A client of mine recently reached out to me complaining about a persistent heel pain she just couldn’t seem to shake off. Naturally, I told her to follow the R.I.C.E protocol (rest, ice, compression and elevation). But she immediately interrupted me and made it clear that nothing is working.
So I asked her: “Do you think you might have an acute case of Plantar Fasciitis?”
To which she replied: “Plantar what?! What the heck is that?”
And that’s when it dawned on me, there are loads of runners out there that have absolutely no idea what overuse injuries are, how they occur and much less how to prevent them.
This had to change, because clearly there is a need for a bit of education in our running communities regarding different injuries.
That’s why we decided to put together a new series covering the most common overuse injuries experienced by runners. We will be defining the injuries, their signs and symptoms, how to prevent and treat them effectively.
So without further adieu let's get into it, starting with arguably the most common overuse injury experienced by runners:
Plantar Fasciitis: The Running Injury
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
In order for you guys to understand what Plantar Fasciitis is we need to cover some definitions first. The plantar fascia is a sheath of connective tissue shaped like a bowstring. It’s purpose is to provide support for the arch of the foot by acting as a shock absorber while walking or running.
Fasciitis on the other hand is an inflammatory condition. When a certain piece of fascia in your body undergoes stress or gets overused, the connective structures that make up the fascia get irritated and inflamed. So essentially Plantar Fasciitis is the inflammation of the fascia found in your foot, as a result of overtraining. Make sense? Good.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?
First and foremost Plantar Fasciitis presents as a persistent pain and or discomfort in the heel area of one (or both) feet. The actual painful sensation individuals may experience vary from sharp or piercing pain to dull and throbbing or sometimes even a combination of both. The precise location of the pain might vary from case to case and it almost never radiates to other areas of the foot.
PF can be acute or it can occur gradually over time. In acute cases, the individual usually experiences mild to severe symptoms within 24 hours of their run or training. These cases are usually resolved in one to two weeks depending on individual management techniques. On the other hand, when Plantar Fasciitis symptoms present gradually a person can go up to 6 months without realizing that you actually suffer from this condition. The symptoms slowly get worse over time, so by the time you recognize and diagnose your condition you are usually already in significant and chronic pain. In these instances recovery can take quite a while, up to 9 months in some specific cases.
Why do Runners Get Plantar Fasciitis?
There are quite a few factors that can be directly linked to runners developing this condition.
To summarize, Plantar Fasciitis is a common overuse injury that affects a significant number of runners around the world. Anyone can develop PF at any given time during their life, it all depends on their individual risk profile. Being able to recognise and manage the signs and symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis is of utmost importance for a runner. An early diagnosis and proper management can be the difference between having a one off injury and a recurring overuse injury that could potentially sideline you for months on end.