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Tips For Runners: How To Prevent Plantar Fasciitis

What Is Plantar Fasciitis?


The plantar fascia is a piece of strong connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. It creates the foot’s arch, by connecting the heel bone to the toes, and is very important in assisting with walking. 


Plantar fasciitis (or fasciopathy) is inflammation of the plantar fascia, either through overstretching, overuse, or a medical condition. It is also often associated with a heel spur, which is a bony prominence poking out from the heel bone. This is created by the plantar fascia pulling so hard on its attachment that a bony spur forms on the heel. Many people can have heel spurs without any pain.




Who Can Get Plantar Fasciitis?


Plantar fasciitis is most often associated with impact and running sports, especially those that involve toe running rather than heel running styles. It is common in people who have just increased their intensity of walking or running, putting additional strain on the plantar fascia due to increased load. 


It is also common in individuals with poor foot biomechanics that stress the plantar fascia, such as flat feet or weak foot arch control muscles. This causes repeated overstretching of the plantar fascia.



Symptoms Of Plantar Fasciitis


People with plantar fasciitis experience pain under the heel (often on the inside part). The pain is worse when taking the first few steps in the morning, or after prolonged sitting or standing. The pain often improves with activity as the foot warms up. Pain is felt after exercise, but usually not during. Pain is worse when barefoot on hard surfaces and with stair or hill climbing.





How To Treat Plantar Fasciitis


Management of plantar fasciitis initially focuses on reducing pain. This can be done by:

  1. Taking anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen to help reduce pain and swelling

  2. Regular icing to help reduce pain and swelling. Apply for 20 minutes every couple of hours

  3. Stretching of the calf muscles, and when less painful introduce gentle stretching of the plantar fascia

  4. Taping to offload the plantar fascia and provide extra arch support while allowing the foot to heal

  5. Modifying load by reducing training volume, intensity, frequency etc

  6. Modifying footwear. Avoid open-back shoes, sandals, thongs, any shoes without good arch support

  7. Avoid going barefoot

  8. Wearing orthotics to help distribute the pressure to the feet more evenly, and to stimulate the small foot muscles. Orthotics will provide good arch support.


Once the pain begins to settle, treatment aims to improve strength and load capacity. Exercises focused on strengthening the calf and small foot muscles are prescribed and gradually progressed as the plantar fascia is able to tolerate more load. Once adequate strength is restored, we aim to work on power by adding speed elements to the strength work. We also focus on endurance so that you can return to your normal length of walk or run without pain. 


A physiotherapist will conduct a thorough assessment to determine what factors have contributed to the onset of plantar fasciitis. We will be able to provide expert advice on how to manage the condition, as well as use manual techniques to help release the plantar fascia. We will also provide a detailed exercise program that is tailored to the individual incorporating stretching and strengthening exercises. We will assess your foot biomechanics and if necessary will fit you with orthotics to correct any underlying causes. This will also help prevent future recurrences. 


For those who are runners, a running assessment will be undertaken to examine your running technique to look for any factors that may be contributing. Corrective strategies can then be taught to address the poor running techniques.


How To Prevent Plantar Fasciitis in Runners


  • Maintain a healthy weight to minimise stress on the plantar fascia.

  • Wear supportive shoes which have good arch support and shock absorption.

  • Avoid going barefoot, especially on hard surfaces.

  • Avoid only running on concrete as the impact may be too hard for your muscles and joints to cope. Make sure you also run on grass. 

  • Avoid running on uneven ground or angled surfaces, like the edge of a road.

  • Replace running shoes every 6 months to 1 year before they stop supporting and cushioning the feet. High volume runners should change their shoes every 6 months. Low volume runners should update their footwear yearly.

  • Wear orthotics if you have poor foot mechanics. They will help distribute the pressure to the feet more evenly and will provide good arch support.

  • Warm up before sport or running and allow adequate recovery time after training.

  • Include regular stretching of your calves in your warm up and cool down to avoid developing muscle tightness and improve your flexibility.

  • When starting a new activity or exercise program, make sure to gradually ease into it. Any changes to your training load must be gradual. 

  • Avoid activities that cause pain.


If you are suffering from plantar fasciitis and would like some help or more information, fill out our contact form, give us a call on 9875 3760 or email us info@wphphysio.com.au. We would be more than happy to help!

You do not need a Doctors' referral in order to make an appointment with a Physiotherapist

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