Preventing & Treating Plantar Fasciitis in Runners
Plantar fasciitis is a painful foot condition. It causes stabbing pain in the bottom of the foot, which is the result of inflammation of the thick band of tissue that supports the arch of the foot (plantar fascia). It is one of the most common causes of heel pain. Unfortunately, it affects a large portion of the running community. This is because it’s most frequently experienced in those who engage in sports that place a lot of stress on their feet.
As a local marathon runner and triathlete himself, Dr. Jeffrey McAlister understands the importance of taking steps to treat plantar fasciitis and treat it when it occurs.
Tips for Preventing Plantar Fasciitis in Runners
Here’s a list of a few tips that may help you prevent plantar fasciitis:
- Run on soft surfaces: Running on softer, flatter surface puts less strain on the feet and plantar fascia.
- Run shorter distances: Longer runs place more stress on the plantar fascia. Try shortening your run to take some of that stress off.
- Stretch your plantar fascia: Specific stretches may prevent and reduce plantar fasciitis. One specific stretch you may use is to sit with one of your legs crossed over the other, and using your hands, pull your toes backward toward your body. This will stretch the arch of your foot or plantar fascia. Hold each stretch for 10 seconds, and repeat this process 10 times. Be sure to do these stretches first thing in the morning and before standing for a long duration.
- Stretch your calves and Achilles tendons: It’s important to keep your calves and Achilles tendons loose. Tightness in these tendons can pull on and cause pain in the plantar fascia, which may stress the tissue and weaken where these tendons attach to the bone. One effective stretch that may work to stretch these tendons is a simple heel drop. To do this stretch, stand on a step and let your heels drop down below the step until you feel a stretch.
- Do calve raises: To further strengthen your calves and Achilles tendons, try calf raise exercises. Simply, stand on a flat surface and raise the balls of your feet and then lower back down.
- Trying doing toe curls: For this exercise, sit down and place your heels firmly on the ground. While keeping your heels on the ground, use your toes to pick up the towel. This will strengthen your arch.
Treatment Options for Plantar Fasciitis
Although certain exercises, like the ones previously mentioned, may prevent plantar fasciitis, they often don’t work to alleviate the pain fast enough. Therefore, once the pain starts to occur, oftentimes other conservative or surgical treatment options are needed.
Conservative Treatment Options for Plantar Fasciitis
- Anti-inflammatory medications: Medications like ibuprofen and aspirin may work to reduce both the pain and swelling associated with plantar fasciitis.
- Regenerative medicine: Platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP) and regenerative amniotic therapy are breakthroughs in medicine that are minimally invasive and leverage the body’s own capacity for healing. These therapies can be very valuable in treating plantar fasciitis.
- Shockwave therapy: Uses soundwaves to naturally stimulate blood flow and tissue healing, often leading to a faster recovery.
- Steroid injections: Creates longer lasting pain and inflammation relief compared to oral anti-inflammatory medications. Relief may last one month or longer.
- Physical therapy (PT): Learning and performing certain exercises at PT sessions may work to alleviate or resolve plantar fasciitis pain. These exercises may strengthen your plantar fascia, Achilles tendons and lower legs muscles.
Surgical Treatment Options for Plantar Fasciitis
Surgery is a last resort for patients whose plantar fasciitis has not responded well to other conservative treatment options. The procedure used to correct plantar fasciitis is called a “plantar fascia release.” This procedure involves detaching the plantar fasciitis from the heel bone.
Only a board-certified foot and ankle surgeon like Dr. McAlister may determine if surgery is an appropriate treatment option for a patient. There are often many conservative treatment options available prior to surgery.
Dr. Jeffrey McAlister is experienced in the treatment of several foot and ankle conditions, like plantar fasciitis. If you’re considering treatment, please contact our office at (602) 955-5700 to schedule an appointment.