Every time you take a step while running, studies show that your feet absorb impact at about two and a half times your body weight. Add that up over a long run, and it’s no wonder that you’re sore. Debates continue over the efficacy of cushioned shoes versus more minimalist running gear—or even going barefoot—but the fact remains: Your feet take a beating on a daily basis. Enter the plantar fascia—it’s a fibrous band of connective tissue that runs from your heel bone to your toes. It supports your arch, provides cushioning and shock absorption when you run, walk, and stand, and allows you to point and flex your toes. So, when plantar fasciitis hits, it can be pretty painful. Read on to learn more about protecting your plantar fascia and preventing plantar fasciitis.
What is plantar fasciitis?
Despite our best efforts, plantar fasciitis can sideline any runner, from the casual weekend joggers to the high-level marathoners. It happens when the fascia becomes inflamed—often due to overuse—and is characterized by heel pain that can vary from dull to sharp. Often, the pain is worst in the morning, as the fascia constricts overnight, and it can make walking, running, and even standing uncomfortable. Making things worse, a study published in American Family Physician showed that about 50 percent of patients with plantar fasciitis are also found to have heel spurs, which can add to the discomfort.
Direct causes of plantar fasciitis can’t always be diagnosed, but common triggers include spending a lot of time on your feet, heel striking when you run, being overweight, and having tight calves and Achilles tendons.
How to prevent plantar fasciitis
Unfortunately, there’s no quick cure when plantar fasciitis attacks. The treatment is often a months-long combination of rest, ice, exercises, and sometimes orthotics. So, it’s best if you can just avoid it in the first place through preventative measures, like:
Shortening Your Stride
Long strides subject the plantar fascia to maximal stress. Try shortening your stride to take off some of that strain. To learn more about stride length and proper running form, check out the classes available on Aaptiv.
Stretching the Plantar Fascia
A University of Rochester study found that one plantar fascia-specific stretch promoted long-term recovery and decreased pain in those suffering from plantar fasciitis. You can use the same stretch to keep your fascia healthy. Sit with one leg crossed over the other, and, using your hands, pull the toes back toward the shin to stretch the arch of the foot. Hold for a count of ten, and repeat ten times. Do this first thing in the morning and before standing, after a prolonged period of sitting.
Stretching Your Calves and Achilles Tendons
Keep those calves and Achilles tendons loose. Tightness in those areas can pull on the plantar fascia, stressing the tissue and weakening its attachment to the bone. An effective stretch that hits both the calf and Achilles is a simple heel drop. Stand with your toes on a step, and let your heels drop down below the step until you feel a stretch.
Doing Calf Raises
Employ the classic calf raise to strengthen your calves and Achilles tendons. Raise up on the balls of your feet, then slowly lower back down. If this becomes easy, you can progress to single-leg calf raises for a greater challenge.
Trying Toe Curls
Place your foot on a towel. While keeping your heel on the ground, grab the towel with your toes like you’re picking it up—this will strengthen your arch.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Remember that note at the top about your feet absorbing two and half times the weight of your body? Well, do a little math, and it will show that ten pounds of weight equal 25 pounds of impact. So, take it easy on your overworked feet—and your joints—by maintaining a healthy weight, and you’ll notice the difference in every step. Plus, check out Aaptiv’s programs and classes to help