I took part in a webinar on Plantar Fasciitis over the weekend that was presented by Justin Price, a corrective-exercise professional and sponsored by ACE Fitness.
I know a lot of people that suffer from PF and have heard how debilitating, painful and frustrating it can be. I hope some of this information can be useful to those who are looking for relief.
First some background.
The Plantar Fascia
The plantar fascia is connective tissue that runs from the heel to just behind your toes. Imagine a large tree trunk at the heel with branches reaching towards you toes. During walking or running, your body weight is transferred from your heel to toes. With each step the foot spreads and this spreading motion places tension on the fascia; the connector of these two parts.
Plantar Fasciitis occurs when the tension on the fascia is too great or weight is not dispersed evenly. This can result in small micro-tears causing the plantar fascia to become irritated and painful.
Some General Body Mechanics
When people run or walk, the body travels forward over the foot of the weight-bearing leg. At the same time, the body moves side to side as it shifts weight. The side to side motion is subtle or less subtle. “Do fries come with that shake?”
The plantar fascia spreads out and widens to accept the two movements. The body weight from above and the movement from side to side. If your body makes these movements correctly the plantar fascia functions properly and the tissue stays healthy.
If your body has musculoskeletal imbalances or weakness, it can create tension on the plantar fascia and repeated tension can cause you to develop plantar fasciitis.
90% of people over-pronate. This presents when the ankles collapse towards the mid-line of their body.
A very small percentage of people has feet that lacks dorsiflexion, which creates a rigid platform at each step. This is called supination.
Having strong, flexible muscles that support the bones will help your body distribute weight more evenly across your feet.
Enough background. Many of you are looking for relief and the ability to get back to your favorite activities. Here’s what I learned.
In order to relieve pain a protocol of self-massage, stretching and strengthening exercises are recommended.
Self Massage (also called Myofascial Release)
This is important to soften the tissue to help make them more pliable. Think of it as working out the kinks. The tender spots on your calves, thighs or tush. When the tissue is worked in this manner, it makes stretching the muscles much easier. This kind of self massage involves rolling a golf ball, tennis ball, or foam roller across tight spots of the body or laying the item on the floor and placing your body on top of it to get at the tender spots.
(I would like to give a huge Shout-Out to this. I’ve been doing this for the past 3 days -twice daily – and while it’s not pleasant it has been helping greatly with some tight areas).
Isolated stretches (working one body part at a time) are recommended at first to help get a greater range of motion. Isolated stretches should then be replaced with integrated stretches (incorporating an opposing muscle group). There are foot and leg specific exercises that upon waking can be done to help with morning movement.
Build strength in the legs, glutes, chest, back and shoulders as well as developing core strength will help.
The toe box should be wide to allow movement of the toes. Do not pick shoes that pinch. Also, the heel profile should be low. Many running shoes have built up heels that can be problematic for those with plantar fasciitis.
Freeze a water bottle and upon waking gently roll the water bottle on the bottom of your feet, from heel to toes. Don’t press too hard – you don’t want to further aggravate the area.
What about orthotics? The argument is that temporary use is ok but that long-term use should be avoided or else the it can serve to weaken the underlying structures of the feet.
To run or not? If you experience significant pain during or after running or any activity it’s best to rest and find an activity that doesn’t aggravate the situation.
There is so much great information on this topic that I couldn’t include it all. If you would like a copy of the exercises, massages or stretches that are recommended please contact me.
As a reminder, I’m not a doctor or physical therapist. If you have symptoms that lead you to believe you have plantar fasciitis, it’s best to make an appointment with a doctor to confirm and rule out any other problems and/or discuss treatment options.
Contact me if you need more information.
Now go run!