Heel pain is the most common musculoskeletal problem seen by podiatrists in runners. The most common cause of that heel pain is a condition known as plantar fasciitis. The problem with it being so common is that everyone is an expert on it and everyone has there own magic cure for it that they thing everyone should use. There is no shortage of advice for runners on how they should treat plantar fasciitis in social media, in eBooks, on YouTube and on forums. Every time you see a runner ask how to get rid of plantar fasciitis you get plenty of advice of what worked for them, therefore you should try it. However, for each recommendation of a particular treatment that gets given, there is another runner says that it did not work for them. Many of the treatments that you see recommended can not possibly work, but those runners swear by it.
So what exactly is plantar fasciitis? The plantar fascia is a very strong ligament that runs across the bottom of the foot connecting the heel bone to the ball of the foot. From the location of this ligament it should be obvious that its role or function is to support the arch of the foot. This means that anything that puts too much pressure on the arch of the foot is going to predispose the plantar fascia to injury. The factors that increase that load include the amount of running you do, your body weight and how tight the calf muscles are. They all put pressure on the arch of the foot and put increased strain on the plantar fascia.
The classic symptoms of plantar fasciitis is pain under the heel and first few steps pain when getting up from rest, especially out of bed in the morning. If you have that, then there is a pretty good chance that you have plantar fasciitis. Other conditions can cause similar symptoms, but are much less common.
How should plantar fasciitis be treated? The best way to reduce the load in the plantar fascia. You do that by reducing your running volume down to a level that can be tolerated. You stretch the calf muscles to reduce there impact on stressing the arch of the foot. And you use foot supports to hold up the arch so that the ligament does not have to work so hard. That’s it. Once it starts to improve, you then gradually and slowly increase the running distances and intensity.
There are many other treatments advocated for plantar fasciitis. A lot of them do help, but they help by reducing the pain and inflammation, which can be important. However, the key is to reduce the load by the methods mentioned above.