Tried-and-True Methods to Fix Plantar Fasciitis

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

If you’re new to running or returning to it after a break, you might have been blighted by plantar fasciitis, a fancy name for an annoyingly common foot problem. It’s when the band of tissue that connects your heel to your toes (the plantar fascia) gets inflamed (which is what “itis” means – inflamed) and causes pain in your heel, arch or sole of your foot. Having taken part in my fair share of enforced runs in the military I can confirm it does not make for a “fun run”.

Plantar fasciitis can happen for many reasons, like wearing the wrong shoes, running too much or too fast, carrying extra weight (rucksack or otherwise) or having flat feet or high arches.

The good news is that plantar fasciitis can be treated and prevented with some simple steps (pun intended). Here are three exercises and three treatment methods that can help fix your plantar fasciitis and keep you running happily.

Fred Ormerod

Written By

FRED ORMEROD

Fred Ormerod is a freelance coach, army reserve medic, nurse, master’s student, and massage therapist. He’s spent a decade working in healthcare and five years coaching in one of Edinburgh’s leading training facilities.

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Exercises to Strengthen the Plantar Fascia

Toe Stretch

Sit down and cross one foot over your knee. Grab the base of your toes and pull them back towards your body until you feel a comfortable stretch. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds and repeat 3 times. Do this for both feet. This will stretch your plantar fascia and make it more flexible. Bear in mind that doing this may aggravate muscles that are already inflamed but it can work as an excellent preventative technique. 

Calf Raise

Stand on the edge of a step or a curb with your heels hanging off. Slowly lift your heels up as high as you can, then lower them down below the level of the step. Do this 10 times for each foot. This will strengthen your calf muscles and reduce the stress on your plantar fascia. You should aim to build up to doing this with at least body weight load with a barbell across your back (if available). This might sound like a lot, but if you consider that the load going through your joints while running can be anywhere between 3-10 times your body weight — it’s wise to condition your tendons ahead of time to the increased load.

Towel Curl

Place a towel on the floor and sit on a chair with your feet on the towel. Using your toes, scrunch up the towel towards you, then spread it out again. Do this for 5 minutes for each foot. This will improve the blood flow and flexibility of your foot muscles. 

Inflammation Treatment Methods

Ice Pack/Bath

Apply an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas) wrapped in a towel to the painful area for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours. This will reduce the inflammation and numb the pain. Don’t apply ice directly to your skin, as this can cause frostbite. One of my favorite athletes I’ve coached online was an ultra-runner — we resorted to having her lie down in the river at the bottom of her garden every morning as a sort of cold plunge. From having to crawl to the bathroom when we first started training, she went on to win her age category at the Coniston 100 race 2 months later.

Anti-inflammatory Meds

Take OTC painkillers like ibuprofen or naproxen to ease the pain and inflammation. Follow the instructions on the label and don’t take them for more than 10 days without consulting your doctor. If you have any medical conditions or allergies, check with your doctor before taking any medication. As a nurse I can’t tell you how annoying it is when a patient tells me they don’t like taking medication. Chances are you won’t get addicted to simple ibuprofen, and the resulting reduction in inflammation will likely mean you can train around your injury to a point where it is no longer a concern.

Massage Balls

Using a lacrosse ball or other tool to gently massage the area can help relieve some pain and inflammation by increasing the circulation in the area. It also feels like ‘good pain’ instead of ‘I feel like I just stepped on Lego bricks’ pain

Be Proactive

By following these exercises and treatment methods, you can hopefully get rid of plantar fasciitis (or avoid it altogether) and enjoy running again. Remember to start slowly and gradually increase your distance, speed and load, and always warm up/cool down, preferably dynamically, before and after running. 

 

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