Do you feel pain at the bottom of your heel? If you’re a runner or an athlete, then the most likely cause is plantar fasciitis (pronounced as fashee-EYE-tiss). It’s the most common cause of heel pain, and about 2 million patients are treated with this condition every year. That’s quite a lot of people searching for a runner’s cure for plantar fasciitis, don’t you think?
It affects a lot of middle-aged individuals, but it also occurs among the young especially when they’re on their feet for most of the day. It affects many soldiers, and many in the service industry like bell hops, waiters, and waitresses are afflicted by this condition. It’s also becoming more prevalent among the general population because it is a common injury for the obese, and obesity rates these days are horrific.
The symptoms of Plantar fasciitis can vary from person to person, and you need a to see a doctor so a proper diagnosis can be made. But usually, it starts with a feeling of thickness right under your heel. It’s not quite painful yet, but it feels like you have a lump in the heel of your sock.
At first, your heel may feel tender when you get up from the bed in the morning or when you get up from your office chair, but the feeling may go away on its own after you start moving around. But if you don’t start treatment right away, it can get worse.
After a while, the tenderness will linger. Every time you take a step it feels like you have needles pricking the skin at the bottom of your heel. Eventually, it will hurt throughout the day even when you’re not standing.
Preventing the Condition
Your best option then is to prevent plantar fasciitis from occurring in the first place. Although there’s no clear cause that has been identified as of yet, there are certain factors that have been known to trigger it:
- First of all, you really need to make sure you take care of your feet conscientiously. That means using shoes with good support. Your shoes should have cushioning for your arches and your heels.
You should have some supportive shoes you can wear for the whole day. As soon as you wake up, wear them right away. Wearing thin slippers and going barefoot can stress your feet and that can lead to plantar fasciitis.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a risk factor, and that’s because you use your feet to support all that weight during the day. By reducing your weight to a manageable range, you relieve your feet from supporting the extra pounds.
- The condition also becomes more likely when you have tight calf and ankle muscles. That means you need to stretch your feet properly, with emphasis on the Achilles tendon and calf. Your doctor can recommend some stretching activities for you, or you can do some online research.
- You also can’t introduce sudden changes to your routine, and that especially applies to your workout regimen. You have to increase your exercise levels gradually to less than 10 percent per week. What that means is if you’re running 4 miles a day, you don’t just jump to running 8 miles a day right away. Keep it to 4.4 miles at the most for at least a week, and then increase it again by 10 percent the next week.
- Try to run on softer surfaces, like running fields and paths instead of asphalt or cement roads.
- When you run, let your body lead and don’t propel yourself with your legs.
- Keep to flat surfaces for as much as you can. Avoid hills and other uneven tracks. Use the elevator instead of the stairs.
- Rest your feet as much as you can as well. Every now and then, get a really deep foot massage from a pro. If you have to be on your feet, you should stand on a thick rubber mat to reduce the stress.
Treating Plantar Fasciitis at Home
If you think you have plantar fasciitis, it’s always a good idea to see a doctor so you’ll know what to do. After all, you can’t really be sure it’s plantar fasciitis at all. But if the diagnosis is confirmed, many of your treatment options can be done at home. This is why many people start treatments on their own. Seeing a doctor isn’t absolutely necessary for the condition, but you should see a doctor (preferably a sports podiatrist) who’s experienced in treating plantar fasciitis for runners if the pain doesn’t go away.
So what do you need to do? Here are some treatment methods doctors usually recommend:
- If you’re experiencing pain under your heel (or in any part of your foot for that matter), you have to slowdown or decrease the activities that may aggravate the pain. Your foot needs to rest. You may even have to give those up, especially if those activities involve pound your feet repeatedly on hard surfaces. One common plantar fasciitis treatment for joggers is to switch to jogging on a proper jogging path or field instead of running on asphalt roads.
- You should also try rolling your feet over a bottle of ice or very cold water for about 20 minutes 3 or 4 times a day. You can also ice your heel, and this can reduce the inflammation. It may also help to try contrast baths which alternate hot and cold water, and these should always end up a soak in cold water. If using ice doesn’t cause any improvement, you can then try out a heating pad set on low.
- Try to massage your feet too. You can do this yourself by rolling a golf ball under your foot, although if you have the budget for it you can treat yourself to foot massages regularly.
- The calf stretch and the plantar fascia stretch may be good prevention methods, but they also work to alleviate the problem. Don’t forget to do these before you work out, and you can also try them out even if you’re not an athlete.
- One treatment for healing pain in runners is to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that are meant to reduce pain and inflammation. Ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) is always a good choice, and you can try naproxen (Aleve) too. These medications may be in pill form, while they can also come in a cream which you can rub all over the sore areas. Just be safe, and read and follow all the label instructions. Don’t use these medicines for more than a month with consulting a doctor first.
- You also need the right plantar fasciitis shoes for runners. You should look for shoes with thick soles and proper arch support. You also need extra cushioning, as this feature reduces the tension and minimizes the occurrence of micro trauma, which refers to tiny tears in the tissues.
If you run a lot (4-5x a week), replace your shoes every 3 months. Or you can also use cushioned inserts like soft silicone heel pads. These are quite affordable, and you can use them for all your shoes. You can even tape your feet into a specific position, although at first you’ll need an expert to show you how.
With these simple treatments, more than 90%of patients with plantar fasciitis will notice a significant improvement within a few months. Some of these treatments also offer improvements in just 6 weeks.
Other Specialized Treatment Options
You still have other methods to try out if none of the above helps. Some of these methods will need a doctor’s assistance, although they are nonsurgical and non-invasive.
- A night splint is one option, especially if you’re one of the many people who sleep with their feet pointed down. The problem with this position is that it relaxes your plantar fascia, so it causes heel pain in the morning. This brace keeps your toes pointed up when you sleep. You’ll need a doctor to help adjust it to the proper angle, and at first it can be a bit uncomfortable when you sleep.
You can use this method combined with other plantar fasciitis treatments. But you can gradually reduce how often you use it when your symptoms disappear.
- Your doctor can also administer cortisone injections, which can be injected into the plantar fascia to reduce the inflammation and pain. But your doctor will have to limit its use, because too many injections of this powerful medication can tear the plantar fascia leading to chronic pain and a flat foot.
- A specialist physical therapist can also help. Your physical therapy can combine many of the options we have already discussed.
- You can also try extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT), which is a nonsurgical procedure that involves using high-energy shockwave impulses to improve the healing process.
If after a year of treatment your condition doesn’t show any significant improvements, surgery may be your only option left. Surgical procedures include gastrocnemius recession and plantar fascia release. They can be expensive and can result in complications.