Plantar fasciitis: How to avoid this common injury

Plantar Fasciitis

It’s time to celebrate the weekend warriors—people who work 9 to 5 and live for a weekend of adventure. Perhaps it’s hiking a new spot, a run around the park or a bike ride on a nice ribbon of singletrack. Whatever it may be, good for you for getting active, Weekend Warrior.

Now, let’s just make sure you’re safe and smart about it. You don’t want any injuries that lead to unexpected medical bills, and one of the most common injuries a weekend warrior experiences affects your feet.

Daniel Latt, MD, PhD, specializes in orthopedic sports medicine and orthopedics. He says he typically sees plantar fasciitis injuries among patients who don’t regularly exercise and suddenly try to increase their activity level.

What is plantar fasciitis?

On the bottom of your foot, there is a thin ligament that attaches the heel of your foot to your toes. This is called the plantar fascia, and it supports the arch of your foot. 

The plantar fascia is typically tough enough to handle everything we put our feet through, but sometimes it can’t handle all the stress, which leads to inflammation and pain on the bottom of your feet. Dr. Latt says this is typically caused by tightness in your calf muscles.

“When the calf muscles are too tight, the ankle can't bend far enough,” Dr. Latt said. “All the strain goes into the attachment of the calf muscles onto the heel bone and the attachment from the heel bone into the plantar fascia, which connects the heel bone to the toes.”

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, typical symptoms of plantar fasciitis include: 

  • Foot pain on the bottom near the heel
  • Pain for a few steps after getting up in the morning or after a long rest, which usually fades after walking a little
  • Greater foot pain after exercise—not during

If you experience this pain, visit your doctor and have it examined. Typical things a doctor will look for include a high arch, tenderness or pain on the bottom of your foot near the heel that gets worse when you flex your foot and difficulty bending your foot up. The doctor may also order X-rays for your foot.

How do you treat plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is painful and can be very annoying for active people. The good news is it’s easy to treat, according to Dr. Latt.

“We send patients to learn some simple calf and plantar fascia stretching exercises, give them a gel heel pad to help cushion the injured area, and a prescription for some anti-inflammatories,” Dr. Latt said. “And with that simple prescription, 90% of patients will get better in three to six months.”

However, Dr. Latt says the best cure is prevention. It’s important to stretch out your calf muscles before doing any exercises.

To stretch your calf muscles, do the following:

  1. Stand an arm’s length from a wall and put your hands on the wall.
  2. Place your left foot behind your right.
  3. Slowly bend your right knee while keeping your left leg straight and your right foot flat on the ground.
  4. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
  5. Switch legs and repeat the process.

This simple stretch should be part of your warm-up routine to help prevent plantar fasciitis. And, don’t forget, if you have plantar fasciitis, it is OK to take a week off to rest a sore foot. 

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