If you run long distances regularly, you know it can be rough on your body. With each stride, your legs absorb an impact equal to as much as three times your body weight. Running on asphalt or concrete adds to the stress, which may increase your chance of developing a painful foot condition called plantar fasciitis.
Characterized by a stabbing pain on the bottom of the heel, plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia — a band of tissue that extends along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the toes — becomes inflamed. One of the causes of plantar fasciitis is overuse, which means that long-distance runners run a greater risk of developing it.
Signs of plantar fasciitis
Unlike other foot and ankle injuries, plantar fasciitis pain often comes and goes. As the body warms up, the pain subsides. One way to unscientifically determine if plantar fasciitis might be the cause of your foot pain is to note how your feet feel in the morning. If those first few steps after getting out of bed are a little painful on a consistent basis, then you might have the condition. Massaging the ligament along the bottom of your foot can help decrease inflammation and alleviate the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. One trick I use is to roll a frozen water bottle along the bottom of my foot.
Avoiding plantar fasciitis
Running on softer surfaces like grass or trails lessens the impact on your feet and joints as the ground absorbs some of the force. Supportive running shoes that help cushion the feet and limiting mileage increases to no more than 10 percent per week, also can help. Be sure you thoroughly stretch your legs, calves and ankles before and after each run.
Pain is your body’s way of asking you to slow down so listen to it. If the pain persists more than three weeks, see a doctor. You may benefit from physical therapy or the use of anti-inflammatory medications.
Rhonda Zonoozi is an avid runner who likes running half marathons. When she’s not on the run, she’s working as an exercise physiologist and a certified health coach at the Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing.