Plantar Fasciitis: Or ‘the reason I stopped running and started talking’…
As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I first started this blog because instead of going running I found myself injured and talking about running instead. As you’ve guessed from the title of this post, an attack of Plantar Fasciitis has laid me up for the last four weeks or so. (GFs eyes roll due to excessive melodrama…). Ok, not laid up. Just not running and generally being mopey and looking for sympathy from aforementioned GF. I’ll explain later why sympathy is currently hard to come by…
So how can this post help you? Well, I made two basic mistakes which you should learn from:
1) lack of attention to warm up and cool down
2) the classic mistake of increasing mileage too quickly
Hence why I said GF sympathy is hard to come by. Self inflicted injury isn’t the way to go about getting extra care and sympathy!
It all started with a niggle in my foot. The underside of the right foot to be precise, with a dull ache in the heel/arch area. Thinking it was probably a small strain from an off-road run I had done I figured “it’ll be alright in a couple of days”. It wasn’t. I went for a short run on the road a few days later and the same niggle was present after 10 minutes or so. Next morning I got out of bed only to sit right back down again due to a shooting pain across the bottom of my foot, like an ice pick in my heel/arch. Ouch!
People much wiser than me will know this was the time I realised it was time to go to the physiotherapist. But that’s why they are wiser than me…
What actually happened is I struggled on for another week, limping around, struggling with this killer pain in my heel in the morning or whenever I had been sitting for a while, and still trying a couple of short runs! Cue more rolling of eyes!
Finally I saw some sense and went off to my physiotherapist and found out that what I have is a classic case of Plantar Fasciitis. My Latin 101 was able to get me as far as ‘inflammation of the plantar fascia’. But what is a ‘plantar fascia’ you may ask?
I didn’t know either so asked my physio to explain to me and she described the plantar fascia as a strong fibrous sheath which is connected to the underside of your heel and fans out towards your toes, forming the basis of the arch of your foot.
The arch of your foot is an amazing construction and is crucial for controlling pronation (the way your foot/ankle/lower leg move on foot strike), acts as a shock absorber when you land and then in the toe-off phase of your gait returns energy to your stride like a spring. The plantar fascia is ‘dynamic’ throughout your gait (your running motion) which means it changes shape as your gait cycles though. It’s a brilliant piece of anatomical engineering, but when it goes wrong it can be debilitating!
My physio explained that when you raise your toes prior to foot strike, your plantar fascia tightens. If at the same time tensile force is being applied to the back of your heel by your Achilles tendon, then this increases dramatically the tensile strain in your plantar fascia. The physio checked me out and I have really tight calf muscles, along with reduced flexibility through my Achilles tendon. This is causing the excessive strain on my PF when I run.
Result – Inflammation and swelling, and pain!
So how can this post help you? To help you keep yourself free from plantar fasciitis I recommend:
Warm-up and cool-down – Make sure to pay proper attention to your warm up and cool down, including stretching! Always warm up before going running, and make sure that you include a cool down at the end of your run. Then make sure to follow up with some long static stretching to lengthen the muscles and increase range of movement. Attention to your calf muscles and achilles tendon are crucial. Include foot massage with a golf ball and a foam roller on your calves as well.
Gradually increase your mileage – Increasing mileage too quickly isn’t necessarily specific to plantar fasciitis, but it was a significant contributing factor in my case, as it caused my muscles to tighten at a rate which was faster than the amount of stretching I was doing was able to counteract. If you are a novice runner and trying to increase your distance, don’t overdo it. Most people recommend only increasing your distance by 10% a week. If your distance is only 5 or so miles a week spread across a few runs, then you can increase by more than 10% safely, but it you are already doing 10 to 15 miles a week or more, stick to the 10% rule. Especially if you are preparing for a race, because increase of both mileage and speed puts double strain onto your muscles and joints!
Where does that leave me? Smarter, with more respect for two of the fundamental ‘laws’ of running!
I’m off running for a few weeks more, with a focus on long static stretches at night-time to lengthen my calves and increase range of movement, along with some specific stretches for alleviating the tightness in my plantar and some massage with my trusty golf ball. I’ll put up an article under my training page sometime soon which will give more detail on plantar fasciitis, as well as stretches to help you get rid of yours if you are a sufferer, along with a section on preventative exercises.
Until then, keep on reading the blog and I’ll keep you updated with my progress along with other things.
Get Going, Get Running!