As I near taper time for my upcoming marathon, I’m starting to notice a lot more aches and pains than I remember having a few months ago. While I’m pretty sure that most are just phantom pains or fatigue issues that the taper will solve, I do have some soreness on the bottom of my foot.
You veteran runners know where I’m going with this, the dreaded plantar fascia is barking at me again.
What Is Your Plantar Fascia?
In an attempt to make this simple, I’ll try to spare you all the fancy medical talk.
Basically, the plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs pretty much from your heel to the balls of your feet. The plantar fascia works with the muscles and ligaments of your feet to help support your foot when you are standing, walking, running, etc. The strain put on your plantar fascia while standing is negligible, but as you walk and run, the strain can increase substantially.
So, What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Again, I’ll try to spare you the technical jargon.
In it’s most simple form, plantar fasciitis is an irritation of the plantar fascia. (Fun fact, –itis IS the medical term for inflammation, so anytime you hear any word ending in –itis (tendonitis, arthritis, etc) you know something is inflamed.) Over time, the stress put on your plantar fascia by walking and running creates small tears in the tissue that the body repairs. This is totally natural, but sometimes the repair process doesn’t go smoothly.
When your plantar fascia is working correctly, the individual fibers are able to lengthen and shorten smoothly as you increase and decrease the amount of pressure you are placing on the different parts of your foot while walking and running. As plantar fasciitis develops, the fibers don’t move as smoothly. Instead, they start to interfere with each other and they start to bind together. Pretty soon, there is no free flowing fibers, and the plantar fascia isn’t working the way it’s supposed to.
Bam! Plantar fasciitis in a nut shell.
In the last 5 years of my Athletic Training life, I worked with more cases of plantar fasciitis than I would care to count. Between college track/cross country athletes and theme park performers that dance all day on concrete, I saw a lot of people that were beating up their feet on a daily basis. For most of them, that meant many plantar fasciitis symptoms.
How to Deal with Plantar Fasciitis?
Buckle up, buttercup.
Treating/managing plantar fasciitis isn’t the most enjoyable experience.
Hands down (pun not entirely intended), massage is the best way to help relieve the pain associated with plantar fasciitis.
To be clear, I’m not talking about “get your partner in the mood” massage. No, I’m talking more like “dig into the bottom of your foot until you’re literally crying, then dig a little deeper” massage.
In this situation, a relaxing foot rub simply won’t cut it. Sorry. In order for the massage to be effective, you need to dig into that plantar fascia and literally break up the adhesions (friction points within the tissue) to allow the fibers to get back to flowing smoothly when you walk and run. There is no way to do this without it being painful, but in my experience there is no quicker way to get your foot feeling better.
If you can’t sweet talk your husband or wife into digging into your foot while you writhe around in pain, there are a couple of options available for a little DIY massage. The DIY varieties aren’t quite as effective, but they are still very good at breaking up the adhesions in your plantar fascia.
- Frozen Water Bottle–Take a water bottle, fill it most of the way with water, and stick it in the freezer. (Remember, water expands when it freezes, so don’t fill it all the way up or the bottle will blow!) Once the water in the bottle is frozen, take the bottle out of the freezer and lay it down on its side. Now, put your foot on top of the bottle and start rolling the bottle back and forth against the sole of your foot. If it’s not hurting, you aren’t pushing down with enough pressure. Continue rolling the ice bottle back and forth for about 5 minutes each foot and then put the bottle back in the freezer so you’ll be ready for next time you need it. Do 2-3 times per day.
- Frozen Golf Ball–This is my preferred method of combating plantar fasciitis. I always have a couple of golf balls in the freezer, and anytime I notice my feet getting tight I grab them. Same idea applies as with the water bottle, just roll the ball around on the bottom of each foot and really try to apply some pressure. This isn’t the most pleasant experience, but it works.
There are other options available to purchase online or at most running stores, but being the cheapskate that I am, I like these two free options. I mean, who doesn’t have a water bottle or a golf ball or two around the house?
Preventing Plantar Fasciitis
The best option for dealing with plantar fasciitis is to prevent it in the first place.
By strengthening the small muscles on the bottoms of your feet, you can help to take some of the stress off of the plantar fascia, thereby dramatically decreasing the probability that you’ll develop plantar fasciitis.
- Toe Pickups–Marbles work best, but any small objects that you can put on the ground and pick up using your toes will suffice. The idea is to use your toes to pick up one or two marbles at a time.
- Towel Pull–Lay a hand towel out on the floor. Put the ball one foot on the edge of the towel closest to you, and use your toes to pull the towel towards you. Release the part of the towel you were pulling, extend your toes and foot as far as you can, and pull more of the towel to you.
- Stretch–Stretching is also important to preventing plantar fasciitis. Stretch your foot by holding a hand towel in each hand, and looping the middle around the ball of your foot. Pull your foot toward you to feel the stretch along the sole of your foot. Stretching your calf is also very helpful, as a tight Achilles tendon and calf muscle can put tension on your plantar fascia as well. Using the towel to pull your foot should also stretch your calf, but you can also stretch it using a step and letting your heel drop below the level of your forefoot.
Anyone who has ever dealt with a sever case of plantar fasciitis can attest to how debilitating this injury can be. And for runners, not only is it physically painful but it can be difficult mentally to take time off of running to allow the inflammation to subside.
Do yourself a favor, and do everything you can to prevent plantar fasciitis from getting you down. And at the first sign of irritation, take action! The longer you wait, the worse it will get and the longer the recovery will be!
Have You Ever Had Plantar Fasciitis?
How Long Were You Effected?
What Did You Do to Relieve the Symptoms?
**Disclaimer–While I am a Certified Athletic Trainer who has worked with many athletes and performers that were dealing with plantar fasciitis, I am NOT a doctor! Therefore, any information in this post is just that, information and not a specific diagnosis. If you are having pain in your foot while running or otherwise, please consult with your physician ASAP!
- How to Relieve Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis (yisaisabel.wordpress.com)
- Heel That Pain! Plantar Fasciitis Explained (activepodiatry.wordpress.com)
- Major Factors For How To Treat Plantar Fasciitis At Home – For Adults (ricexhsg.wordpress.com)
- Rapid Secrets In How To Treat Plantar Fasciitis At Home In The Usa (cliffordmrji.wordpress.com)