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Without a doubt, one of the most frustrating injuries I have ever had has been running with Plantar Fasciitis. It is one of those horrible niggling injuries that seem to appear from nowhere and take forever to heal. It’s not an uncommon condition at all and today I want to discuss if it is ok to keep running with plantar fasciitis.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar Fasciitis is a Latin name meaning Inflammation of the Plantar Fascia which generally results in heel pain and sometimes pain in the arch of the foot. The pain is generally felt when you get out of bed in the morning or have been seated for extended periods then start to walk.
The Plantar Fascia is a thick band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes. This can probably be best described as a shock absorber for the arch of your foot. With excessive tension and stress, this can cause small tears in the fascia which in turn can cause the inflammation. In more severe cases the pain does not go away once you have started to walk – this was certainly the case for me.
Plantar Fasciitis is more common in individuals who are either:
- Commonly between the ages of 40 – 60
- Poor Footwear (more on that shortly)
- Over-Pronation (inward rolling of the foot causing stress on the foot arch)
The video below shows a great explanation of plantar fasciitis and is worth a look.
How Did I Get Plantar Fasciitis
To be completely honest, I fell into a number of the categories outlined above which probably had some bearing on the onset of the condition for me.
I am between the age of 40 – 60, so I fit into a more common age group, although I’m not convinced this was actually the reason for the condition.
My sports therapist checked me over and said that I had become a little flat-footed which was probably one of the reasons I was feeling the pain. I had got myself into this situation due to some poor choices of footwear. I was doing so many types of running from the road to the trail that I was buying lots of shoes. Ultimately I think it was the ones with no arch support that was my undoing.
I’m not overweight and on the last running analysis, I had I don’t over-pronate and have a good running style.
As my choice of footwear was one of the reasons for my injury I would like to talk in a little more detail on this.
Footwear and Plantar Fasciitis
I had shoes for the road, shoes for the trail, shoes that were neutral, zero-drop etc. I was wearing so many other shoes that had different heel to toe drop ranging from 12mm to 0mm. I guess my feet were being used in a totally different position every time I put a different pair of shoes on.
Personally, I love the zero-drop shoes by Altra. They have a nice wide area for your toes to move around, they are zero-drop and they generally have great cushioning too. If I had stuck with these all along I’m sure I would have been ok.
Unfortunately, I chose to use a few pairs of a minimalist type of running shoes as well, with very poor cushioning and support. Now don’t get me wrong, this style of shoe works for many people, but they didn’t do it for me on varied terrains over long distances.
So, it’s very important to choose the right shoe whenever you are planning to start doing some extra fitness activity.
The Frustration of Plantar Fasciitis
The injury may not begin the same way with everyone the way it did with me, but it came as a bit of a surprise when it did. Leading up to the day it happened I had only been doing some very light training runs and a bit of work in the gym on the rowing machine.
On this particular day I was out on a steady 10-mail training run on the trails when I started to feel a bit of pain in my foot at around 3 miles in. I didn’t think too much about it to start with until the pain moved from my heel to the arch of my right foot to the point I had to stop running at around 6 miles.
I remember it well because it was pouring with rain. The winds were high, I was bloody freezing and I was walking over hills in a very open environment. Every time I tried to run I would get about 20 yards and have to stop because of the discomfort.
I thought it was just a strain and it would resolve itself quickly – how wrong I was.
So, at the beginning or March 2019, I decided that I needed to take matters into my own hands and get myself fit again.
Self Healing Plantar Fasciitis
It’s safe to say I have never been a big believer in medication when I don’t feel well. Of course, medication works for some, but I have always felt that the body is amazing at healing itself – which of course it is.
I got to the point with Plantar Fasciitis that I was advised that I should arrange a Cortisone Injection. Now, I know that Cortisone Injections are popular and common but I had a different view on it.
I know that too many injections can cause issues, but more to the point I always worry that with the pain being taken away, I would carry on as normal. I am a firm believer that I could be doing myself further damage by not feeling the pain, as pain is the one thing that tells you that something isn’t quite right and needs to be resolved.
I hope that made sense? Anyhow, I decided not to have the injection and try and resolve things as naturally as possible.
Diet and Nutrition
As I am someone who follows the Plant-Based Diet it’s safe to say that I also believe in the healing power of food. Now there are a number of foods to add to your diet that acts as anti-inflammatory’s. These are my medication and whenever you have an injury it’s worth considering to power of the following foods:
- Broccoli – contains sulforaphane, an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects.
- Avocados – One of the superfoods in my opinion. Full of Potassium, Magnesium and monounsaturated fats.
- Green Tea – Contains epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). An anti-inflammatory.
- Turmeric – An amazing spice contains a nutrient called Curcumin which is a powerful anti-inflammatory.
- Dark Chocolate – My favourite. Contains antioxidants called Flavanols which have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Tomatoes – contain Lycopene which may reduce inflammation.
- Peppers – Bell and Chilli peppers contain sinapic acid, quercetin and ferulic acid which are antioxidants with powerful anti-inflammatory effect.
As you can see, these are not the most difficult foods to incorporate into your diet, are they? I’m not one of those people that say ‘you should eat this’ or’ you should eat that,’ but I think it’s absolutely worth just reading up on the benefits of a Plant-Based Diet so you can see the power of food and what it can do for us all.
If you see any medical professional about Plantar Fasciitis they will tell you to do stretching. However, as I have learnt, it’s not all about stretches within the area of pain.
The first thing I started to do was use a tennis ball, or small roller to start doing some deep tissue massage into the Plantar Fascia area. The reason for this is that it stimulates blood flow around the area which in turn starts the healing process and also helps to break up the scar tissue that restricts movement and causes the pain.
Next was the standard stretching of the calves and foot area. Lean against a wall, one foot back, one foot forward and bend the knee of the front leg to stretch out the rear calf and foot. You can also stand on the stairs with your heel off the back, then lower and raise to help strengthen the foot area.
These are all fairly standard and I’m sure they are ok, but they won’t resolve the whole issue.
There are 2 stretches/exercises I implemented that I believe made all the difference. The first is the wall stretch as outlined above, only this time you cross the front leg over the rear to change the angle of the foot.
Please watch the video below, because this was a game-changer for me and it’s so bloody simple.
One other thing that I learnt over a year ago when I had a different injury is that having weak Glutes (Butt Muscles) can be the cause of so many other injuries. From Plantar Fasciitis to Calf strains, to knee issues, to hip issues, can all be attributed to weak Glutes.
I had an issue last year where I was getting terrible knee and hip pain about 5 miles into my runs. I started seeing a Sports Therapist who said to me that I needed to seriously strengthen my glutes to clear up these injuries.
My body was overcompensating in other areas which eventually caused the injuries. Within a week of starting the glute strengthening exercises my knee and hip pain had cleared up.
So I incorporated the same regime to try and help with the Plantar Fasciitis – although I should never have stopped in the first place.
You can check out the video below which shows some excellent Glute strengthening exercises for you to try.
Other Fixes I Found Worked for Me
There were 2 other things I incorporated to help try and fix my issues and get me back to running again. I have stopped mixing up my running shoes. I’m sticking with as close to zero-drop shoes as possible with plenty of cushioning for both trail and road.
My shoes of choice are both made by the same manufacturer. They are the Altra Lone Peak – this shoe got me through my 86 mile Ultra Marathon 2 years ago.
Also, I use the Altra Torin’s for road running which are very comfortable and I sometimes wear my Inov-8 Ultratrail shoes.
The only other thing I have done is buy a pair of decent inserts for my work shoes so I have better arch support and cushioning.
I’m not a doctor and I don’t work within the medical profession. However, what I can say is that I implemented what I have outlined in this post at the beginning of March 2019 after 3 months of pain and frustration with Plantar Fasciitis.
I was advised to go and have a cortisone injection which I decided not to do. So I ensured I was incorporating as many anti-inflammatory foods into my diet as I could. Then I incorporated some deep tissue massage with a ball and a roller and began doing some of the stretches outlined above and ensured I did my Glute strengthening exercises.
I standardised my running shoes to keep the same heel to toe drop that suited me and have maximum support and cushioning.
Then I purchased some insoles to add comfort to my awful work shoes.
4 weeks later I was back to running full-time training for a 50k trail race. Of course, at this point, I should point out that everyone is different and we all heal in many ways. Always consult your doctor before undertaking any form of exercise if you have any concerns.
I hope this post helped you understand how you could treat plantar fasciitis yourself if you do suffer, and I hope this post might go some way to helping with your recovery.
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