4 Things Plantar Fasciitis-Prone Runners Can Do to Avoid Aggravating Their Feet
One of the most common injuries to plague runners is plantar fasciitis, a condition in which the ligaments in the bottom of the foot become inflamed and painful. Some runners are more prone to plantar fasciitis because of their gait or individual training habits, so if you're had plantar fasciitis before, you're at a higher risk of developing it again. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to avoid aggravating your feet and developing another manifestation of this painful condition.
Do preventative stretches.
One of the keys to preventing plantar fasciitis is keeping the ligaments in the bottom of your foot loose. You can achieve this by doing regular, preventative stretching before, during and after every run. One simple stretch for the plantar fascia involves simply sitting on the floor with one leg stretched out in front of you. Grab your toes with your hand, and bend your foot back towards your body. Hold this position for 5–10 seconds, feeling the stretch through your arch.
Make sure you repeat this stretch with the other leg. Do it before and after each run. If you feel your arches tighten during the run, hop off the trail or road, sit down, and do this stretch. It's far better to take a minute break and stretch during your run than to run through mild stiffness and develop a full-blown case of plantar fasciitis as a result.
Get fitted for shoes—often.
Running in the right shoes will help ensure your foot is properly supported, alleviating excess strain on your heel and arch. Visiting a local running store and being fitted by a specialist is a good starting point. But as you progress as a runner, your musculature will change, and your stride may also change as a result. So the shoes that fit you when you first started running a few miles a week may not fit you or support your foot properly after 2 years of training. Return to your local running store to get fitted for shoes once a year or so. You should also return and get re-fitted if you notice any changes, such as increased soreness or more blisters, after your runs. These are signs your shoes may not be working for you as well as they should; continuing to run in unsuitable shoes could perpetuate plantar fasciitis.
Stick to the roads.
In many cases, runners are told to spend more time running on softer surfaces like dirt and grass trails and less time running on hard roads and sidewalks. But for runners who are prone to plantar fasciitis, spending too much time on soft surface may actually be a bad thing. Running on softer ground forces your foot to flex more, which may put additional strain on the plantar fascia. Experts recommend sticking to the roads, where your foot won't flex so much, if you're prone to plantar fasciitis. That does not mean you can't ever hit the trails or go for some intervals on the all-weather track. Just make soft-surface workouts an occasional treat instead of your everyday go-to.
Use ice to your advantage.
If you ever feel the slightest tightness, soreness or pulling sensation in your arch or heel after a run, nip it in the bud with some cold therapy. If you ice the sore area as soon as the problem appears, you can often prevent it from developing into full-blown plantar fasciitis. To gain the maximum benefits, ice your arch for between 15 and 20 minutes at a time. Apply the ice as soon as possible after you finish your run. You can then repeat the ice therapy up to 4 more times throughout the day with at least 45 minutes between sessions.
Your arch and heel can be awkward places to apply ice. Try just dunking your entire foot into a bucket of ice water. Or, you can freeze a bottle of water and roll it back and forth under your foot.
If you're prone to plantar fasciitis, taking the precautions above will help keep you in injury-free during your training. If you do develop arch or heel pain or stiffness, take time off of running and contact a physical therapist. Working with a qualified professional will speed up your recovery.