Dealing with Plantar Fasciitis

Having an injury can be the worst thing ever if it stops you from exercising. So having an injury all the time is even more annoying!

In your foot, you have a tissue called ‘plantar fascia’ which connects your heel to your toes. This tissue is support for your arch in your foot, which for some people it can swell up and be painful, this is called plantar fasciitis. Some get it in both feet, but it’s most common in one.

It can occur for many reasons including:

  • If you’re on your feet a lot – at work or exercise such as running
  • If you’re overweight
  • Having tight calf muscle’s
  • If you have flat feet

Now, I’m not a doctor or a foot specialist, but I have had plantar fasciitis for 5 years now in my right foot. For me it’s because I have flat feet and run regularly. I began to notice it when I started running on a treadmill. The pain didn’t go away, whether I ran on road, off road or on a treadmill. I’ve seen many people about it including doctors, a podiatrist and a physiotherapist.

I didn’t get the right help or fully understand what was wrong with my foot until I saw the podiatrist. By this point I was running less for fear of making it worse. I was given special insoles for my shoes to help strengthen my foot and I had to do certain stretches to help. At first I had to wear these insoles in all of my shoes even when not exercising. This was hard because my feet had to adjust and it ached quite a lot.

Over time I managed to run a little further without the pain and I noticed progression. After a while I just had to wear the insoles when I exercised, which was good because they didn’t fit in all my shoes!

Plantar fasciitis can be triggered and flare up at any time, usually by a variety of factors including running on different surfaces or wearing the wrong kind of shoes regularly such as heels or flip flops.

My foot will flare up now and again but nothing serious to stop me running completely, until about 6/7 months ago. I was training for a half marathon and went out for a 7 mile run. By this point I could run 5 miles and feel absolutely fine so I thought 7 miles would be okay. 3 miles in however and my foot started to hurt. I stopped to stretch it out and walked around for a little then carried on running. 1 more mile in and it hurt so much that I had to give up and walk home.

I couldn’t get out to run even a mile without my foot hurting. I had to postpone my training and wait until it was better. Plantar fasciitis flares up due to micro-tears in the tissue, any running on this would damage the tissue even further.

I went to the doctor to see if there was anything I could do to help it. This is when I found out that there isn’t much you can do for plantar fasciitis to make it go away completely and that it’s just adjustments to your lifestyle that you have to make, in my case running. You can have some treatments like electrotherapy or injections of steroids into your foot, but apparently long term these are not beneficial. The doctor I spoke to was a runner herself with plantar fasciitis so it felt good to be able to talk to someone in the same boat as me. The only advice she could give that would help with the healing at the time would be to wear comfy shoes with my insoles in everyday, avoid heels and flipflops (which I should be doing all the time, ops!) and when I do start running again I could try some ibuprofen gel if swelling occurs.

I think the flare up was probably triggered because of a number of reasons:

  • Coming out of winter I started running off road again. So the change in surface could have been a trigger
  • I had increased my running due to half marathon training
  • I had been wearing new running shoes for 6 months but had not been using my insoles with these
  • As I had no problems with my foot for a few months I had stopped doing my stretches given by the podiatrist

Since then I have been running with (touch wood) no problems. Occasionally it will ache and swell up a little but nothing that has stopped me training completely.

Even though for me my plantar fasciitis is at its worse when I run, I do occasionally get it without exercise. This can really depend on the type of shoes I’m wearing. Any shoe with no support or that is poor quality is not good for me at all. I must admit I do buy these kind of shoes but they  never last long, especially if I notice them hurting my foot. I also love wearing heels, but I do have to be careful as they are not good for plantar fasciitis, which is annoying for a 5′ 1” girl! I am more observant now, If my foot hurts, I know to wear comfy shoes. I make sure to give myself time after exercise to stretch out, (its so easy to forget) including the stretches given by the podiatrist to help plantar fasciitis. I wear my insoles with every exercise I do, and I don’t risk running if my foot is swollen and in pain.

Stretches that help:

Calf raises – I usually stand on a step on my stairs in the evening (a few times a week) and do a few calf raises. Or alternatively, I do this on a step in the gym.

Straight leg calf stretch – Hands flat on a wall in front of you, one foot forward with the leg bent and the other stretched straight back. Making sure feet are flat on the ground. I would usually hold this for about 30 seconds, again, a few times a week.

These stretches were advised to me by the podiatrist and I find they really help relive any tension and tightness in my calves and achilles, which in turn help strengthen my foot.

I also give my foot a good massage probably about once a week , or when it is swollen. I find this really helps the swelling go down and relieves any tightness and pain in my foot. I usually do this before bed so I don’t have to put any more weight onto it.

Some tips for dealing with plantar fasciitis:

  • Stretch regularly – not just when your foot is at it’s worse
  • Invest in a good pair of running shoes and try not to wear cheaper shoes all the time
  • Give your foot a good massage when its swollen, just before you rest for the night. Ibuprofen gel can also be used to relive any pain, tension and swelling
  • Listen to your foot!

 

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