It’s winter again and for many of us, that means running on the ice. Unfortunately, this is also the time of year when many of us struggle with a varying degree of foot pain, also known as plantar fasciitis. Winter running seems to increase our susceptibility because running on uneven surfaces (snow, ice, slush puddles) challenges foot stability.
So what does all the Latin mean? The plantar fascia is a flat ligament on the bottom of the foot running along your arch from your heel to your toes. Fasciitis is the inflammation that you feel when your plantar fascia is overstretched or overused (i.e. bumping up your mileage too fast). This is caused by straining the ligament and repeated strain can cause tiny tears which in severe cases, can lead to rupture. Some other factors that can contribute are a tight Achilles tendon or high or low arches.
Plantar pain can strike anywhere along the ligament. Usually, it starts as a sharp pain in the heel and as it gets worse, spreads through the arch. Symptoms include pain in the morning or after standing or doing intense physical activity. The pain can feel aching, burning or stabbing and your arch will be tender to the touch.
If ignored, plantar pain can persist for months so it is best to catch it early. Anti-inflammatories, an ice cup massage for 10 minutes twice per day, and reducing your mileage or taking a few days off will help with immediate pain relief. Rehabilitation exercises can also be helpful. Place a towel on the ground and from a sitting position use your bare foot to scrunch the towel toward you. Calf raises and stretches can also help to relive some of the tightness. Range of motion exercises will help loosen up some of the stiffness and a deep tissue massage can ease out some of the crepitus, that crunching feeling you get along the bottom of your foot.
Check the mileage on your shoes as well, sometimes running in shoes that are not supportive can contribute to the tightness. Also, I have found that if you have high arches, adding some barefoot training can help strengthen your arches and reduce the occurrence of fasciitis. If treated judiciously, plantar pain can usually be alleviated within a matter of weeks.