Plantar fasciitis and heel pain in runners
A runner's guide to plantar fasciitis
The most common form of heel pain in active people is known as plantar fasciitis. This occurs when the long, flat ligament on the bottom of the foot (plantar fascia) is overstretched and develops small tears that cause the ligament to become inflamed. Read on to find out more and how to prevent this sometimes debilitating injury ...
Around 5 to 10 per cent of all athletic injuries are inflammations of the fascia. And it's not just runners who are affected; basketball players, tennis players, volleyball players, and dancers are among those prone to plantar problems, as are people who spend a lot of time on their feet or suddenly become active after a long period of non-activity.
Plantar fasciitis usually develops gradually. Heel pain may only occur when taking the first steps after getting out of bed, or sitting for a long period of time. If the plantar fascia ligament is not rested, the inflammation and heel pain will get worse. Other conditions or aggravating factors, such as the repetitive stress of walking, standing, running, or jumping, will contribute to the inflammation and pain.
In some cases, the inflamed ligament may not heal because many people who have plantar fasciitis do not completely stop the aggravating activity.
In runners, a number of factors are associated with development of plantar fasciitis. These factors can lead the runner to change his or her gait (the way the feet strike the ground), which can cause symptoms and injury.
Risk factors for runners include:
- Biomechanical factors, such as poor flexibility in the foot and ankle, imbalances in muscle strength, abnormal foot mechanics, and tightness in the achilles tendon.
- The repetitive nature of running and improper training.
- Rapidly increasing the number of miles you run.
- Too much hill work.
- Wearing worn out running shoes.
- Wearing shoes with insufficient cushioning or arch support.
- Abrupt increase in training.
Traditional remedies for plantar fasciitis include stretching the calf, massaging, reducing your training, losing weight, purchasing better-fitting shoes (with a raised heel and arch support), icing the sore heel, and taking ibuprofen.
Other known remedies include trying to picking up items such as a tissue with the curled toes of the affected foot, or rolling the foot over a tennis ball placed on the floor.
Another treatment option, also known as one of the easiest, is using heel seats in your running shoes. Heel seats pick up and re-stretch the plantar fascia, redistribute the heel’s natural fat pad, provide structural reinforcement to the foot, and apply acupressure to relieve the pain while your feet heal. You can find such heel seats through your podiatrist.
Make sure you see a doctor or specialist at the first sign of pain. This is the body's way of warning you that there is a problem. Treating the injury early on is key to preventing plantar fasciitis becoming a serious issue which could lead to a frustratingly long injury lay-off.