Don’t be afraid, but I’m going to talk about something that is every runner’s worst nightmare. Its two evil words, one small piece of tissue that does so much but can also cause so much grief and agony. Yes, plantar fasciitis. There, I said it.
So what exactly is plantar fasciitis? First, let’s look at the function of the plantar fascia band. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue (ligament) that helps form the arch of the foot. It runs from the bottom of the heel to the ball of the foot.
Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the band. It can be caused by: obesity, inadequate arch support, improper footwear and/or standing on hard surfaces for prolong periods of time.
When trying to figure out the root cause of plantar fasciitis, we try to look up and down the kinetic chain, check for any weakness or imbalances. If there is one weakness in the chain, it affects everything up and down. For example, if your gluteus maximus is weak or not firing, it causes instability in the knee the subtalar joint rotates inward, arch collapses inward putting stress on the plantar fascia band with every step. Over time, micro tears form, scar tissue develops as a result. The plantar fascia loses its ability to spring and absorb shock, inflammation and pain occurs. The discomfort is worse in the morning.
The common treatment protocols are:
- Physical Therapy (Night splints) -Wearing a night splint helps keep the fascia band stretched while sleeping, decreasing the pain associated with plantar fasciitis.
- Orthotics- This is a common prescription. These help correct biomechanic issues and allow the arch to relax during weight bearing activities.
- Shockwave therapy- As the name suggests, shockwaves are used to break up scar tissue and calcium deposits while helping to promote healing.
- Surgery- Usually a last resort.
So lets talk about Prevention. If you want to avoid this, try incorporating the following exercises:
- Toe scrunches- This arch strengthening exercises is simple. Lay out a towel on the floor. Keep your foot flat on the floor. With your toes on the towel, pull the towel towards your heel.
- Marble pick up- Place marbles on the floor. Use your foot/toes to pick up the marbles off the floor and place them into a cup.
- Calf stretches- Place your toes on the edge of the step. Slowly lower your heels off the edge of the step until you feel a stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
- Arch Roll- Use a lacross ball, golf ball or frozen water bottle to roll out your foot. With gentle pressure, roll from the heel to the ball of the foot. Make as many passes as needed.
There's one other approach that is really gaining momentum over the past few years. I have been using kinesiology tape for years now for various aches and strains. This taping method for arch support/plantar fasciitis* is very effective.
Application of i-STRIPS
Step 2: Cut a piece long enough to go from top of the foot, under arch and back to top of foot. Anchor to top of foot. Wrap around the outside of the foot, then with about 50% stretch, wrap under the arch, finishing on top of foot with about the last inch of tape with no stretch.
It's that simple to apply i-STRIPS. I hope you find this useful. More importantly, I hope you never have to deal with this. But you now have the tools to help prevent it.
-Jason White (Certified Personal Trainer, Run coach, competitive marathoner.)
*not clinically proven for all conditions