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Plantar Fasciitis Taping for Runners

For runners and people on their feet a lot, the most common cause of foot and heel pain is plantar fasciitis. Fortunately, according to a study from the Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, taping is an effective short-term treatment. Here we’ll explain what plantar fasciitis taping is and how it helps.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons explains that plantar fasciitis affects nearly 2 million patients each year, but what is it exactly? The plantar fascia is a ligament that runs underneath your foot, connecting the heel to the arch and the front.

The plantar fascia’s job is to absorb impact and protect your foot, but the ligament can easily become inflamed. Once it becomes irritated, you may experience pain near your heel, have severe pain first thing in the morning or when you first get up on your feet or deal with pain post-workout.

Although many people who experience plantar fasciitis also have bone spurs, it’s a misnomer that bone spurs cause the condition. In fact, most bone spurs don’t cause pain on their own, and doctors won’t remove them during surgery for plantar fasciitis unless they are severe.

Risk Factors for Plantar Fasciitis

Although some people end up with plantar fasciitis without any known explanation, there are risk factors that increase your chances of developing the condition. Those include tight calf muscles, where it’s hard to bend at the ankle, flexing your foot.

Obesity is also a risk factor, as carrying extra weight puts additional strain on the plantar fascia. However, having very high (and unsupported) arches is another risk factor on its own, as is merely being a runner or an athlete who engages in high-impact activities regularly.

While it’s not possible to prevent plantar fasciitis if you have other underlying conditions that affect your plantar fascia, stretching correctly and wearing appropriate footwear while running can help prevent muscle strain in your feet and the rest of your body.

Home Treatment Options for Plantar Fasciitis

In addition to plantar fasciitis taping, there are a few other nonsurgical methods of relieving plantar fascia pain. These include resting the affected area, applying ice, stretching the calves and plantar fascia, and wearing supportive orthotics, shoes, or night splints.

Although wearing orthotics and appropriate footwear can help support high arches, plantar fasciitis taping is a low-cost method of managing the condition. Taping your heels can make the difference between getting in a run first thing in the morning versus shopping online or in-store for orthotics all day.

Also, you can wear plantar fasciitis tape for days, or reapply each day if you prefer. Depending on how active you are and whether your feet sweat can affect how well the tape adheres, so you may need to reapply plantar fasciitis taping often.

Fortunately, there are no known risks to plantar fasciitis taping either for runners or anyone else. However, for the taping to be effective, you need to apply it correctly. Otherwise, you may still deal with plantar fasciitis pain while running, walking, or even when you step foot on the floor in the morning.

Surgical Treatments for Plantar Fasciitis

Although most runners (and everyone else) hope to avoid surgical intervention, severe pain often drives them to seek permanent solutions. However, there is no guarantee that surgery will relieve plantar fasciitis pain for the long-term.

For some people, undergoing surgery such as a gastrocnemius recession, which lengthens tight calf muscles, will resolve their pain. For others, it can create nerve damage and may not relieve plantar fascia related pain.

Another surgical intervention is plantar fascia release, which involves cutting part of the ligament. This reduces pressure and tension, but there is still a chance you’ll experience pain, and you may also sustain nerve damage.

For runners, treating plantar fasciitis carefully can help preserve your ligaments and enable you to continue exercising the way you like. It also enables you to avoid further injury and potentially surgery.

What is Plantar Fasciitis Taping?

While most podiatrists recommend orthotics for treatment of plantar fasciitis, an article on Podiatry Today reflected on the difference between treating acute pain and offering solutions for long-term pain relief.

The first step in treating plantar fasciitis is taping to relieve immediate pain, Patrick DeHeer DPM FACFAS wrote, before moving on to other methods of treatment. In his office alone, DeHeer notes, he treats at least 45 cases of plantar fasciitis with taping per year.

According to an NHS Foundation Trust booklet on plantar fasciitis taping, taping the plantar fascia limits the ligament’s movement. Keeping the plantar fascia from overstretching can help prevent pain while you run and lessens the after-effects of athletic activity.

How Do I Apply Plantar Fasciitis Tape?

According to the review which looked at five trials, one cross-over study, and two single group studies, people who used low dye taping and calcaneal taping had the best results. In most podiatry and physiology practices, low dye and calcaneal taping are mostly the same.

Beantown Physio, an orthopedic and sports physical therapy office, low-dye taping is the method of choice for treating plantar fasciitis pain. Their guide includes visuals which indicate where to place the tape according to Dr. Ralph Dye, the doctor who developed the method.

The first step is applying a strip of tape directly above the heel. Another layer of tape overlaps this one, and a third piece wraps around the bottom of the heel. Then, you tape three strips on the bottom of the foot, wrapping upward toward the ankle. The three strips should line up, the third wrapping to the arch area.

For a visual guide to plantar fasciitis taping, The San Antonio Orthopaedic Group has put together a nice video. Dr. David Hughes gives a step-by-step demonstration on how to apply plantar fasciitis tape.

While Dr. Hughes uses both narrow and wide tape, you can follow his method using narrow tape and apply extra strips for adequate coverage. Crucial elements of applying the tape include using enough length so that the tape strips reach from the heel to the toes.

Ben Drew

Ben Drew

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.

The Wired Runner