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Introduction

Plantar Heel Pain, also referred to as Plantar Fasciitis, is a common running injury normally associated with runners increasing their milage or speeds too quickly. However, if managed correctly you should be able to get back to running safely and effectively.

Signs and Symptoms

Plantar Heel Pain is essentially an overload injury in the sole of the foot. Common signs and symptoms may include:

  • A sharp, stabbing pain at the bottom of the heel, especially in the morning

  • The pain reducing as the day goes on

  • Pain is normally increasing the day after exercise

Causes

1. Running too hard, too often

The most common cause of Plantar Heel Pain is increasing your training load too early too soon. When running, you want to make sure you are increasing your weekly mileage and the number of runs that you do per week steadily. For your weekly mileage, you should look to increase this no more than 10% per week and your days per week no more than once when starting a new plan. Sharp increases in your training load (e.g., jumping from running once per week to three times per week) can put excess strain on your body, including the load within sole of your foot, that results in Plantar Heel Pain. It's also important to make sure your Easy Runs are exactly that - easy!

2. Underlying strength

When runners have a deficit in calf strength, this can also lead to fascia taking an increased load during running.

Treatment

1. Decrease your training load

When returning to exercise, you should adapt the traffic light system so ensure you are are not delaying your recovery. If you get any pain in Amber or Red, it is advised that you stop running as this will likely delay your recovery.

Green = 0-3 pain, Amber = 3-5 pain, Red = 5+ pain

In the short-term, make sure to take time away from running to let your heel pain reduce. Stay active with activities such as walking and cycling, but avoid high impact sports. Once your pain has subsided, look to gradually build back into running with some easier runs until you are able to run comfortably without pain. You can adjust the number of runs per week, or your running ability, easily from within the Runna app and your plan will adapt accordingly.

2. Cushioned Trainers

To take the load off the sole of your foot, it is important to wear a cushioned trainer to support the heel. Try to avoid walking around barefoot at home to take the load out of the heel.

3. Taping

Taping can be really effective for Planter Heel Pain - it has been shown to have excellent benefits as it can take the load out of the injured area.

4. Stretches

For this injury, stretching rather than strengthening should be the go to! Stretching the fascia under the foot will help relieve symptoms. Watch the video above for the full tutorials.

Heel raises (source)

Stand on a raised platform (e.g., a step) with a single leg and take 3 seconds to raise your body up and down. This will both strengthen your calf but also stretch it when your heel is lower than your toes. Look to do this 2x per day at the start, each time doing 3 rounds of 10-12 reps. You can look to add on additional weight to further strengthen your calf muscles and reduce the risk of your fascia flaring up again.

Romanian deadlift (source)

Take a dumbbell in one hand and stand on the opposite leg with a slight bend in the knee. Extend the dumbbell down towards the floor, tilting your body forward and lifting the leg on the same side of your body up behind you. Gradually increase the weight to further strengthen your hip.

Hip external rotation strengthening (source)

By strengthening your hip external rotators, it will help keep your legs straight as you run. Lie on the ground on your front and bend one of your legs at 90 degrees. Loop a band around your foot and tie the other end to a chair, fixture or get another person to hold it for you. Drive your foot inwards over the other leg for 3 rounds of 10-12 reps. Look to gradually increase the resistance of the band.

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