cause additional pain.
And most importantly, rest! Because the foot my not have the best blood flow, it could take a while for this injury to heal. Don’t rush back and be smart about your training; remember, we are striving for long term health.
Our online Invictus Endurance program offers a proper warm-up that includes dynamic range of motion exercises along with running mechanic drills to help you avoid injuries like Plantar Fasciitis. The program offers beginner and intermediate options so that you are not adding too much volume too quickly. Check it out if you are interested in improving your running!
(1) The Facts on Plantar Fasciitis
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