It goes without saying that the feet are one of the most important parts of a runner. If you have foot pain, your running experience is going to be less enjoyable.
One of the most common foot pains is plantar fasciitis. It can cause pain and discomfort while on the road or trail and post-run.
The good news is that you can take steps to prevent plantar fasciitis when running and reduce the pain that you feel when your foot hits the ground.
Let’s have a look at how to prevent plantar fasciitis when running, as well as how to recognize the signs and symptoms so you can take action early on.
What Is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is the name for inflammation of the thick band of tissue that runs underneath your foot—the plantar fascia.
This band of tissue is what connects your heel bone and your toes, and it plays a large role in supporting the arch.
Plantar fasciitis is a common reason for pain in the heel, especially first thing in the morning. You may feel a dull pain in the bottom of your foot at first, but it can develop into a sharp pain as time passes.
What Are Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms?
The primary symptom of plantar fasciitis is a sharp, stabbing pain in the heel. This usually occurs immediately after rest, for example, first thing in the morning or if you get up after sitting for a long time.
When you’re active—often during the day, during work, and during exercise—you may not feel much pain or even any pain at all. However, after activity, the pain can also get worse.
You may also feel a dull ache or tightness underneath your foot, in the area of your arch.
What Are the Causes or Who Is at Risk?
The main cause of plantar fasciitis is overuse. However, in some cases, there appears to be no specific cause, but there are certain risk factors that can contribute to increased chances of developing the condition.
Plantar fasciitis seems to be more common in those between 40 and 60 years of age. As you age, your feet change shape and tend to flatten and widen.
When this happens, the plantar fascia is placed under more pressure, which can affect how it supports the arch, absorbs shock, and distributes your body weight. It can easily become inflamed.
Also, the fat pad on the heel becomes thinner with age and no longer provides protection. This causes more strain to be placed on the heel bone, which can contribute to pain and inflammation.
You are also at a higher risk if you have an unusual gait or bone structure in your foot. If you spend many hours on your feet every day, you may be at higher risk of developing plantar fasciitis.
It’s also more common in people with flat feet or high arches, as the arch is placed under excessive pressure and the tendons and soft tissue become stretched and inflamed.
Part of the plantar fascia’s job is to absorb shock. High-impact activities like running, jumping, basketball, and so on can place the plantar fascia under excessive strain, leading to pain and inflammation.
You should stretch your plantar fascia as part of your warm-up and cool-down routines to lower the risk of developing plantar fasciitis.
A sudden increase in the amount of walking, running, or standing you do can lead to irritation and inflammation of the plantar fascia.
If you have a job that requires you to be on your feet for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces, it can increase your chances of developing plantar fasciitis.
Wearing shoes that don’t support your arch or offer enough cushioning and shock absorption can lead to your plantar fascia being strained as the arch is under pressure. This can increase the chances of you developing plantar fasciitis.
Women who wear high heels have a higher chance of developing plantar fasciitis as the foot is placed under excessive pressure.
Those who are overweight or obese have a higher chance of developing plantar fasciitis.
This is because excess weight places extra stress on the feet, which then increases the tension in the plantar fascia.
Medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and ankylosing spondylitis may increase your chances of plantar fasciitis.
What Are Treatments?
Ice can be an effective treatment for reducing plantar fasciitis pain. Apply ice 3 to 4 times a day for 20 minutes at a time.
Make sure to wrap the ice in a cloth first and never place it directly onto the skin, as this can cause damage to the skin.
One of the most effective ways to treat plantar fasciitis is to rest from activity, especially if you often take part in high-impact activity.
Take a few weeks off from your regular sporting activity to give the plantar fascia some time and space to heal.
Taping your foot can help to stabilize the plantar fascia, which may help to reduce pain during the day. However, it may not be practical to tape your foot at night.
Your foot doctor may give you a night splint to wear when you go to bed. This helps to keep your foot at a 90-degree angle while you’re asleep, which will stretch the calf muscle and the arch of the foot.
This helps to keep the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia from contracting while you sleep. The stretching of the plantar fascia in the morning is what causes the sharp pain in the heel, so a night splint may help to prevent this.
Your doctor may recommend that you see a physical therapist, who will give you exercises to do to increase your foot strength and mobility.
These are easy to fit into your daily schedule and only take a few minutes to do every day.
Incorporating these kinds of exercises can be one of the most effective ways of treating and healing plantar fasciitis, as well as preventing it from recurring.
Your doctor may prescribe orthotics for you to wear, which will provide better support for your arch, help to distribute your body weight more effectively, and add some extra shock absorption and cushioning.
How to Prevent Plantar Fasciitis When Running?
Wearing the right kind of shoes is essential to prevent plantar fasciitis. You should have the right kind of support for your arch—overpronators need a stability shoe.
Choosing a shoe with good cushioning also helps to reduce shock in the plantar fascia. You should replace your shoes for plantar fasciitis every 400 to 500 miles when the cushioning begins to flatten as it no longer offers good support and shock absorption.
If you don’t want to change your footwear, you can add a pair of orthotics. You can get store-bought orthotics that offer better support, or you can have a pair of custom orthotics created for you by a podiatrist.
Try to lower the amount of high-impact training that you do. If you can, run on softer, more forgiving surfaces like a running track or grass rather than the road.
You can also alternate between high-impact and low-impact exercises during your training routine. For example, do some cycling or swimming in between running.
Don’t increase your speed or mileage by more than 10 percent per week. This may place the plantar fascia under stress.
Make sure you always warm up properly before you exercise. Stretch your plantar fascia as well as your calves and Achilles. Do the same when you cool down.
If your pain persists, it may be worth getting your gait analyzed to see if there are any problems with your running form.
Recognize the Early Signs
The sooner you can begin to treat plantar fasciitis, the faster it will heal and the quicker you can start taking preventative measures.
Pay attention to your body and take note of the early signs, such as a tense or stiff feeling under your feet or a sharp heel pain after you’ve been resting your foot.
If you think that you may have plantar fasciitis, consult a medical professional and ask their advice on taking preventative measures before it becomes a bigger problem.