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Plantar fasciitis: causes and relief

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The plantar fascia ligament runs like a rubber band along the bottom of the foot.

A real pain in the heel
The bottoms of runners' feet bear the weight of the bodies they carry and get pounded onto the pavement with every step. At an average of 1,500 steps per mile, it's no wonder plantar fasciitis is common among runners. The condition refers to tearing and inflammation of the plantar fascia, a ligament that runs like a fibrous rubber band along the bottom of the foot. The ligament stretches and contracts with every movement, so factors such as excessive activity or increased weight can result in tearing.

Pain is often described as a burning or stabbing ache in the heel and may be worst in the morning as the ligament tighten during sleep. Sufferers often hobble after prolonged periods of inactivity.

 
 

Relief from heel pain
The following suggestions can alleviate pain and discomfort:
- Run on soft (or in the case of Jersey City runners, softer) surfaces 
- Keep weekly mileage increases to less than 10 percent
- Wear sneakers appropriate to your foot and gait (and don't run in worn out shoes: the rule of thumb is to replace shoes every 300 to 400 miles)
- When not running, wear wit proper heel and arch support (say bye-bye to commuting in flip flops)
- Roll a golf ball under the foot to provide a nice massage; roll a frozen water bottle or soda can under the foot to ice inflammation
- Consult a sports podiatrist if pain persists for more than three weeks (Dr. Google doesn't count and there are specialists to be found in Jersey City)


Stretch #1 / photo: N. Mendez-Booth

Regularly performing the stretches pictured at the right can also help alleviate pain and support recovery.

Stretch #1
Lean into a wall or other support as when performing a calf stretch. Keep the back leg straight with heel on the floor and toes pointed slightly outward. Lean into the wall or support until a stretch is felt in the calf of the extended leg -- the plantar fascia of the foot of the extended leg will also experience a stretch.

Hold 45 seconds and repeat five times on each side.



Stretch #2 / photo: N. Mendez-Booth

Stretch #2
Stand with the balls of both feet on the edge of a step or other elevated surface. Let the heel of one foot drop and reach toward the step or ground below until a stretch is felt in the calf and sole of that leg.

Hold 45 seconds and repeat five times on each side.

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