A painful affliction common among runners, plantar fasciitis might creep up on you. Here’s what to do if it does.
You wake up in the morning, yawn, turn off the alarm, and get out of bed. And the pain in your foot hits you like you just stepped on a rusty nail. But that’s OK, you think; it always loosens up later in the day. Well, except for the first few excruciating steps of my run, but that’s OK, you think, it will loosen up. Well, except those excruciating steps seem to take longer and longer to go away lately, but that’s OK, you think, because they always – well, usually anyway – go away by the end of the run. Well, except the pain seem to be getting worse; yesterday, it hurt so bad that it almost brought me to tears and I had to walk home. What the heck is going on here anyway?
Plantar Fasciitis (PF) is caused by a tear or tears and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, that runs along the bottom of your foot from your heel bone to your metatarsals (just behind the toes).
It is most often caused by:
- Either high arches or flat feet
- Walking, standing, or running for long periods of time
- Tight muscles and tendons, especially calf muscles and the Achilles’ tendon
PF is an insidious little condition – easy to get (it is perhaps the most common injury among both runners and the general population) and almost impossible to get rid of unless you are proactive in treating it. It will not go away on its own or if you “just run easy for a few days.” PF often begins with a little achiness that gets gradually worse over time. It can, in time, become painfully debilitating. It is often worst during the first few steps of the morning or after sitting for long periods. It may feel better after the foot has been warmed up, but will continue to get worse with activity.
Fortunately, some fairly basic treatment, when done early and consistently, can be effective in preventing it from getting worse and can even reverse the symptoms.
First, as with any injury, if the pain is great enough that it causes you to alter your stride or favor one leg, immediately take several days off from running until you can, at minimum, walk without pain.
Most importantly, begin to massage and stretch both the plantar fascia and the calf muscle/Achilles’ tendon to break up and loosen the muscles and tissues that are the cause of the pain. It is critical that this be done first thing in the morning, before you even get out of bed and put weight on your foot. Massage the foot first thing in the morning and then continue massaging and stretching throughout the day.
Below are several massage and stretch tools that may be helpful in your treatment.
Foot Rubz – Approximately the size of a golf ball, with small, stiff “fingers” to dig into your foot and provide a very effective massage. Because it is so small, this is great to put in your gym bag if you need a quick pre-run/workout massage or to leave under your desk at work for a discrete midday massage. If you buy only one foot massage tool, this is it.
Step Stretch – Simply the best, most effective way to stretch the calf, Achilles and plantar fascia simultaneously. The Step Stretch will put your foot in the optimal position to stretch all of these.
Strassburg Sock – To prevent the tissues of the calf, Achilles and plantar fascia from getting short and tight overnight, the Strassburg Sock can be worn to maintain a mild stretch overnight.
Superfeet – Many, if not most, runners would benefit greatly from more support in their shoes than the existing insoles provide. Superfeet are designed to provide support where you need it most, under the sub-talar joint at the base of the heel. Note that the color of the Superfeet insert indicates the height of the arch (e.g., the green insert has a higher arch than the blue insert) and the width of the insert (e.g., blue is wider than berry).
The Stick – A flexible, well, stick, with hard plastic rings on the outside. The Stick is easy to use and provides a quick warm-up or recovery massage. It also gets to all of the spots you can’t reach on your own with just your hands.
Moji Foot Roller and Moji 360 Degree Massager Massage Tool – Similar to The Stick, but the 360 Degree Massager Massage Tool uses metal ball bearings to provide a deeper, smoother massage. The Foot Roller is similar to the Foot Rubz, but the ball bearings are set in a heavy plastic base with a non-skid bottom to make it easier to control.
Feetures Plantar Fasciitis Sleeve – This sleeve wraps the arch, ankle and lower Achilles, providing compression and support for the plantar fascia and surrounding tissues. I recommend it for everyday wear, e.g., under your work socks or stockings, for all-day support, especially if your PF pain is acute. For running, I find that Feetures Elite socks provide nearly as much support in a full-length sock.