Increasing your physical activity level is a common recommendation doctors are used to give, and running is one of the easiest activities we can undertake as a cardiovascular exercise. But as simple as it may be, running has its own techniques and equipment, and many patients experience heel pain or aggravate their symptoms when they go out for a jog. One of the most common causes of heel pain when running is plantar fasciitis, which will be our primary focus, but there are many other causes we will also cover in this article.
What you need to know about Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is one of the leading causes of recurrent heel pain. The plantar fascia is a deep structure in the foot’s sole. It looks like a flat band of web-like tissue, and it is a very thick and robust ligament that connects the heel bone (calcaneus) to the toes. It is an essential part of the arch of your feet because it prevents the appearance of flat foot. As thick and resistance as it is supposed to be, the plantar fascia may also become inflamed and suffer microtrauma and tears, and that is when plantar fasciitis ensues.
Plantar fasciitis is often the result of continuous traction and compression of the plantar fascia, and it is usually associated with impact sports that involve running or an incorrect running technique. You can have plantar fasciitis for structural reasons as well. For example, some people tend to roll their feet inwards when walking or running, others suffer from flat foot, and still, others have a tight Achilles tendon that would create extra pressure on the plantar fascia when running. Overweight people, overtraining, and wearing the wrong pair of shoes for an intense running session might also cause plantar fasciitis.
All of these scenarios have one thing in common: they create microscopic tears to the plantar fascia, and when this problem is sustained over a long period of time, the tissue becomes inflamed and stars swelling.
The most noticeable symptom of plantar fasciitis is heel pain, and it is a type of heel pain that usually feels worse in the morning just after getting out of bed and taking your first steps. Climbing stairs, standing for a long time and similar activities may also increase your pain.
Should I keep on running with plantar fasciitis?
In runners, plantar fasciitis is often the result of overtraining, especially when people fail to perform stretching movements and appropriate warming up before a moderate to intense running session. It is especially severe when running uphill, and practicing speed running. However, plantar fasciitis may also appear in people who are just beginners starting to run.
Experienced runners are very likely to experience heel pain and plantar fasciitis due to overtraining, incorrect equipment and incorrect stretching and warming up protocol. During intense bouts of pain, they are encouraged to take a break from their running activities and perform a series of stretching and rehabilitation techniques to regain strength and flexibility and be back on the road after the symptoms improve. Returning to run should be performed slowly with light walking and jogging activities for a short period of time and giving special attention to a correct warm-up and stretching routine.
There’s a different approach for those who have just recently begun their running activities and start feeling heel pain with the characteristics we have described above. These are not likely caused by the running activity itself, and it is often not severe. Therefore, it is usually fine to maintain a light running or walking activity one or two times a week at most. It is important to give yourself enough rest before going out for another running session, and the intensity of the exercise should be more of a jog than an actual run. Also, check out the shoes you’re wearing because often beginners would start having heel pain because they have not yet chosen an appropriate pair of shoes.
A short piece of advice for running with Plantar Fasciitis
We have already talked about the importance of warming up and stretching, and there’s a common misunderstanding about these two activities. People usually think warming up and stretching are the same thing but they are not. Stretching is about performing flexion and extension exercises covering the full range of movement for each articulation. Instead, warming up is an active exercise designed to increase your heart rate and the blood flow in the muscles and articulations you’re about to use.
To improve plantar fasciitis when running, it is important to perform both stretching and warming up. Stretch your calves and toes thoroughly, perform a series of calf raises, ankle circles, plantar flexion, and ankle flexion. These exercises should be done throughout the day and not only before an exercise session. Conversely, warming up should be performed just before starting to walk, jog or run. You can complete a series of squats, lunges, and any other active movement that activates the muscles you’re about to work out.
Another thing that might improve your plantar fasciitis after a running session is applying ice to your feet and before going to bed. If you decide to resume your activity with a mild or moderate running session, always listen to your body and do not try to endure pain. Act accordingly to your symptoms and remember you’re not supposed to feel any pain at all. But what can you do if you have heel pain after running but its not diagnosed Plantar Fasciitis?
Cornwall, M. W., & McPoil, T. G. (1999). Plantar fasciitis: etiology and treatment. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 29(12), 756-760.