Plantar fasciitis is a common running injury. If you’ve discovered that you have plantar fasciitis, you might be wondering if you’ll need to take a break from running.
The answer is typically yes, but it depends on many factors. If you catch it early and treat it right, you can return to activity soon. In this article, we’ll discuss how to figure out if you have it and when to start running after plantar fasciitis.
Let’s look at the condition, its symptoms, risk factors, and how best to treat it if you have it.
How Common Is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is surprisingly common. It accounts for around 8 percent of all running injuries; even non-runners can get it as the risk factors extend beyond sport or exercise-type physical activity.
It can affect runners of all abilities and experience levels. Due to the high strain placed on the plantar fascia during running, those who run may be at a slightly higher risk of developing it than others.
How Do You Know If You Have Plantar Fasciitis?
The main, unmistakable symptom of plantar fasciitis has nothing to do with running. The tell-tale sign of plantar fasciitis is a sharp, stabbing pain in your heel with your first steps out of bed in the morning.
It usually eases up after you’ve taken a few steps. You may also find that you get this kind of pain after sitting for long periods of time resting your feet or when you stand up after taking a nap.
Other signs that indicate plantar fasciitis include:
- Decreased pain during exercise but increased pain after exercise
- Decreased flexibility when bending your ankle upwards
- Tenderness on the sole just in front of the heel
- Swelling underneath the heel
- Deep ache in the arch or heel
Risk Factors for Plantar Fasciitis in Runners
Plantar fasciitis is usually an overuse injury. But there are multiple risk factors specifically in runners, that can make them more prone to developing it.
Understanding these risk factors can make a difference to how you treat plantar fasciitis effectively. If you can treat these potential risk factors, you may be able to prevent plantar fasciitis from occurring in the first place!
- Tight calves or Achilles: these can place pressure on the plantar fasciitis, causing it to tighten and become painful
- High arches or overpronation: These can cause overloading or abnormal stretching of the plantar fascia as you run
- Wearing unsupportive shoes: your plantar fascia takes on extra strain when it’s not properly supported or doesn’t have sufficient shock absorption
- Being overweight: Excess body weight can place excessive force on the plantar fascia, leading to pain
- Increased standing time: if you spend many hours on your feet during the day, you may be at higher risk of developing plantar fasciitis
Should You Run With Plantar Fasciitis?
If your plantar fasciitis is mild, you can continue to run as long as you take measures to prevent it from getting worse. Plantar fasciitis pain usually eases when the muscles warm up, so you should be able to run without the pain worsening.
However, if your pain doesn’t subside during your run, you should take some time off to allow your feet to heal. You should also make some changes during this time so that it doesn’t reoccur when you get back on your feet after healing.
If you do choose to run with plantar fasciitis, make sure that you:
- Are you wearing the right shoes for plantar fasciitis that support your feet
- Warm up adequately before your run
- Stretch your calf muscles daily
- Ice your plantar fascia after running
When To Start Running After Plantar Fasciitis
There is no specific time frame for when to start running after plantar fasciitis. It depends on you, your daily activity, and how fast your body naturally heals.
However, a big factor in the speed of your healing is how soon you start treating your plantar fasciitis after you notice it.
If you begin treatment before it becomes advanced, you can get back to your previous level of running in as little as a month or two. But if you don’t treat it immediately and it becomes more advanced, an effective treatment program can take anywhere from five to 18 months to heal your plantar fascia.
Research generally shows that 6 months is the average treatment period. However, if you take extra steps to keep your feet safe, you may be able to accelerate the process.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t get back into running at the same level you were before until you can run without pain. You may need to start slowly and work up as your feet strengthen.
If you’ve had surgery, you’ll need 6 to 10 weeks just to start walking again. You’ll only be able to consider running at the earliest 3 months after surgery, but it will depend very much on how well your recovery goes and what your doctor recommends.
How To Treat Plantar Fasciitis
There are several steps you can take to treat plantar fasciitis pain. If you catch the symptoms early and start putting these measures into place, you should be able to treat your pain effectively.
Rest Your Feet
Resting your feet is highly recommended. We advise taking two days off from running to allow your feet to rest and recover.
This could be enough for you to get back into running again without pain, although we recommend taking other treatment steps as soon as you feel PF pain to prevent it from getting worse.
Assess & Treat Risk Factors
Risk factors like tight calves, tight Achilles, and excess weight should be considered during your plantar fasciitis treatment.
If you’re prone to tight calf muscles, make sure that you stretch your calves every day. If your Achilles is a risk factor, loosen it up so it doesn’t affect your plantar fascia.
The more weight on your feet, the more force on your plantar fascia. If excess weight is a risk factor for you, we advise incorporating a form of cross-training that places no stress on your plantar fascia, like swimming or cycling.
This will allow you to burn more calories and reduce your weight—paired with a calorie-controlled diet—without placing more stress on your plantar fascia. You may find that when you weigh a little less, your plantar fasciitis resolves itself.
Change Your Shoes
If you have high arches or overpronate, you need to wear a pair of stability shoes. This ensures that your arches are well-supported and won’t roll over as you run, placing strain on the plantar fascia.
You may also need to get new shoes if your current footwear is older than 6 months. Although you may not be able to see it, the cushioning in the midsole of the shoe could have flattened, reducing the shoe’s shock-absorbing abilities. This means the plantar fascia takes on extra shock with each step.
If you can, buy a new pair of shoes with adequate cushioning and shock absorption, as well as the ideal arch support for your foot.
If you can’t invest in a new pair of shoes right now, you may want to buy an insert—also called an insole or orthotic. These fit neatly in your shoe, replacing the insole that comes with the shoe.
Make sure you get an insole that supports your foot properly. It should also add some cushioning to your feet for extra shock absorption.
You can buy insoles over the counter and cut them to size to fit into your shoes. Alternatively, you can get a set of orthotics custom-made to fit your foot, although this will cost more.
Tape Your Feet
Research shows that taping your feet can be an effective remedy for plantar fasciitis pain. You can find KT tape at most sports stores, and if you learn how to apply it correctly, it can help to reduce your pain and allow you to continue to run.
Do Stretching & Strengthening Exercises
Stretching your plantar fascia can stop it from tightening and causing you pain. Strengthening it using foot exercises can help to better equip it to stand up to force.
You can stretch your plantar fascia while seated by placing your ankle on your opposite knee, grabbing the ball of your foot, and pulling it back until you feel a stretch in your arch. Make sure you do this with the whole ball of the foot and not just the toes!
This video shows a handy morning routine, including 6 exercises to stretch and strengthen your plantar fascia:
Ice Your Feet After Exercise
Icing your feet can help ease pain and swelling in the plantar fascia after exercise. You only need to ice your feet for 10 to 15 minutes to feel the benefits.
Plantar Fasciitis Prevention
If you’ve already battled plantar fasciitis, here are some steps you can take to prevent it from coming back again.
- Wear the right shoes
- Stretch your calves regularly
- Stretch your plantar fascia regularly
- Stop running immediately if you feel pain
- Run on softer, more forgiving surfaces
- Lose weight or maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid running on uneven surfaces
- Warm up properly before exercise
- Replace your shoes every 6 months or so
When Should You See a Doctor About Plantar Fasciitis?
If you’ve taken the above steps and haven’t seen an improvement, or if you still can’t run without pain, you may want to see your doctor to find out if your pain is related to something else.
Your doctor may do a more comprehensive examination to determine if the pain in your feet results from a stress fracture or something else. If it is a bad case of plantar fasciitis, they may refer you to a physical therapist.
As a last resort, your doctor may suggest corticosteroid injections or surgery to relieve your pain. However, this isn’t a common treatment and will usually only be offered when your plantar fasciitis is severe and all other courses of treatment have failed.