5 Lessons From Having Plantar Fasciitis
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that having Plantar Fasciitis has changed my life - and not one of those epiphany moments where I realise I should be a cyclist instead of a runner (god forbid!) - more of a realisation that unless I take action, my whole future well-being may be compromised.
Having sore feet and heels is not just something to get over by the time you have (very carefully) slowly stepped out of bed, shuffled to the bathroom and made it downstairs for your coffee.
For me, my Plantar Fasciitis was there for the majority of my day, constantly stabbing me the moment I had forgotten it.
This has forced me to learn some hard lessons about my health, lifestyle, feet and shoes, without which I might still be walking like a newborn giraffe all the time.
I have come up with a set of lessons that help me treat my painful feet, keep running and be relatively pain-free.
Lesson 1: Wear proper shoes.
When I was younger, before I was a runner, I used to skateboard all the time and used to wear Converse shoes, which had little to no support for my feet.
If you were ever a skateboarder, you will know, it’s something that never leaves you. Now, over 30 years later, I still crave wearing a pair of Converse, but the lack of cushioning and arch support just leaves me in agony after even just walking for a few minutes.
If you ever have signs of foot pain or plantar fasciitis, make sure your shoes are fit for purpose. They need to have good support around the arch, not twist in the midsole area and have a cushioned and supportive heel area.
A quality pair of stability (motion control) running shoes will go a long way to help prevent foot pain or ease problems like Plantar Fasciitis. I am currently rocking a pair of New Balance 1260v6, which despite being bright blue, are perfect for helping reduce my aches and pains.
I don’t just wear these for running though - they are my day-to-day shoes and find that wearing them often helps maintain my soreness at a low level.
Update, Nov 2018. After using the New Balance, I upgraded to Saucony Omni 16, which have also been good for my feet. They are not quite as supporting inside, but I added a pair of orthotics to help cushion my arch.
Lesson 2: Learn to love RICE.
Having Plantar Fasciitis and also continuing to run is a constant battle of mind-over-feet-over-pain. It can be done, but your post-run exercises and processes need to become a critical part of your recovery plan.
I usually run around 6k 3 times per week at the moment and apart from the usual post-run stretches once I have finished my run, I head straight for the ice pack, which I keep on the soles of my feet for at least 20 minutes each.
You can also use a frozen water bottle rolled across the sole of your foot (but keep your socks on to avoid freezer burn!).
This video shows you how to use a frozen ice bottle for the best results.
I am also learning to keep my feet rested as much as possible after each run, rubbing and keeping them elevated to help improve blood flow and reduce any inflammation. I also try to keep my running socks on for as long as possible as the compression improves the circulation to my feet.
You may have already heard of this method as “RICE” - Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
- Rest - stop doing what causes the pain to happen.
- Ice - treat the affected area with ice to help relieve pain and tension.
- Compression - wrap the affected area in a tight bandage to help circulation and give more support.
- Elevation - prop up your foot on a cushion and keep it above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.
It is not just a good and tasty acronym, it is definitely a great way to keeping your feet healthy and in working condition.
Lesson 3: Stay supported when you are not running.
As I said earlier, when I am not running, I still wear my running shoes because they give me the best support.
However, I also work in an office all day and need to maintain a certain image, so wearing luminous blue running shoes to the sales meeting can be a career-limiting decision. I found that normal office shoes also gave me little to no arch support and using inserts or orthotics tended to stretch the leather of the shoes too quickly, allowing my foot to slip from side to side.
After doing some research, I opted to wear a pair of black coloured hiking boots from Merrell, which not only gave me the arch and heel support I needed but also allowed me to use a pair of custom orthotic inserts made by my Podiatrist.
The boots are not too flashy and therefore more suitable for an office environment, but are sturdy enough and comfortable enough to help my plantar fasciitis not get any worse.
I have also found that sitting at a desk all day is a great way to allow your calf muscles to stiffen up, which can be a major cause or contributing factor of plantar fasciitis.
I have been making sure I get up and move around the office as much as possible during the day. I regularly take the stairs and stretching out my calf muscles and also do regular circles with my feet under the desk.
Stretching when you have heel pain or PF is very important. I have created a page showing some stretches you can do.
Lesson 4: No bare feet at home!
One problem with having problems with your feet is that you don’t get time off for good behaviour. You need to think about supporting your feet properly all the time, which includes when you are at home too.
At my house, we never wear our outdoor shoes inside but walking without support from carpet to floor tiles to laminate floorboards is not good for your feet.
If you are wearing supportive shoes when you are running or out at work, the same should apply when you are at home. All of the effort you have put into looking after your feet will come undone if you are walking in socks or bare feet.
If you have plantar fasciitis, the pain comes from the fascia tissue that stretches from your heel to the ball of your foot getting damaged.
By supporting the fascia, you are helping to reduce that damage and provide relief. It is also possible that the fascia will start to repair itself if you remember to keep it supported as much as possible.
Lesson 5: Learn to love the gadgets!
There are quite a few different products on the market to help you get relief from foot and heel pain. Some good and some not so effective, but trying them is worth it - especially as they are not too expensive.
There is scientific evidence from the Journal of the American Podiatric Association that having a custom made pair of orthotic insoles is no better than a pair you can buy over the counter at the local drugstore. As long as you are getting the additional cushioning and support from them, all the better.
I wish I never spent all that money on my pair now!
Another popular product that I have tried is the night splint, where you wear a ski-boot like a shoe overnight as it pulls your foot upwards, stretching the fascia on the sole of your foot to help it stay flexible. There are also socks that have velcro attachments which are more comfortable to wear in bed, but I found the stretch to not be as effective.
Wearing a night splint does work, especially as a way to avoid any pain first thing in the morning. However, sleeping with one is hard if you like to wriggle a lot under the covers.
Also, you need to get 2 splits to get the full benefit (if you have problems with both feet).
There are other gadgets or products that can help with your plantar fasciitis, such as a pair of compression socks. These will help keep the blood circulating properly, helping to reduce any swelling or inflammation from running or walking.
You can also wear these when you are not running too, and pretend you are jetting off on a long-haul holiday flight any moment 🙂
In summary, taking care of your feet is paramount if you want to keep running.
I can't stress enough to seek medical advice as soon as you can and make sure you adhere to any instructions to rest.
I am not a doctor and am only giving you my opinion and results of the steps I have taken to help reduce my foot pain problems.
Not acting upon foot pain could mean the difference between a short break and surgery to correct a problem that may stop you running forever.