HAPPY FEET = HAPPY RUNNER
Happy Feet = Happy Runner
Foot Health 101
It’s Sunday morning and your alarm goes off. “Ughhh,” you say out loud as you look at your watch. It’s 7 am and you can’t believe it’s time to get ready to run again. It feels like you literally just finished yesterday’s long run. As you start to move around, heading toward the kitchen to make your morning coffee, you feel a bit sore, a little foggy, but that’s fairly normal. For a moment you think, “maybe I shouldn’t have pushed so hard yesterday,” but you shrug off the thought. You’re three weeks out from your big event and it’s been a long training block, but you’re tough, you’re strong, and the work doesn’t do itself. Pushing hard and finishing hard is everything. It’s how it’s done!
What might start as a bit of tightness, soreness or nagging pain can soon manifest as full-blown plantar fasciitis. When it comes to feet, happy feet literally equate to a happy runner. Everything starts from the bottom up. Anyone who has struggled with the dreaded plantar fasciitis knows the feelings described above and has figured out that the complex injury has few cures and many prescribed remedies.
WHAT IS PLANTAR FASCIA
Plantar fascia is a strong, connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. This tissue runs the full distance of the heel to the base of the toes. The thick, fibrous band of tissue (plantar fascia), along with the muscle and bones, form the arch of the foot.
WHAT IS PLANTAR FASCIITIS
Plantar fasciitis is a term used to refer to the overloading of the plantar fascia where the tendon pulls away from the bone, creating tiny tears in the collagen like band which causes pain and inflammation. Plantar fasciitis is usually caused by steep increases in mileage, poor foot and arch support, too much speed or hill work, or a combination of the three. Plantar fasciitis is usually accompanied by a burning sensation in the heel but pain in the arch or other areas of the foot can be signs as well.
KEY TIPS TO KEEPING YOUR FEET HEALTHY
Less is More
Overtraining is the leading cause of plantar issues in athletes. Aim to finish your runs with plenty left in the tank. Reserve going “hard” for specific interval training sessions. Don’t go to the well too often and make sure when you do, it’s planned into your training with periods of rest following to avoid overstressing the plantar fascia.
Gently foam roll calves and achilles before every run (can do in the morning when you get out of bed). The goal is to keep your calves and achilles loose and mobile. Roll down the length of achilles and calves, as well as across, in a side-to-side motion, loosening the muscles. Don’t press in hard, keep things gentle. The reason we want to do this is because the achilles tendon is attached to the plantar fascia and your calf muscles attach to the achilles. If your calf muscles are tight, everything below it becomes affected. Athletes with tight calves generally have less flexibility in the ankle and therefore the achilles and plantar fascia as well. Gently roll daily to keep things loose!
Gentle Stretching up to 3 x per day!
Gently stretch calves and achilles to keep the muscles long and loose. This can be especially helpful in the morning before you get out of bed, because the plantar often tightens up during sleep. Before getting up and walking around, take a few minutes to grab each foot putting the toes toward you, stretching the fascia and calves.Don’t forget about the importance of stretching the glutes and hips as well. These muscles all interact with the plantar fascia. The key to stretching is to hold those stretches for at least 2 minutes. Stretches we like can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72p58Iy6u7M&t=457s (7 min in for stretches)
Never Walk Around in Barefeet
Never walk around barefooted. Switch to a supportive sandal for the house, I use birkenstocks 24/7 now.
Use Arch Support or Superfeet
Add superfeet or similar arch support to your running shoes for extra support! Extra support, especially for athletes with flat feet can help take tension off the plantar fascia caused by a collapse of the arch. We recommend arch support in your street or work shoes too. For professionals up on their feet all day, we recommend superfeet and more supportive shoes with a higher heel-toe drop, at least 8mm to offer better support. (Consultation with a podiatrist if over the counter supper does not work within a few days is recommended.)
Roll the Bottom of Your Feet
Roll the bottom of your feet gently with a hard ball and massage your feet and sore spots.
Get Your Shoes from a Professional
Having your shoes professionally fit by a professional based on your unique biomechanics is one of the most important things an athlete can do to prevent foot issues. A properly fitting shoe makes all the difference. Visit your local running store!
Replace your shoes more often!
As a general guide, it’s important for your feet to replace your shoes about every 300 miles. As the rubber that comprises the sole of your shoe breaks down, the foot takes more and more impact forces, overloading the plantar fascia and causing tiny tears in the tissue.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR FEET ARE HURTING!
Three Basic Steps:
Reduce Stress to the Foot
Strength and Strengthen
When the plantar is overloaded, it literally peels away from the bone, thus removing itself from the blood supply necessary for quick healing. In order to reduce inflammation, it’s necessary to ice the plantar, using an ice bucket, frozen water bottle rolled along the bottom of the foot, or ice massage.
Elevating the legs or putting feet up the wall periodically throughout the day can help increase circulation bringing blood into the affected tissue. Because the fascia tissue lacks a steady supply of blood due to not being connected to any muscle, it’s hard for it to receive the proper amount of circulation. Elevating the legs in combination with gentle rolling of the arches can help increase that circulation and speed up the healing process.
Use Arch Support or Superfeet
Add superfeet or similar arch support to your running shoes for extra support! Extra support can also help in your street or work shoes. For professionals up on their feet all day, we recommend superfeet, or shoes with extra arch support to give the arches a break.
Use Softer Shoes
Softer shoes can provide some relief and help reduce foot fatigue.
Run on Softer Surfaces while Reducing Workouts
Generally, running with plantar pain is OK for most athletes, because the plantar tends to loosen up and the pain is relieved during exercise. We’ve found it helpful for athletes to stick to less technical, smoother surfaces where the foot can stay relaxed in the shoe and less engaged. Reducing workouts, particularly speed workouts where pushing off can cause plantar flare ups and heels workouts where inclines create flexion in the ankle and achilles can also make running more comfortable.
The Plantar Sock!
Wear the plantar sock to sleep! It’s not cool, but it helps with morning stiffness caused by the shortening of the plantar tissue overnight when you sleep.
Should I Rest?
You can keep running if pain goes awhile while exercising. For many people, plantar pain is worse if you rest, better if you run. Use your best judgment.
Work with a PT
Working with a physical therapist or podiatrist can be helpful in identifying the root cause of the plantar fasciitis. Develop a plan for maintaining and or strengthening the area(s) of imbalance.