You are probably a dedicated and passionate runner who spends each waking day going out for a nice, long run. You have also even participated in multiple races, from local 5K runs to ultra-marathons. Your passion for running knows no boundaries and you would not trade anything to continue pursuing your dreams.
However, one day you notice a slight pain in your heel whenever you run on it; even when you walk, it is still painful. Little do you know that it is plantar fasciitis, and no matter what you do to get rid of it, it does not go away.
That said, you might be wondering just what causes plantar fasciitis to flare up? We are here to help! Read on to learn some answers to a few frequently-asked questions on plantar fasciitis, as well as ways to go about effectively lessening the pain. Soon enough, you can return to pursuing your passion when it comes to running.
With that said, let’s get started!
Plantar fasciitis is a type of heel pain that is especially common in runners. It occurs in the plantar fascia, which is a flat tissue band that links up your heel to your toes. The plantar fascia is used to support your arches while running.
Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia is strained. When you continue to run on it, pieces of the tissue start to break down.
Many factors cause plantar fasciitis to happen. Some of them include overpronating, which is a result of your feet rolling inwards when you walk or run. Additionally, having high or low arches puts you at risk of doing so, and especially if you tend to stand, walk, or run for long periods of time.
Being overweight also puts stress on the joints, and wearing worn-out or inadequate shoes do not help as well. Finally, having tight calf muscles and Achilles heels increase your chances of getting plantar fasciitis.
Your heel flares up when you have plantar fasciitis due to a few things. As previously mentioned, aspects such as being overweight or continuing to run puts pressure on the affected area, which then causes swelling and irritation to occur. That is why it is not a good area to keep on doing activities which creates this pressure in the lower body, as means of taking the pain away.
Although plantar fasciitis can be extremely painful, it is also easy to treat if diagnosed early. Here are some strategies you can do to heal from it:
Even if you cannot bear to part with running since it is your passion, it is imperative that you do so, at least for the short term while your body repairs itself. Continuing to run on and do intense sports with your heel will certainly not make the pain go away, if not worsening it.
However, this does not mean that you cease all physical activities while taking time off from running. Substitute this by trying your hand at other sports, such as cycling, weight-lifting, and swimming. Swimming is especially good for reducing impact on your joints while also giving you the same cardio-workout benefits as running, if not more. Doing strength-training exercises that target your lower body can also help strengthen the heel, so that once it heals, it will be less prone to injury later on.
Especially if your heel is inflamed, treating it with ice can reduce the swelling and make it feel less painful. There is a particular method to doing so, through what is known as RICE (rest, ice, compress, elevate). In other words, ice the affected area by raising your leg and feet up to torso level when sitting, and apply pressure to the area with the ice.
At the same time, though, it is important that you do not keep the ice on for too long, since anything over 20 or 30 minutes can actually do more damage than harm to it (i.e. nerve endings start to break down). Limit it to no more than 20 minutes on both heels, if the two are equally injured.
Under more severe cases, taking over-the-counter (OTC) drugs to reduce the pain and swelling can be a good idea to consider. Drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen are common ones to take, but again, make sure that you do not overdo it, since we would not want you to overdose on these pills!
Another option is to talk to your doctor about corticosteroid injections, which can offer a longer pain relief, around one to two months. It might not be applicable for certain cases, but it cannot hurt to ask.
As mentioned earlier in this article, one cause of plantar fasciitis is wearing inadequate running shoes: either they have been worn down to the stub or they are not built well to suit your foot size and shape. Either of these reasons can adversely affect your running performance, causing improper running form, and thereby increasing the chance of getting injured.
Hence, it is strongly encouraged to switch out your running shoes after every 300 to 500 miles logged in, or at least when you start to see the soles thinning out. Knowing your foot size and arch type really helps, too, when it comes to selecting your new pair to wear.
Sometimes, running shoes are just not enough: having insoles solves the problem. Adding insoles into your shoes can assist you in arch support, so that you can correct your running form and thereby prevent plantar fasciitis from happening again. Our article on finding the best insoles for plantar fasciitis can get you started on that.
Overall, plantar fasciitis is painful and an inconvenience to your running career. Yet, by knowing what causes it to flare up, as well as know how to treat it, you can heal properly and get back into running before you know it.