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How Common Is Plantar Fasciitis in Runners?

How Common Is Plantar Fasciitis in Runners?

Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most common injuries among regular runners. It happens so often that there are estimates suggesting that up to 10% of all running injuries are related to this condition. 

It occurs when the thick band of tissue connecting your heel bone to the toes becomes inflamed and painful due to overuse or strain. Symptoms include sharp pain in the bottom of your foot near your heel and stiffness and tenderness in the arch area. 

While it can be a nuisance for any runner, there are ways you can manage plantar fasciitis so you can continue doing what you love without having to worry about long-term damage or chronic pain.

Defining Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a common condition caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia. It’s a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the toes.

 It’s caused by over-stretching or straining this tissue due to excessive running on hard surfaces or wearing improper shoes for running. It’s also more common in people with flat feet, who are overweight, and those who suddenly increase their activity level without properly stretching.

The Stats of Plantar Fasciitis in Runners

Studies estimate that 10% of all runners will have to deal with this problem at some point in their journey or career. This means it’s one of the most common injuries among regular runners. 

It typically affects older adults and those over 40 but can affect anyone regardless of age or experience level. Plantar fasciitis is also more common in those with a history of back or leg pain, obesity, or diabetes.

Plantar Fasciitis Causes

PF doesn’t come out of nowhere. There are several ways your body can develop the condition. Here are some of the main culprits.

Tissue Damage

The leading cause of plantar fasciitis in runners is repetitive strain to the connective tissue that connects your heel bone and toes. This can occur if you have flat feet, wear the wrong shoes for running, increase your running intensity too quickly, or run on hard surfaces such as cement or asphalt. 

Poor foot biomechanics (such as overpronation) can also cause the tissue to become inflamed and painful.

Overuse 

Overuse syndrome occurs when repetitive stress is placed on the same body part, leading to inflammation and/or irritation.

It’s common among runners because they strain their feet every time they take a stride.

Poor Technique and Footwear

Wearing the wrong shoes for running can lead to plantar fasciitis as well. Worn-out, incorrect size, or ill-fitting shoes can put additional strain on the feet and cause pain. 

Improper running techniques, such as overstriding or heel striking can also lead to plantar fasciitis due to increased impact on the feet.

Plantar Fasciitis – Symptoms

Do you think you’re dealing with a nasty case of plantar fasciitis? Go through this list and see how many boxes you check off.

Pain in Your Heel 

The most common symptom of pf in runners is a sharp, burning pain in the heel area. 

It can be anywhere from mild to severe and usually occurs when you first stand up after sitting for an extended period of time or during the first few steps after getting out of bed. 

You may also experience stiffness and tenderness in the arch of your foot.

Swelling or Redness

Some people may also experience swelling and redness along with the pain. This is usually caused by inflammation in the plantar fascia tissue, which can worsen if you continue to run on it even after it has become inflamed.

Pain While Running

If you have plantar fasciitis, you may also experience pain while running or after standing for long periods. The repetitive impact on your heels and toes is straining the connective tissue in your feet.

Diagnosing Plantar Fasciitis in Runners

When you’re convinced that you are dealing with PF, it’s time to take the following steps to prevent further injury.

See Your Doctor

Your doctor can confirm the diagnosis and provide treatments such as rest, stretching exercises, anti-inflammatory medications, custom orthotics, shoe inserts, or physical therapy. Plantar fasciitis can worsen and become more challenging to treat without proper treatment.

Physical Exam

Your doctor will perform a physical exam to check for signs of plantar fasciitis. This includes looking at your feet, legs, and back and checking the range of motion in your ankles and toes. Your doctor may also order an X-ray or MRI to better examine your feet’ soft tissue structures.

How Much of a Running Break Is Necessary?

Plantar fasciitis can take several weeks to heal, and you must rest and allow your feet to recover. 

Depending on the severity of the injury, your doctor may advise you to stop running entirely for a few days or up to several weeks. Follow their instructions for stretching and strengthening exercises and any other advice they may have. 

With proper rest and treatment, you can return to running without pain in a few weeks.

The Best Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis

Some techniques work better than others. It’s mostly up to the individual athlete. Try some of these methods to help alleviate pain to get you back on the trail faster.

Arch taping

Arch taping is a popular treatment for plantar fasciitis in runners. Tape is applied to the bottom of your foot to reduce stress on the inflamed tissue and help provide additional support. This can be done before running or any other activity that puts strain on your feet.

Orthotic Inserts Specifically for Plantar Fasciitis

Custom orthotics can also provide additional support and cushioning for your feet. These inserts are designed to fit your feet specifically and help reduce the strain on the plantar fascia tissue.

Stretching Can Provide Plantar Fasciitis Relief

Stretching the calf muscles, hamstrings, and plantar fascia can help reduce foot tension and relieve pain. Regularly stretching these areas is also essential for strengthening your feet over time.

Night Splints for Plantar fasciitis

A night splint is a device that can be used to keep your feet in a stretch position while you sleep. This helps reduce the strain on the plantar fascia tissue and increases flexibility. Night splints can be especially beneficial for runners who experience pain first thing in the morning or after long periods of standing still.

Massage Therapy and Plantar Fasciitis

Massaging the muscles and tissues in your feet helps promote circulation, which can reduce inflammation and stiffness. Self-massage or professional massage therapy are great ways to relieve your feet from plantar fasciitis pain.

Steroid injections

In some cases, a steroid injection may be used to reduce inflammation and pain. This type of injection is generally only recommended for severe cases of plantar fasciitis that have not responded to other treatments. 

Steroid injections should never be used without checking with your doctor first, as they can cause additional side effects and damage to the tissue.

The Last Resort

If your plantar fasciitis does not respond to any of the above treatments, you may need to consider surgery

These procedures release tension on the fascia and can be used to treat chronic cases of plantar fasciitis. Surgery is usually only recommended as a last resort after all other treatment options have been exhausted.

NSAIDs

Your doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain and swelling. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are usually the first line of treatment for plantar fasciitis, as they can help reduce inflammation and provide relief from pain.

Iontophoresis Treatments May Help

Iontophoresis is a treatment that uses electrical stimulation to reduce inflammation in the affected area. This type of therapy can help reduce pain and stiffness, and may be recommended by your doctor if other treatments have not been effective.

Alternative Treatments for Plantar Fasciitis

A new treatment for plantar fasciitis is extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT). It uses sound waves to reduce inflammation and pain in the affected area.

Some Tips for Runners on Plantar Fasciitis Prevention

The best to deal with this condition is never to get it in the first place. Here are a few tips for those who want to take a cautionary approach.

It’s All About Support

Properly supporting your feet during a run can help prevent plantar fasciitis. Wear shoes with good arch support, cushioning, and shock absorption to reduce the strain on the tissue in your foot. Also, make sure you replace your running shoes regularly, as worn-out shoes can cause extra stress on the feet.

Stretch Every Day

Daily stretching exercises will help increase your flexibility and improve range of motion in the feet. Stretching can also reduce tension on the plantar fascia, which helps prevent strain and injury when running.

Warmup Before Running

Warmup exercises are important for preventing plantar fasciitis. Before going on a run, perform dynamic stretches and give your feet some time to warm up. This will help loosen up the muscles and reduce stress on the tissue in your feet during your run.

Try Cross-Training

Cross-training is a great way to give your feet a break and prevent injury. Add in a few cross-training sessions each week, such as swimming, cycling, or yoga. This will reduce the strain on your feet while still giving you an effective workout.

Ice Your Feet Down

Applying ice to the affected area after running can help reduce inflammation and pain. Foot self-care is crucial if you experience any discomfort or swelling in your feet during a run. 

Put an ice pack on for about 15 minutes at a time, several times throughout the day.

Get Some New Kicks

Worn-out shoes can cause extra strain on the feet, increasing the risk of injury. Make sure to replace your running shoes regularly and get new ones when they start to show signs of wear. This will provide your feet with additional support and cushioning for your runs.

Orthotics Are Worth a Shot Too

Orthotics can help provide extra arch support and cushioning for your feet. Runners with a high arch or flat feet will benefit most, as it can help reduce strain on the plantar fascia. Orthotics are available in many different shapes, sizes, and materials to suit every individual’s needs.

Run Less

High-volume running may increase your risk of developing plantar fasciitis. If you are experiencing any pain or discomfort in your feet, reducing your running volume and taking a break from running for a few days could be the best strategy.

“KT” Tape

Kinesio tape is a special type of tape that can help reduce pain and improve range of motion in the feet. It aims to provide support and increase circulation to the affected area. 

Kinesio tape can be applied directly to the foot or ankle before running, providing extra stability and cushioning for your feet.

Night Splints

Wearing a night splint can help reduce pain and tension in the feet while you sleep. Night splints are designed to keep your feet flexed overnight, preventing strain on the plantar fascia.

Rollers

Rolling your feet with a foam roller or tennis ball can help improve blood flow to the area and reduce tension. Rolling is also beneficial for stretching out the muscles and tissue in your feet, reducing stress on the plantar fascia.

Rest Properly

Take a few days off running each week. Give your feet and body time to rest and recover before your next run. Don’t be afraid to take a break if you feel any discomfort or pain in your feet.

Avoid Uneven Surfaces While Running

Running on uneven surfaces can increase your risk of developing plantar fasciitis. Stick to flat surfaces such as roads and pavements when running to reduce the strain on your feet.

Address Any Foot Pain Immediately

Address any signs of foot pain or discomfort immediately. Ignoring the problem can lead to more severe injury and longer-term issues. If you experience any pain in your feet during or after running, take some time off and consult a doctor before restarting your training routine. 

FAQ

Do all runners get plantar fasciitis?

No, not all runners get plantar fasciitis. However, it is a common injury that many runners experience at some point in their running career due to overuse and repetitive strain on the feet. It can be prevented by following the steps outlined above.

What percentage of runners get plantar fasciitis?

It is estimated that about 10-15% of all runners will experience plantar fasciitis at some point in their running career.

Is it OK to keep running with plantar fasciitis?

No, it is not recommended to keep running with plantar fasciitis. The best course of action is to rest and take a break from running until the pain has subsided. If you choose to keep running, reduce your volume and take the necessary precautions.

Will running with plantar fasciitis make it worse?

Yes, running with plantar fasciitis can make the condition worse. Taking a break from running and giving your feet time to rest and heal before resuming training is sometimes the best medicine.

Plantar fasciitis running symptoms

The main symptom of plantar fasciitis is a sharp or burning pain in the heel that is worse when standing, walking, or running. Other symptoms include stiffness and tightness in the feet and sometimes swelling as well.

Running technique to avoid plantar fasciitis

Good running technique can help reduce the risk of developing plantar fasciitis. Make sure to land on the balls of your feet, not the heel. Also, focus on shorter strides and avoid excessive pronation or supination (rolling your ankles inwards or outwards).

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