Your Health Questions Answered

How Can Runners Avoid Plantar Fasciitis?

A Fit2Run manager explains this pesky injury of and offers tips for how runners can heal it.

By Allison Forsyth February 2, 2022

Image: Gigi Ortwein

If you're an avid runner, you're no stranger to the heel and foot injury called plantar fasciitis, which involves the muscles at the bottom of the foot. When they're pulled and strained, it can cause shooting pain up the back of the leg, keeping you from running at your optimum level.

While there are all kinds of treatments for plantar fasciitis, including physical therapy, steroid injections and rest, prevention is key. This means finding the right-fitting running shoes and inserts.

Fit2Run downtown Sarasota manager Josh Lancaster shares his knowledge on plantar fasciitis with us, and how runners can get back into tip-top shape.

What is plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is the medical term for heel pain, according to the Mayo Clinic. It involves the inflammation of the band of tissue at the bottom of your foot connecting your heel bone to your toes. The pain of this injury is most commonly felt first thing in the morning, while taking your first steps of the day. Pain may come and go throughout the day depending on activity level.

What are the risk factors?

Having a high arch or flat feet can cause heel pain and other complications. The injury is most common for walkers, runners and dancers, or those who work on their feet. It can be diagnosed by a primary care or orthopedic doctor, and you can request an X-ray of the foot. Recovery takes anywhere from three to six months depending on your case.

What can runners do to prevent it?

"The best thing you can do is have properly fitted orthotics in your shoes, to cradle the tendons on the bottom of the foot," says Lancaster. "For shoes, find something with a healthy amount of structure."

Lancaster says a popular choice to prevent plantar fasciitis is the HOKA Bondi running shoe because of its thickness and structure.

What can runners do to treat it?

"If you already have a progressed case, our stores sell things like massage rollers and compression socks," says Lancaster. "The massage rollers are like tennis balls with spikes on them. You roll them against the bottom of your foot to release tension. The compression socks are worn to relieve pressure."

You can also seek guidance from a physical therapist for a treatment plan. They can give you stretching and exercise routines to show you how to properly tape your foot to support the injured muscles.

Other treatments include steroid injections or extracorporeal shock wave therapy, which involves sending vibrations to the areas of pain. Talk with your doctor about these treatment options.

When can you start running again?

Healing depends on the runner, but plantar fasciitis takes a standard of three to six months to heal. In the meantime, low impact walking, three times per week for at least 30 minutes, can be beneficial.

Lancaster says apply the 10 percent rule: don't do anything more than 10 percent compared to the previous walk or run you completed. Instead, slowly build up.

Also, apply ice for 15 minutes three times per day between running or walking sessions and take anti-inflammatory medication like aspirin or ibuprofen as needed after exercise.

Finally, "replace those old running shoes when you are returning to exercise," says Lancaster.

Fit2Run stores are located at 140 University Town Center Dr., Sarasota; 1400 Main St., Sarasota; 4951 Cortez Rd. W., Bradenton.

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