If only we could walk on our hands.
The problem with heel pain or arch pain is that there is no way of avoiding it in daily life. If your foot hurts, every step hurts, and that does not even include how much it hurts to run. Even if you can keep running through plantar fasciitis, is it going to make it worse?
If you have experienced this, you know you will do anything for plantar fasciitis pain relief.
An irritation to the tough, fibrous tissue at the base of the heel, is one of the most bothersome running injuries due to its infamous stubborn nature.
Runners with plantar fasciitis can sometimes have heel pain for months or even years before the fascia finally heals. It can be especially difficult to find shoes for plantar fasciitis that make it feel better, rather than worse.
Because of this, it is very important to catch and treat plantar fasciitis quickly.
Fortunately, if you take care of it, most cases do calm down in a matter of weeks and you will be able to keep running through plantar fasciitis.
Today we are going to help you figure out whether you can run through it or if you should stop running, what causes plantar fasciitis and what you can do to prevent it in future. Most importantly, we are going to give you the best exercises for plantar fasciitis and an effective plan of treatment for plantar fasciitis.
Outline of Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis
Because of plantar fasciitis’ reputation for hanging around for months at a time if not properly addressed, even a mild case of arch pain should be attacked aggressively with several treatments.
Download our Plantar Fascia Treatment Outline inside your Insider Members area.
It’s a PDF with an outline of the conservative and aggressive treatment options to help you get through your plantar fasciitis.
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Protection, ice, and stretching should be the mainstays of your early treatment.
While you don’t have to completely stop running, you should avoid anything that makes your arch worse, and protect it while you run and while you go about your daily life.
These are methods that are fairly simple, inexpensive, and can be done on your own at home.
- Wear comfortable shoes with some cushioning and arch support, and avoid hard shoes or anything barefoot.
- Ice your foot several times a day, either with ice cups or a round, frozen object like a plastic water bottle. If you run, ice immediately afterwards.
- Stretch your calves at least three times per day. Each session should consist of 3×30 second holds, first with your knee straight, then with it bent.
- Stretch your plantar fascia three times per day. Each session should consist of 10×10 second holds. Make sure you stretch right after getting up in the morning.
- Use a low-Dye taping to protect your arch when you walk around or exercise.
- Consider using an over-the-counter orthotic like SuperFeet Green or Powerstep in your everyday shoes and running shoes.
- Roll out your plantar fascia with a golf ball, taking care not to press too hard on the injured area.
These are treatments with more cost and less certainty about outcomes, but may prove useful in recalcitrant cases.
- Consider seeing a podiatrist and getting custom orthotics made. They have a large up-front cost and may take a few weeks to arrive, but many runners credit their recovery to orthotics.
- Talk with your doctor or podiatrist about the risks and benefits of a corticosteroid injection or, preferably (to reduce the risk of plantar fascia rupture), iontophoresis.
How Can I Get Back to Running if Plantar Fasciitis Makes Me Stop Running
How quickly you can return to running will depend on the severity of your injury and how fast you heal.
Some runners find that they can work their way back into running even while some residual arch stiffness persists, but if running is making your arch pain worse, you need more time off and more time for your rehab program to do its job.
Don’t panic though, we do not lose fitness as fast as most people think!
As you return to running, consider increasing your stride frequency by 10% or so to reduce your impact loading rate,16 a factor connected with the development of plantar fasciitis in runners.
Keep stretching your calves even after you’ve recovered to stave off any future bouts with plantar fasciitis.
How to Cure Plantar Fasciitis
After my experience seven years ago, I’ve managed to run more, run faster, become more minimalist – all without a single complaint from either plantar fascia.
It’s not luck – it’s a systematic plan for prevention that includes general strength, specific exercises, and a training upgrade. And I’m predisposed to foot injuries because of my low arches and over-pronation. I’m not a model of biomechanical efficiency – but I do the best I can with what I have.
First, if you happen to have plantar fasciitis, all hope is not lost. Depending on the severity of the injury, you can usually treat it and be back running with 3-7 days. Within two weeks, you should be back to your normal training.
Follow these steps if you come down with a case of plantar fasciitis and you can cut your recovery time down substantially.
- Stop running during the acute phase of the injury. For most runners, this will be 3-7 days.
- Ice your affected foot for 20 minutes three times a day. If you can, cycle the icing as 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. The best ways to ice your foot are dunking it in a bucket or cooler of ice water or using a frozen cup of water to give yourself an ice massage. Use the edges of the ice cup to dig into your plantar fascia!
- Just because you’re not running doesn’t mean you’re not working out. Stay current with your strength and core exercises as planned.
- Spend 5-10 minutes doing specific foot exercises to strengthen your feet.
- When you finish the foot exercises, use a golf ball or lacrosse ball to roll the underside of your foot. There is no “best way” to do this – just feel around your arch and plantar fascia and aggressively massage any area that’s sore or feels “crunchy” (this is scar tissue – break it up!). You should be aggressive but don’t roll so hard that you’re in pain. Find a balance.
- Use your foam roller to roll your soleus and calf muscles. Tightness here can aggravate plantar fasciitis.
- Ice your foot after every workout.
- While I don’t have experience with a night splint, many runners have found them helpful. Experiment with what works for you.
- Your body is healing itself, so help it out by eating a nutrient filled diet and getting a lot of sleep.
This routine is far more aggressive than what the majority of runners do for an injury. It also rivals the recovery protocols of most physical therapists. It’s also more effective at getting you back on the road and running sooner.
For an even more detailed, step-by-step rehab protocol, see the Injury Prevention for Runners program.
Once you start running again, take care to limit your faster workouts during the first week. Your plantar fascia will first be able to handle running slowly – then it’ll be ready for more intensity.
When you start running, you should continue to massage your foot with a golf or lacrosse ball and foam roll your soleus and calf to break up residual scar tissue and keep the area supple. Keep up with the foot exercises and remember to ice religiously.
Plantar Fasciitis Prevention Strategies
If you don’t have PF, or if you’ve had it in the past and want to remain healthy now, certain prevention tactics are worth doing on a regular basis. Many of these strategies will not only help prevent PF, but make you a more injury-resistant runner in general (and may even make you stronger, faster, and more attractive…or something like that).
- Run barefoot strides 2-3 times per week on a synthetic turf or smooth grass field. PF is often caused by a weakness of the foot and lower leg musculature – barefoot work helps strengthen your feet.
- You can also do some easy barefoot running at the end of a typical distance run. Limit yourself to 2-10 minutes depending on your fitness level, weight, and experience with barefoot running. A little bit goes a long way.
- Embrace your foam roller and golf ball like good friends! If you’re more sore than usual, spend 5-10 minutes rolling out the soreness. Chronically tight muscles (the opposite of being supple) can lead to injury if you don’t take care of them properly.
- Make a slow transition to wearing more minimalist shoes. Note that I’m not recommending you do your runs in FiveFingers or racing flats. But the vast majority of runners don’t need bulky motion-control or stability shoes unless there’s a prominent biomechanical problem. Odds are, that’s not you. Note: watch my video on the spectrum of minimalist running shoes for shoe ideas plus recommendations for more minimalist casual shoes. Shoes with very high heels (for both men and women) should be worn in strict moderation.
- Beware of too much running on a road’s camber, or its slope toward the curb. When you always stay on the left side of the road (which is the safest way to run – toward traffic), your feet are always slightly tilted to the left which can result in a huge number of problems. Get on the sidewalk, switch sides if traffic permits, or better yet….
- Run more trails! The undulating terrain, roots and rocks, and uneven surface stresses your feet in many different ways. Unlike the road, which is a much more predictable surface, trails aren’t as likely to contribute to overuse injuries.
- If you can’t do any barefoot work or lack access to a trail system, keep up with the foot exercises mentioned above. You need a way to develop additional strength in your feet and lower legs.
- Of course, no injury discussion is complete without this reminder: don’t run too much, too soon, too fast. Recognize your limits and be cautious about how and when you add mileage and intensity to your program. If you don’t know where to start, be safe and get a custom training plan so you don’t have to worry.
Naturally, different things will work better for different runners. It depends on why you developed PF in the first place, your stride pattern, and training history. Experiment with both the recovery routine outlined above and the prevention strategies.
Remember, a runner who only runs is bound to get hurt. The strength work, self-massage, and training variety will do wonders in keeping you healthy over the long-term.
To get a more specific, detailed treatment program for plantar fasciitis, get our free injury prevention course here!
These “little things” maybe aren’t so little. After all, they enable you to run consistently and ultimately, healthier and faster.
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