As an athlete or fitness buff, you depend on your feet to perform a combination of crucial functions – to absorb impact, quickly change directions, and to stabilize the motion of the entire body. When the foot fails, it creates a chain reaction that can affect and cause injury to other parts of the body, including the ankles, legs, hips and low back. From weight lifting to marathon running to team sports, a foot injury can sideline an athlete and even cause difficulty completing basic tasks without assistance.
Plantar Fasciitis and What You Need to Know
Plantar fasciitis is a common foot injury that is easier to self-diagnose when compared to other problems with the foot. A plantar fasciitis injury can occur to athletes and non-athletes alike, due to unhealthy conditions that don’t provide good foot protection, such as:
wearing high heel shoes
not stretching arches
shoes without good arch support
sports participation without training
long periods of standing
Plantar fasciitis can be associated and possibly trigger heel spurs, that can cause additional pain in addition to the plantar fasciitis. Heel spurs form when calcium deposits create a protrusion from the heel, and is a painful condition that sets up inflammation at the heel of the foot.
While the symptoms of both are similar (chronic foot or heel pain), plantar fasciitis will cause pain with the band of tissue running along the bottom of the foot, the arch – between foot and heel. Heel spurs will display localized pain at the heel of the foot only.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is actually a common condition that affects 3 million people in the US, according to the Mayo Clinic. It is also called Policeman’s Heel syndrome, and the main symptom is inflammation of the tissue that connects your toes or (plantar fascia) to your heel bone. The condition is quite common for runners and tennis players who must endure long periods of hard impact to the foot.
Symptoms can present themselves in an unusual fashion. That is, the athlete may not experience the pain associated with plantar fasciitis during activity. The pain can actually decrease when you are engaged in physical activity. Yet, after getting up from resting, the person may experience stabbing pain and stiffness. This will cause a person to limp, in an effort to reduce the weight being placed on the inflamed tissue.
If you experience foot pain and tenderness immediately upon rising from overnight sleep or resting after activities, you can suspect damage to the ligaments associated with the plantar fascia.
What Are The Symptoms?
You may experience a range of symptoms due to plantar fasciitis:
sharp foot pain in the morning
pain and inflammation in the heel
swelling and redness
burning sensation in the heel
general aching in the sole of the foot
If you experience stabbing pain or burning of the bottom of the foot first thing in the morning, after standing for a long time, or after getting up from sitting for long periods, injury to, or inflammation of the plantar fascia can be the cause.
How to prevent Plantar Fasciitis?
Stretch your calves consistently before, during, and after exercise.
Seek out the best personal trainer that can guide you through proper stretching of the arch, and strengthening of the ankles and calves.
If you’ve been off your feet for an extended period of time due to a medical condition or pregnancy consider post-physical therapy or prenatal and postpartum conditioning. To ensure you are ready for active sports again, monitor your progress as you move from your baseline fitness level back to full strength. The best exercises to ward off plantar fasciitis are:
foot flexing and ankle rotations
calf raises and stretching
toe spreads and squeeze
To reduce your chances of injury to the foot ligaments and the arch of the foot in particular, consider these tips:
wear shoes with good arch support
practice proper running form
stretch and warm-up before activities
reduce excessive weight to reduce stress on foot
If your job involves standing for long periods of time consider orthopedic products such as gel arch supports, compression socks, anti-fatigue mats, and purchasing shoes that are built to support standing all day. These shoes will usually have more cushioning at the mid-sole, a shock absorbing bottom sole, and extra traction for increased stability when walking.
Risk factors that increase your chances of plantar fasciitis include age, obesity, foot mechanics (high arches or flat footed), certain occupations, and certain exercises or activities including ballet, long-distance running, and jumping activities like basketball.
How to Treat This Condition
Self-diagnosis of the above symptoms can indicate injury to the plantar fascia, but a medical examination and diagnostic imaging may be necessary to rule out other medical conditions such as a heel spur. Magnetic resonance imagine (MRI of the foot) or ultrasonography will show abnormal tissue and increased thickness of the plantar fascia.
Your physician will discuss any self-limitations you are experiencing, your activity history, and perform a physical examination. A medical exam will look for discomfort in the plantar fascia area between the first toe and the ankle including pain during first morning walking or after long periods of sitting.
Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment can vary but will usually include anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain along with other therapies such as a night splint. A night splint will mobilize the ankle and foot position while also gently stretching the plantar fascia and calf overnight.
Pain can also be reduced while the body’s natural healing process takes over by using custom or prefabricated orthotic products to support foot motions, reduce impact, and reduce heel pain. If you are experiencing chronic and acute plantar fasciitis, the physician may recommend corticosteroid injections. Cortisone shots target a specific area of the body to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
As a last resort for extreme plantar fasciitis, surgery to cut the fascia ligament that will reduce the tension and pain may be necessary. Being Proactive in your recovery throughout the day for several weeks usually does the trick.
What You Can Do at Home
Plantar fasciitis, unfortunately will take some time to heal and to the ability to carry fully weight on the foot will improve with time. In the meantime, you can practice self-care with the RICE method of Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Invest in a Strassberg Sock as well, you will not be sorry. Contact a therapist who is certified in Active Release Technique for immediate relief.
Select shoes that have a strong arch support and fit properly. You may also want to reduce the chances of aggravating the inflammation by modifying strenuous activities – yoga, stationary cycling, swimming, and no-impact calisthenics are good options.
Alternative healing methods such as massage therapy and/or contrast baths will relax tensed muscles and provide a certain level of relief. Contrast bath therapy involves immersing the whole body or the injured foot in alternating cold and very warm water, several times. Contrast baths may increase range of motion, reduce muscle spasms, and improve foot mobility.
Contact Chris Keith for Personal Training, Voted San Diego’s Best Personal Trainer! My goal is to inspire you to be the best at your chosen sport and to perform at your highest level. From strength and cardio training to nutritional guidance and weight loss solutions, we will focus on fitness, athleticism and personal health and we welcome all fitness levels.