Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common foot problems, affecting about 2 million Americans per year. It can often occur as an overuse injury, so learning more about what the condition is and the risk factors behind it can help to prevent this pesky foot problem from stopping you from getting outside and running.
The plantar fascia is a thick band of fascia (connective tissue) that connects from the bottom of the heel to the ball of the foot. Plantar fasciitis occurs more frequently in those who are over the age of 40 and can develop in both active athletes or non-athletes who require higher demands on their feet (e.g. running, prolonged standing or walking at work). The fascia can become inflamed, causing pain felt on the heel or bottom of the foot. It is usually worse with the first steps in the morning, after prolonged standing or running, or when walking barefoot or in shoes with poor support. The pain may decrease as the body and tissues warm up and worsen again after too much activity or inactivity.
Below are some of the most common factors that can increase your risk of developing plantar fasciitis.
Increasing activity (mileage) too quickly
When the structures in your foot aren’t used to the increased impact and weight bearing, it can cause the tissues to become overstressed and inflamed. Be sure to ramp up your running distance slowly, starting with something comfortable and gradually increasing mileage each week. Space out your running days and incorporate strength training in between to help keep your body strong for the repetitive motion of running.
Tight calves, hamstrings and foot muscles can all contribute to excessive stress through the plantar fascia. Make sure you are getting a good dynamic stretch in before your run and a static stretch or foam roll after your run to keep these tissues from getting too tight.
The foot functions as part of a chain. This chain includes everything from your low back, core, to your hips and ankles. Keeping everything in this “chain” strong can help to prevent abnormal foot mechanics that could cause inflammation of your plantar fascia.
When choosing your running shoes, make sure it has good arch support and feels comfortable even before you walk out of the store. Shoes should never be uncomfortable and chalked up to just “needing to be broken in.” Choose something that feels good and supportive right off the bat. Read more about choosing your shoes wisely here.
Most importantly, don’t wait and let it become a chronic issue! Fortunately, there is good research to support conservative treatment for plantar fasciitis. Therefore, if you are starting to feel any pain in your foot as you are running, don’t hesitate to contact your local physical therapist. They can help by working with you to address any of your impairments, and help to develop a running program to safely increase your mileage to get you healthy for running again as quickly as possible!