Plantar Fasciitis (fash-ee-ahy-tis)
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is another very common running pain that we here at LEVER hope to help all runners and walkers to avoid! The plantar fascia (fash-ah) is a band of thick connective tissue running from the bottom of your heel to your toes. It acts as a shock absorber for the supporting arch of the foot and the rest of the body. To further understand this, we will compare your foot to an archery bow. The arch of your foot is the arc (wooden piece) of the bow, and your plantar fascia is the string. If the arc of your bow gets overworked and starts to flatten out, it stretches out the string, and...ow! This is plantar fasciitis.
The three hallmarks of plantar fasciitis are 1) a stabbing sensation at the heel, 2) pain with the first morning steps, and 3) pain during push-off when running. Often, plantar fasciitis afflicts just one foot, its onset can seem quite sudden, and the pain can last for months if you don’t stop running immediately and seek professional help.
How does Plantar Fasciitis occur?
The plantar fascia can become inflamed when the tissue is stressed from poor footwear, a sudden increase in mileage, and or by the biomechanical error such as over-pronation. Traditionally, the foot rolls inward slightly upon impact, but if this action becomes exaggerated, this is the hallmark of over-pronation. If you’re a runner with a low arch (“flat feet”) you are predisposed to over-pronate while running.
Plantar fasciitis occurs because the tissues in your feet enforcing the arch of your foot (the arc of your bow) are too weak to handle the repetitive force of running, so excessive stress and tension on your plantar fascia (the bow’s string) is causing small tears in the tissue at its weakest point near the heel. If left unattended to, an angry plantar fascia can even rupture!
What does Plantar Fasciitis recovery look like?
If you’ve been keeping up with our injury series, you’ll notice a common theme with the recovery process, and plantar fasciitis is no different. The R&R of running injuries is Rest THEN Rehabilitation. Step one, Rest, is to deal with the pain and inflammation, as well as loosen the muscles all around the plantar fascia. It may seem irrelevant, but you’ll want to use a foam roller or roller ball on your calves and hamstrings: In the case of a torn plantar fascia and subsequent surgery, this rest period lasts around 5 weeks.
What follows is the hard part: Rehabilitation. Working with a trainer or physical therapist, this process includes gait evaluation, neuromuscular re-education, strengthening of muscles within the foot, balance, and a gradual pain-free increase in load bearing and volume of activity. Not to mention upkeep of all that hard-earned fitness!
How can BWS and LEVER help my Plantar Fascia?
Keeping up with cardio training is important for stimulating blood flow to the plantar fascia, which gets pretty poor blood flow due to its location on the body. Typical plantar fasciitis protocols allow for the re-introduction of running in the form of very slow jogging, so injured runners are relegated to the bike or pool to maintain their fitness. We have found it very hard to improve as a runner by running only a few minutes a day at a very slow pace (although, it’s a start!).
Being injured is bad enough! And cross training can feel like torture. As can running very slowly when you are used to working out with regularity. Well, LEVER is here to help. According to a 2015 study by Thomson et al, offloading a healing plantar fascia can be done in two ways: either by reducing speed (slow jogging) or by reducing body weight. This means that with LEVER, you aren’t relegated to just slow jogging while recovering from plantar fasciitis! With LEVER’s patent pending BWS system you can modulate both pace and support to train safely and recover from plantar fasciitis. BWS allows you to unweight yourself until the force on your plantar fascia is reduced such that you remain pain-free while running over ground!
Once you’re nearing 100% healthy, or if you deal with a low level of chronic plantar fasciitis in general, you may notice that faster efforts tend to stress your plantar fascia. In that case, hop on a LEVER for those tempo, long run, and even interval efforts to complete the work pain-free. Our LEVER users aren’t just Comeback Legends, they’re STAYING HEALTHY Legends!
Nell Crosby, M.S.
1. Heel Pain | Plantar Fasciitis - Greater Houston Foot & Ankle Specialists. Greater Houston Foot & Ankle Specialists. Accessed October 2, 2020. http://www.ghfoot.com/conditions/plantar-fasciitis/
2. Thomson A, Einarsson E, Witvrouw E, Whiteley R. Running speed increases plantar load more than percent bodyweight on AlterG treadmill. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. Published December 2015. Accessed October 2, 2020. https://www.jsams.org/article/S1440-2440(15)00389-8/fulltext