TOP 5 Dos and Dont’s for Plantar Fasciitis

May 06, 2016 Posted By: Barbara Mitchell

physio foot

Plantar fasciitis is one of those nasty injuries that plagues many runners at some point and time in their “career” both as a casual or competitive runner. One of the things that prevents this from healing quickly is that we are never really giving our feet a break. During the day, despite not always running, we are walking around for our day to day function, and thus the foot is always under some degree of stress. I always say, if we could walk around on our hands, this injury may heal slightly faster!  (of course this leads to a whole other can of worms).

For a brief anatomy lesson, the plantar fascia runs from close to the tips of the toes and attaches at the inner edge of the base of the heel bone. It is made up of thick ribbon like tissue. It’s not muscle or contractile, but more like what your ligaments are made of. Each time we take a step from heel to toe, our plantar fascia along with muscles of the foot and lower leg, help to control tensile forces on the arch. In cases of plantar fasciitis, there is repetitive excessive stretch on this tissue and hence sets up an irritation and inflammation (not one that you can see!) usually at the attachment on the inner aspect of the base of the heel. However,  pain can be felt in many different areas, such as the arch area and centre of the heel .

The following are my top 5 Do’s for dealing with this injury or preventing it in the first place.  

1.    Do stretch your calves. Both to prevent and to treat cases of plantar fasciitis. The base of the Achilles tendon attaches very close to the heel where the plantar fascia attaches, so pull from a tight calf/Achilles complex also has been shown to have negative effects on the plantar fascia. I have had some clients do this as the one and only exercise and in some cases, that alone has done wonders to their recovery and avoiding future recurrences.

2.    Do train properly. One of the most common reasons for experiencing plantar fasciitis is training errors. Increasing your mileage or speed work > than your body is able to handle the recovery is one of the most common reason for this injury that I see in my practice. Each person can handle increases differently. So just because you read about an ultra runner’s or professional’s 100-150 miles a week training plan, it doesn’t mean that you should try this without proper guidance and building.  Or even at all depending on what your goals and biomechanics are like.

3.    Do get it treated at first onset.  So many of my clients wait months or even longer to get this injury looked at thinking “it’s gonna get better on it’s own”. If you’ve experienced foot pain that is not improving after a couple of weeks, it means it should be looked at and treated. The quicker you address it, the less time and money you spend on treatment down the road. Trust me!

4.    Address bio-mechanical issues. This could be either form related (i.e. excessive heel striking), or weak hip/ lower leg muscles which may contribute to excessive inward rotation of the lower leg and foot which in turn stresses the fascia. Having a session with an experienced therapist or run specialist who is knowledgeable in this area may be invaluable to chronic plantar fascia that doesn’t respond to conservative treatment.

5.    Rest. The nasty 4 -letter word all runners hate to hear. Sometimes and oftentimes a short amount of time off at the onset of symptoms, plus self massage, calf stretching, and a trial of foot/calf muscle strengthening is all that is needed to halt the progression. Ice also can help and temporarily unloading the plantar fascia with taping or a short course (i.e not forever) of over the counter inserts. Once the problem becomes longer term, these things may not be as effective, but rest almost always helps the symptoms to settle. Remember early detection and management means less rest down the road!

Finally as a little extra tidbit, a shoe type is often not a cause of plantar fasciitis. If anything, changing your shoes at regular intervals can be one thing you can control in preventing the occurrence of PF, but more likely training errors and biomechanics are the key issues to address in both the prevention and treatment of this nasty little bugger!

See you on the roads.


Elise has been a registered Physiotherapist since 1992. She has her own home based private practice seeing athletes and non athletes alike.  She was a competitive age group triathlete and runner for over 20 years who recently decided to hang up the racing flats and enjoy an active lifestyle which includes running, weight training, cycling, yoga and aerobic cross training. Elise balances her days with work, fitness, and family as a wife, and mother to a nearly teen daughter. 

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