How to Treat and Prevent Plantar Fasciitis
Running is arguably one of the simplest activities or sports out there. Unlike many other sports, running doesn't inherently necessitate a ton of gear or many years of specialized, technical training.
For the most part, as long as you throw a pair of shoes on your foot (which is debatable, in some circles) and generally move your body in a forward direction, you can safely say that you are a runner and that you run.
There's not a whole lot more to it, at least on its most elementary level.
Running is also a sport that is comprised of the same movement, over and over again: in this case, the act of putting one foot in front of the other while you propels yourself forward. If you watch any running gait analysis videos, you'll see that the running motion is a series of one-legged hops.
There's a lot of physics at stake, with many elements of force, actions, and reactions taking place, so it's no small wonder that running can potentially be tough on your body. Every time your foot strikes the ground, it sends shockwaves throughout your body.
After you consider the number of times your feet hit the ground in an average run – to the tune of hundreds, if not thousands+ – again, it is impressive that our bodies can handle running at all.
It's easy to get injured as a runner...
Perhaps understandably, then, running has a pretty high injury rate. It's not the same type of contact sport as something like rugby or American football, but if you're not careful and intentional with your training, you can really roughen-up your body.
Unfortunately, most runners have had at least one injury during their running career, though many of the ailments are fixable, with some rehab and physical therapy.
Among many others, Plantar Fasciitis (PF) is one of the more common running-related maladies out there. PF refers to an inflammation of the fascia – a thick, muscle-like band – in your foot.
Many people who have PF complain that they have intense heel pain and that they feel it most acutely first thing in the morning, right when they're getting out of bed for the first time.
WebMD talks about PF in this way:
"plantar fascia is the flat band of tissue (ligament) that connects your heel bone to your toes. It supports the arch of your foot. If you strain your plantar fascia, it gets weak, swollen, and irritated (inflamed). Then your heel or the bottom of your foot hurts when you stand or walk."
For as common as PF is, there's unfortunately not yet a rehab or therapy that lets the sufferer nix the problem overnight.
Taking time off from activity (such as running), going to physical therapy, and having a lot of patience and possibly even wearing some PF-specific devices are all measures that will help you beat PF, if you find yourself in the unenviable place of having it.
If you think you have PF, definitely consider talking to a medical professional first, before you try to treat it yourself.
A medical professional will obviously be able to diagnose your condition and will then be able to subsequently give specific-to-your-case advice about treatment.
Below, I'll talk about some general ways that you can work through your PF and ways that you can prevent it from happening.
Get the inflammation to subside.
If we describe PF as being an inflammation of the fascia in the foot, then it's within reason to assume that we, minimally, want to get the inflammation down as soon as possible.
For starters, most practitioners would advise that you abort your usual activities (such as running or hiking) right away, since it's important to lessen the amount of time you spend on your feet.
If you're into natural, homeopathic remedies, some people swear by taking Epsom salt baths or applying nighttime essential oils to their feet, which probably won't hurt anything but also isn't guaranteed to help, either.
I'd discourage you from taking anti-inflammatory medicines because you don't want to mask the symptoms. A medical professional will be able to give you an even more detailed and specific treatment plan right away to help you minimize your inflammation and your discomfort.
Said medical professional might even also ask you to wear a PF-specific therapeutic device, like a PF boot that you'd wear at night, when you're sleeping, too, or even refer you to physical therapy.
Go slowly in rehab.
PF is an injury that unfortunately typically necessitates taking a fair bit of time off, so it's natural to feel like you need to go-go-go once you're in PT so you can get back to where you left off as soon as possible.
Listen to your body (and your medical professional)! Go through your PT exercises slowly and deliberately, and don't rush the process. If nothing else, if you go into your PT over-zealously, you'll be more likely to re-injure yourself and thus set yourself back even more.
Your PT might recommend foot- and calf-specific exercises to strengthen each group of muscles, as well as to help relieve excessive tightness, and your PT might also recommend that you spend a little time each day walking around your home barefoot, in order to allow you to slowly gain strength in your foot muscles as they work to articulate the floor each time you take a step.
Remember: slow and steady.
Prevention (and prehab) can be key.
I really hope that you'll never get PF, or that if you do, you'll be able to get out of it quickly. If you've been on the other side of a PF diagnosis, or have never seen it before, consider following a routine that'll allow you to strengthen your feet a little each day.
This can be as simple as spending some time walking around indoors barefoot or even more advanced, such as using more minimalist-shoes when you're walking or running outdoors. If you do the latter, though, be wary: transitioning from maximal to minimal shoes takes time, so transition your training very slowly.
PF is a common running-related malady but also one that's fairly straightforward to ameliorate with some time off, PT exercises, and routine foot/calf strengthening exercises.
The tips above describe a few of the ways that you can successfully treat, if not also prevent, PF, but more than anything, if you feel like you might be coming down with a case of PF, seek the counsel from a medical professional right away.