You’ll hear us say it again and again: Rest is one of the best treatments for plantar fasciitis.
But when you’re already active or trying to lose weight, should heel pain put an automatic halt to your running or jogging routine? How should experienced runners handle heel pain, versus new runners? And what’s the best regiment of foot care for runners?
Can I Run with Plantar Fasciitis?
Every case of plantar fasciitis is different. Some runners can “push through” mild plantar fasciitis and continue their workout routine as normal while treating the cause of the problem with orthotic inserts and icing. For others, running can cause additional damage to the plantar fasciitis ligament, worsening the condition or causing such excruciating pain that even walking is incredibly difficult – and running is near impossible.
If your pain is severe, it’s best to start by resting from vigorous activities for a few days; however if your plantar fasciitis is mild or moderate, it’s possible to safely enjoy running.
Bouts of Plantar Fasciitis in Experienced Runners
If you are an experienced runner and have a bout of plantar fasciitis, it is smart to take a few days off before resuming your running. Focus on stretching your feet a few times a day, and foam rolling your calves and legs. Worn-out or non-supportive shoes may be a contributing factor to your plantar fasciitis, so consider replacing your sneakers or investing in a pair of plantar fasciitis inserts.
Once your feet begin to feel better, re-incorporate running into your routine at a reduced volume and slowly build back up to your regular workouts.
New Runners With Plantar Fasciitis
It’s also possible to begin incorporating running into your fitness routine, even if you already have mild to moderate plantar fasciitis. Start out by walking, and begin incorporating intervals of jogging or running with walking. Rest a few days between your runs to make sure your feet have enough time to recover, and slowly increase the duration of your running intervals until you are jogging more than walking. Always ice the area for 20 minutes after each session.
If you have severe plantar fasciitis or at any point your pain becomes severe, refrain from running until you consult your doctor for medical advice.
How Can Running Cause Heel Pain?
Repetitive movements combined with impact can be a fast-track to injury no matter which body part is involved! And running takes the cake for repetitive movement and impact.
The major ligament in the human foot is the plantar fascia – a stretchy band of tissue that spans the arch of the foot from heel to ball. This elastic ligament is designed to bear your weight and absorb the impact of walking or running; however, the repetitive movements of running can place a lot of strain on this ligament over time, leading to wear and tear, inflammation, or degeneration of the fatty heel pad — in other words, plantar fasciitis.
Heel pain, the hallmark symptom of plantar fasciitis, develops when bony protrusions of calcium called heel spurs form on the heel bone, as the body attempts to prop up the damaged plantar fascia. These heel spurs can prod the soft, fatty tissues when you walk or run.
Foot Care for Runners with Plantar Fasciitis
Whether you’re a new or experienced runner, proper foot care can help you run safely, avoid exacerbating your plantar fasciitis, and avoid other injuries like stress fractures, sprains, shin splints, back pain:
Warm Up Thoroughly Before You Run
A good warmup is vital for any safe workout – but that doesn’t mean you need to stand still and stretch each of your muscles! The goals of your warmup should be to gradually increase your heart rate, improve the range of motions of your most important joints, increase capillary activation, and increase the elasticity of your tendons and ligaments.
A typical running warm up should include exercises to “wake up” your hip flexors and legs – such as lunges, squats, and leg swings. However, when you have plantar fasciitis you need to pay special attention to your ankles, calves, and plantar fascia ligament during your warm up.
Here are a few exercises to incorporate into your running warm up if you have plantar fasciitis:
- Calf raises
- Pointing and flexing your toes
- Ankle circles
Regularly Stretch your Feet and Legs
While warm-up stretches are extremely important, don’t make the mistake of only stretching your legs and feet right before a run. Taking time to stretch your calves, thighs, and feet to help strengthen your muscles, improve flexibility, and reduce any pain you may be experiencing from plantar fasciitis. Learn how to do several easy stretches here.
Ice After Your Workouts
If you anticipate you might struggle with heel pain after a run, try elevating and icing your feet after your cool down. Ice for 10-15 minutes after your run, and again in the evening if you are still experiencing heel pain.
There are a variety of ways you can ice your feet. Try using Ice Therapy Slippers, or fill a bucket with ice water and submerge your feet. Some people will also hold a bag of frozen vegetables to the bottom of their foot.
Listen to Your Body and Rest Regularly
When you have plantar fasciitis, listening to your body is vital no matter what — but especially when you want to lead an active, healthy lifestyle. There will be times when you have to reduce the intensity of your workouts or take a few extra days rest to heal, and that’s okay! Instead of “pushing through the pain”, reduce the intensity of your workouts until you know you can complete them safely.
Running should make you feel healthier, not put you in excruciating pain. If you have mild plantar fasciitis, make sure you take special care of your feet and listen to your body. Take rest days in between your runs to give your feet time to heal and recover.
Address Foot Pain Immediately
Runners are notorious for ignoring foot and heel pain until it becomes acute. Taking immediate action when you notice pain–or better yet, heading off the pain by following these foot care tips–can help you avoid or mitigate plantar fasciitis/runner’s heel and other injuries.
Keep Feet Moisturized but Dry
Apply moisturizer right after you shower to keep your feet from cracking during a run and to reduce the amount of friction from rubbing against your socks–which could lead to blisters and problematic gait changes as you try to avoid the new painful hotspots.
Avoid applying moisturizer right before a run, since keeping your feet dry will also help you avoid fungal problems like athlete’s foot.
Support and Cushion Your Feet
One of the best ways you can care for your feet as a runner is by wearing orthotic inserts like heel seats, which lift and align the arch of the foot and cushion the heel. These unique orthotic inserts slip into your favorite pair of shoes, offering lighter, more cost-effective support than orthotic shoes.
Orthotic inserts also offer the added benefit of correcting subtle gait imperfections, like supination or pronation, which can put extra wear and tear on your arch.
To prevent or manage the pain of heel spurs or plantar fasciitis, try taping your feet. Taping gives you additional support for the fascia and heel, improves circulation and blood flow, and helps reduce swelling and inflammation with gentle compression.
Avoid Running on Hard, Uneven Surfaces
Whenever possible, go easy on your feet by running on soft, even surfaces. When you add distance to your runs, do so incrementally–increasing distance in leaps and bounds can put too much strain on your feet prematurely.
Try Using a Sock Night Splint
Using a sock night splint–a soft night splint that stretches your foot/feet, while sleeping can help reduce inflammation and reduce morning pain from plantar fasciitis. Since your feet aren’t in motion during sleep, the muscles and tendons tighten up. By stretching them with a night splint, you can avoid or greatly reduce tightness and pain the following day.
Plantar fasciitis doesn’t have to mean the end of your running career. Running is a great way to stay active and healthy — as long as you make sure that the health of your feet is a top priority, too!