Plantar fasciitis is a common injury among runners, and one that can increase in intensity so much that running becomes extremely painful. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that supports the arch of the foot. When your foot is on the ground when running, this tissue stretches, sometimes beyond its limits. After repetitive impact and excessive stretching during a run, the plantar fascia has small tears and can become inflamed and swollen – causing pain in the heel or arch of the foot.
Considering that runners subject themselves to loads up to 2.5 times their body during every stride, and may take up to 1000 steps per mile, it’s not surprising that the feet might protest eventually. Runners who underpronate or overpronate can be more likely to suffer plantar fasciitis due to the added stress of each foot strike.
While no methods are entirely foolproof, here’s how runners can prevent plantar fasciitis.
How Runners Can Prevent Plantar Fasciitis
- Get good shoes – The best way to buy running shoes is at a specialty running store, where trained staff can evaluate your feet, potentially conduct a gait analysis, and recommend specific options that best meet your needs. Don’t buy shoes online where you can’t try them on first. Good arch support is important to helping prevent plantar fasciitis. You can add over-the-counter inserts into shoes to provide greater arch support.
Also, be sure to rotate at least two pairs of shoes if you run regularly so you can give one pair an opportunity to air out and overcome compression in the rubber soles. And replace shoes every 350-500 miles to benefit from maximum support and shock absorption.
- Manage impact – When possible, run on soft surfaces, like grass, tracks, turf, sand and even cushioned treadmills to help limit the ongoing jarring stress to the muscles, bones and joints. If you can’t do this for your entire run, try to incorporate sections of running on more forgiving surfaces. The Octane Fitness Zero Runner is an ideal tool, as it replicates true running strides but eliminates the high impact that can cause fatigue, compromise form and lead to injuries.
- Warm up and take short strides – It may be tempting to skip a warm-up, but it’s better for your body to start with some low-impact activity and even some stretches before pounding the pavement. Also, don’t overstride, which maximally stretches the plantar fascia. Shorter strides reduce strain and trauma.
- Stretch and exercise regularly – It’s important to stretch muscles in the calves and strengthen the arches to help prevent plantar fasciitis. Don’t bounce or pulse, and aim to hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds.
- While seated or standing, place a small towel on the floor, grab the towel with your toes and pull it toward you by repeatedly bending and extending the toes. Then push it back to the start position.
- While sitting, cross one leg over the other, grasp your toes and gently pull them back until you feel a stretch in the arch of your foot.
- Stand facing a wall, with your one leg forward and one back. With your hands on the wall, straighten the back leg and press the heel down. Tuck your pelvis under until you feel a stretch in your calf on the back leg. Switch legs and repeat.
- Standing with feet together and hands on hips, raise heels and lift up on the balls of your feet. Hold for a few seconds, lower and repeat. To add a calf stretch, do this move on a step, and when lowering, let the heels hang off the edge of the ste