Why plantar fasciitis is more common than you think
Hasewaga et al. (2020) claim that one in ten people will develop plantar fasciitis when they investigate minimally invasive treatment for plantar fasciitis. The term itself refers to inflammation and microcracks of the plantar fascia. Your plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs along the arch of your foot from your toes to your heel.
The plantar fascia becomes a source of pain in trainees who overpronate or wear flexible, minimalist shoes without the appropriate strength in their foot muscles. Symptoms are pain and tenderness along the arch of the foot and heel.
In contrast to plantar fasciitis, athletes can also put stress on the plantar fascia. This stress usually occurs in the early stages of exercise and is associated with running, jumping, and other repetitive stresses. Overweight athletes, tension in the calf muscles and weak support muscles in the foot are at the highest risk.
If left untreated, a nasty case of plantar fasciitis develops from a strain, the resolution of which takes more than eight months. Age, 40-60 years old, weight (people with high BMI), poor body mechanics such as poor ankle flexion all show a higher prevalence of plantar fasciitis2.
Stand firmly on the foot exercise
It is therefore important to exercise the intrinsic muscles of the foot and lower extremity, but also to improve the range of motion of the metatarsal phalangeal joint (MPJ).
The MPJ is the largest is the largest joint of the foot and has the largest range of motion in the sagittal plane. Although it is smaller than the ankle, knee or hip, it is the connection to the floor for the body and is subject to great forces during running and jumping movements3.
Whether you’re jumping, running, or doing a big Olympic lift, you push yourself off the floor on your toes and flex your foot.
Weightlifting coach Robert Takano likes to say, “Athleticism starts on the underside of your feet. The way you move them ultimately determines how good you can be as an athlete.” Well, he couldn’t be right anymore about the plantar fascia.
So it can be assumed that exercises that produce a powerful threefold extension of the ankles, knees, and hips – such as weightlifting like snapping, cleaning, and jerking – effectively work the intrinsic muscles of the foot for as long as the heel is raised, pushing it maximally off the floor and the fascia is also stretched for a positive effect.
The problem arises when the kinetic chain has weaknesses, which means that the work done by the feet is accentuated to compensate. Add in the greatest body weight and then you have even more stress and greater stress leads to trauma to the fascia and pain.
Because of this, you cannot inspect your plantar fascia in the field and consider it a problem area in isolation. It is part of a larger whole and the entirety of your ability to move plays a role in what happens to it. And while it may be obvious, it should be noted that the heavier you are, the greater the burden on your body and the first place you get a hit will be on your feet.
Athletes are not immune to plantar fasciitis; Most famously, Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and his brother Eli Manning both suffered from plantar fascia tears during their careers, as reported on ESPN.
Treatment of plantar fasciitis
Rest – Take the pressure off your feet. No standing around or running or jumping. In some cases, you can replace with swimming or cycling, all of which have been shown to relieve pressure on the fascia1.
stretch – Don’t just stretch your feet, work on your ankles and calves. Stretching will reduce the pain associated with plantar fasciitis, if it is specific to the area.
Pack up well – If you have a particularly bad case of plantar fasciitis and you see a podiatrist, you are likely to be taped. It’s an art because you have to position your foot correctly, but sticking it on is a huge relief.
Icing over – 10-20 minutes at a time, 2-4 times a day. It’s good early in your recovery but can lead to declining returns later on.
Footrests – Arch supports or wearing shoes with additional support in the arch provide relief. Do you need custom inserts? Probably not, but you need support because this is exactly what the plantar fascia would do by itself if it were healthy: supporting the arch.
Night rails – Wear a special boot at night to keep your foot flexed and prevent it from tightening overnight. It may take up to 3 months to stop using, but they are effective
Strength training – You may want to think about loaded tote bags when recovered, or more of them as a preventative measure. They are a good combination of static and dynamic support for the feet.
The goal of these recovery proposals is non-invasive. When things get serious, you can look at anything from corticosteroid injections and stem cell therapy to surgery, but for most sufferers, the basics will matter.
We often take basic movements like running and jumping for granted, especially as we get older, and fail to realize that even the simplest movements require complex interactions.
We definitely don’t show enough love to our feet in the gym because we don’t consider them a source of strength, but our connection to the floor or to a platform is the only focus for great strength, whether you’re pushing off or squatting. As Bob Takano said, it starts at the foot of your feet.
1. Hasegawa, M., Urits, I., Orhurhu, V., Orhurhu, MS, Brinkman, J., Giacomazzi, S., Foster, L., Manchikanti, L., Kaye, AD, Kaye, RJ, & Viswanath, O. (2020). Current Concepts of Minimally Invasive Treatment Options for Plantar Fasciitis: A Comprehensive Review. Current pain and headache reports, 24 (9), 55.
2. Riddle, DL & Schappert, SM (2004). Scope of Outpatient Care Visits and Care Patterns for Patients with Plantar Fasciitis: A National Study by Physicians. Foot & Ankle International, 25 (5), 303-310.
3. Goldmann, J.-P., Sanno, M., Willwacher, S., Heinrich, K. & Brüggemann, G.-P. (2013). The potential of the flexor muscles to improve performance. Journal of Sports Sciences, 31 (4), 424-433.