Helen Jenkins in run training
Helen Jenkins in run training
Training > Injuries

Explained: plantar fasciitis

We look at the causes, symptoms and cure for this common runner’s injury, which starts out as pain around the heel and can quickly lead to an acute tear or rupture if ignored

Plantar fasciitis is the medical term for the thickening and alteration in the structure of the plantar fascia.

The plantar is a thick band of flexible but tough tissue that runs under the sole of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the smaller bone of the foot.

The plantar fascia has two main functions: during walking in the ‘heel raise to toe-off’ phase, the plantar fascia assists in stabilising the arch of the foot; and it also acts as a shock absorber when the foot hits and makes contact with the ground.

Symptoms

The main symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain around the heel that you can feel when standing, walking and running. This is often worse first thing in the morning. Inflammation or injury of the plantar fascia can occur suddenly with an acute tear or rupture, or can happen over several months where small micro-tears develop in the structure, causing thickening and a decrease in its ability to absorb and transfer load.

Causes

- Poor lower limb and foot biomechanics
- Poor lower limb and foot strength and conditioning
- A change or alteration in footwear, wearing ill-fitting or the wrong type of shoe for your foot
- Changes in training, such as increased volume or speed work, or running when fatigued
- Changes in running terrain
- Tightness in the calf and Achilles complex

Prevention and cure

Each person will have a specific combination of factors leading to plantar fasciitis. The most important thing is to have the condition properly diagnosed and treated. Part of this will involve the therapist assessing your foot and function of your lower limb to look at what factors need alteration.  

Initially it will be important to offload the fascia and stop the aggravating activity, to give the structure a chance to recover. There are lots of treatments available, stretch and strengthening programmes, as well as deep soft tissue and joint mobilisation work. 

Orthotics and foot supports, looking at what trainers best suit your foot type and a gradual return to training will need to be discussed with your coach. Make sure that the foot is strong enough to cope with the volume and speed at which you need to run.

Have you struggled with plantar fasciitis? Let us know in the comments below


 
 

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Ginger Triathlete

I have suffered with Plantar Faciitis intermittently for the last 5 years. Prior to taking up triathlon this year, I was a club level (just below county) squash player and my plantar faciitis was worse during this time. Since taking up triathlon, it has flared up once - I'm suffering with it now, but I know the reason why. Tight calves after cramping up coming off the bike in my last tri. Ice massage and having a sports masseur sticking his elbow into the sole of your foot seems to help! I swear by it!

davidbibby

I tried lots of remedies for PF (ice, rolling feet on golf ball, stretching feet etc) and nothing worked. Someone suggested that it could be caused by tight calves and as soon as I used a trigger point grid roller on my calves and stretched them, it disappeared. The PF flares up now and again but always goes when I use the roller.

Sue 23

I bought a pair of 'Orthaheel's from Boots which I now wear all the time for walking and running. Almost instant cure and it hasn't come back!

wilkiexp

I had PF quite badly a few years ago, and my therapist suggesting wearing a light rubber boot at night, to keep my foot at 90 degrees while sleeping so that the tendon didn't stretch more. I also practiced Danny Dreyer's 'Chi Running' technique, in which you run leaning forward and planting mid-foot. One of the two treatments, or both, worked so well that 3 weeks later I did the tough 12-day Annapurna Circuit in Nepal without pain or problems, and a week after getting back did an OD in respectable time (for me!) Brian Wilkie, Dubai

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