Plantar fasciitis – sharp, annoying, limiting stabbing pain in your heel – a very common and debilitating running injury. This condition can limit your running, walking and day-to-day life. What is it, what causes it and what can I do about it?! Find out the answers below and watch our great video to show HOW YOU CAN STOP IT COMING BACK!!
What is it ?
The plantar fascia is connective tissue which runs along the sole of your foot, from your heel to your toes. It is continuous with your calf muscles and achilles tendon. The job of the plantar fascia is to create tension to support the arch of your foot and help to absorb shock. As we push through our foot when running, the plantar fascia becomes tense, enabling it to store energy, so that when we push off our toes, we can use this energy and accelerate faster. This makes it an important structure for runners! The plantar fascia gets irritated and painful when it can’t tolerate the load put on it. This often causes sharp pain in the inside of your heel, which can sometimes radiate along the underside of your foot. It is especially painful when weight bearing, especially when first standing up after sitting/lying for a prolonged time, or when starting to walk or run.
What causes it?
The plantar fascia becomes irritated and sore when we put more load on it by increasing our mileage, intensity or frequency of our running, or by changing our training surface, increasing hills, gaining weight, having weak or tight muscles in our legs or making sudden changes in how we load by changing our technique or shoes. Other factors can reduced strength or control at the hips, knees and ankles causing increased loading of the plantar fascia. The tissue is constantly trying to repair itself and is unable due to the loads on it, causing the pain.
What can I do about it?
If the cause is that the tissue can’t tolerate the load we are putting on it then the answer is two-fold. Reduce the load we are putting through it, and strengthen the tissue, so that in time, it will be able to tolerate it.
We can modify our load by thinking about how much we can tolerate at present. Depending on the severity, it may be enough to cut back on your mileage or avoid running on harder surfaces. If it is more severe, you may need to stop running altogether until you can strengthen it. Generally, if you can run without a significant amount of pain, and without it lingering for 24 hours or worsening, you can still run, but should decrease the amount to ensure it is not aggravating your pain.
The length and strength of muscles around your foot and ankle, as well as muscles further up your leg (which also have an important role in running of course) will need to be assessed. Finding specific areas of weakness and/or tightness need to be addressed, and if your foot is too rigid this is also a factor. See my video below on plantar fasciitis for advice on basic exercises/self-release techniques you can get started with today!
Your plantar fascia gets painful if it can’t tolerate the load put through it, so you may need to modify your training to offload it for a while. Making sure your foot and ankle, legs and back are all mobile and strong can prevent the plantar fascia becoming painful and prevent recurrence if it causes problems. See your physio if you are unsure what may be leading to this problem!