Pain in your heel? Could you be suffering from Plantar Fasciitis?

On a scale of one to ten, Plantar Fasciitis is probably a solid nine when it comes to persistent, niggling injuries that you pick up as a runner.

That nagging pain in the sole of your foot can go from being an annoying inconvenience to an injury that could stop your running for months if you're not careful.

Firstly, let’s start by explaining what your Plantar Fascia is…

Your Plantar Fascia is a ligament in your foot that runs from your heel to your toes. It supports the arch of your foot and acts as a shock absorber.

Diagram of foot structure

So how do you injure your Plantar Fascia, and what can you do to treat it if you are unlucky enough to pick up an injury?

Plantar Fasciitis – all you need to know

If you're experiencing Plantar Fasciitis, you will commonly feel pain on the bottom of your foot, specifically around the heel and arch.

It’s usually caused by repetitive strain on the Plantar Fascia ligament due to excessive exercise, particularly running or walking.

This strain causes inflammation of the ligament, which is the root cause of the pain.

Poor quality shoes or trainers can also contribute to Plantar Fasciitis, as can exercise which involves repeated jumping and landing.

Anyone who does a lot of exercise has niggles now and then, but when pain is persistent and lasts longer than a few weeks, it is time to take notice and do something about it.

Enertor insoles

What are the warning signs of Plantar Fasciitis?

Pain goes away during exercise (at least at first!)

Plantar Fasciitis is strange in that the pain often recedes during exercise. This can give you a false sense of security and make you think it is getting better, when in fact, exercising on the injury will only make it worse.

Pain is worse after resting

Instead of experiencing pain purely during exercise, if you have Plantar Fasciitis, the pain will worsen after resting or sleeping. If it is painful in the morning and gets progressively worse during the day, then that is a sure sign that the injury is getting worse, and it is time to seek treatment.

Pain elsewhere

If you don't rest your foot enough at the onset of symptoms, you will notice additional complaints. Pain associated with Plantar Fasciitis is usually concentrated around the heel.

However, if it starts to radiate out to the arch of your foot, you know that it is getting worse and that it is time to treat it properly.

If you are struggling to walk normally due to pain in your feet, your gait is likely to be thrown off-kilter. This can cause you to put pressure on your knees, which will result in your knee's hurting by the end of the day.

Pain in your feet and the resulting knee pain will eventually affect your lower back and hips due to adopting an unnatural gait. Getting treatment before you reach this stage is essential as the consequences of untreated Plantar Fasciitis can seriously affect your quality of life.

Diagram of Enertor insole

Symptoms of plantar fasciitis to look out for

  • Sharp pain behind the arch and around the heel
  • Initially in the morning or after a period of movement or activity
  • Walking short distances may alleviate the pain, and longer distances could exaggerate the symptoms of plantar fasciitis
  • Sudden stretching of the sole of the foot, going on to your toes, up the stairs or after a rest period may cause pain
  • A tingling or burning sensation may be experienced

What causes plantar fasciitis?

  • Often there may be no obvious cause for plantar fasciitis
  • Overtraining, a sudden increase in training intensity
  • Inadequate footwear - flat shoes, shoes without laces or Velcro and not giving you enough shock absorption protection when running and walking
  • Walking short distances may alleviate the pain and but longer distances could exaggerate the symptoms of plantar fasciitis
  • Being overweight may put excessive strain on the plantar fascia or tight calf muscles

Text: "Brilliant. Like lots of other people I've had Plantar Fasciitis, such pain, these were like putting on slippers. Such a relief. After about two weeks it's just about gone." Janet - Plantar Fasciitis sufferer

What is the most effective treatment?

There are several ways you can minimise the initial pain of Plantar Fasciitis and reduce the risk of it getting worse:

  • When the pain is acute you should be resting your foot whenever possible, preferably in a raised position.
  • Ice the affected area for 20 minutes at a time every 2-3 hours (also in the acute phase).
  • Wear flat, comfortable shoes and avoid high heels or tight-fitting shoes.
  • Do regular gentle stretches and focus on doing exercise that doesn't put pressure on your feet.
  • Regular calf stretching (gastrocnemius and soleus)
  • In a seated position put a towel under bare feet and 'scrunch' the towel up with your toes.
  • Seek the advice of a qualified sports medicine professional such as a doctor or physiotherapist.

Useful exercises

  1. Calf Raises: standing double leg with legs straight, double leg with knees bent; then the same but single leg, holding the back of a chair for support
  2. Lie on front, lift left leg straight for one min, then same with right, then repeat with knee bent.
  3. Rolling a ball or ice ball under the sole of the affected foot.

What next?

After a week or so of rest, when your pain is not as acute, you should be able to try some short doses of gentle walking.

It is essential that when you begin walking, you wear shoes with supportive insoles. Enertor insoles are the only insoles that are proven to help heal plantar fasciitis.

91% of wearers had reduced pain around the heal, and 75% said our insoles helped relieve the symptoms completely.

Enertor insoles prevent ground forces from impacting your feet and provide extra cushioning with every step.

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Leading global insoles brand, Enertor, is the England Athletics Insole Partner.

Visit the Enertor partner page.