At Marx Running, our experience is our greatest strength. Through years of serving runners, walkers, and all types of athletes, there are several common injuries that we see on a regular basis. The purpose of this blog post is simply to compile the existing information on how to treat each type of injury. We will translate this info to you in a way that will allow you to get some instant relief if you’re being plagued by any of the following ailments. Be warned that there is no magic when it comes to injury rehab. The advice below is simply an acknowledgement of what has been proven to facilitate recovery and help alleviate pain.
We will go through a host of common injuries including: Plantar Fasciitis, Runners Knee/Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, Shin Splints, Achilles Tendonitis, and IT Band Syndrome. Today’s post tackles plantar fasciitis. Keep checking back for following installments.
Plantar Fasciitis Defined: The plantar fascia is a flat band of tissue that runs from your heel to your toes on the bottom of your foot. It supports your arch. Plantar fasciitis is caused when this band of tissue becomes irritated. This irritation comes in the form of micro tears or inflammation. It can be caused by wearing excessively soft or worn out shoes, excessive over-pronation, having chronic calf or Achilles tightness, standing for long periods of time on a regular basis, and of course, by overuse through running (in the form of too much speed or hill work) or other physical activity. Plantar fasciities tends to be a more chronic ailment, both in its onset and in terms of recovery. It is, unfortunately, one of the most stubborn injuries to have and usually hangs around for a couple years and requires consistent maintenance.
Plantar fasciitis is characterized by pain on the bottom of the foot. Over time this pain tends to concentrate in the heel and can feel like a deep ache but can also be sharp at times, especially when the plantar fascia is tight. For those who suffer from plantar fasciitis, those first few steps out of bed in the morning or after sitting down for a long time are the most painful. This is because the plantar fascia is allowed some slack when you are off your feet and quickly tightens up. As you put weight on it, the micro-tearing and inflammation causes some sharp pain. No, it’s not fun.
The Solution: As stated, plantar fasciitis is a stubborn injury. It requires constant maintenance in order to reduce pain levels and allow the tissue to heal. It really requires active treatment. The most critical factor is keeping the plantar fascia loose at all times. To do this, you should be constantly stretching the calf and Achilles. Three quick stretching sessions per day is recommended. The use of a calf stretcher can allow for a more effective stretch. Stretching the actual plantar fascia can be done by actively reaching down and pulling your toes back as far as they can go. You should feel a stretch across the bottom of your foot. Another tool to keep the plantar fascia loose is rolling your foot over massage balls (see above photo) or a golf ball. Do this especially in the heel. Keeping massage balls on the floor by your couch is a good way to remember this. Self massaging or a therapeutic massage to the bottom of the foot and calf will also help.
The most effective treatment tends to be the use of a Strassburg Sock or night splint (both shown in the photo above). These tools keep your plantar fascia flexed and stretched throughout the night. This allows the tissue to heal in a stretched position, eliminating those painful first steps out of bed. This is our most recommended treatment. The night splint can be cumbersome but tends to be effective. You should see immediate results with the use of one of these tools.
Other basic recommendations are icing the bottom of the foot, the use of an anti-inflammatory if the pain gets bad, and being sure never to walk around barefoot. A new or correct pair of shoes will also make a difference if your current pair is worn out or isn’t right for you. Furthermore, wearing compression socks or compression calf sleeves will promote more blood flow to the plantar fascia and potentially speed up recovery. No one treatment will make a huge difference but doing everything in unison will start to make an impact and shorten recovery time. Unless you’re experiencing a lot of pain during exercise, it is typically okay to continue running/exercising, but SCALE BACK on volume and intensity and use pain as a guide. If it hurts, simply stop! The exercise will actually help to keep the plantar fascia loose and make stretching afterwards more beneficial.
So, to recap, a list of priorities:
1) Get some sort of nightsplint/Strassburg Sock. This is the most effective treatment.
2) Stretch your calves and plantar fascia religiously. 3 times per day!
3) Massage to the calf and bottom of foot. Use massage balls in your spare time.
4) Always be wearing shoes with decent arch support. Don’t go barefoot.
5) Other “soft” remedies: ice it, take an anti-inflammatory, wear compression socks.
6) Keep exercising because it keeps the plantar fascia loose, but if it hurts a lot, then stop activity. Don’t overstress it, always use pain as a guide.
We hope that if you’re suffering from plantar fasciitis, this blog post will serve as a practical guide to successful recovery. Keep checking back for installments on other common injuries. If you would like to suggest a topic, feel free to e-mail raceinfo [at] marxrunning [dot] com. Happy training!