Sep 2016 17

Overcoming plantar fascia injury

By: Dave Wheeler

If you're a regular client or regular reader of the blog, then you've no doubt heard me go on (and on) about the fact that I got a plantar fascia injury back in May this year.

It was my own fault: I was wearing old running shoes, and was over-striding... 2 pretty stupid things to do for someone who ought to know better.

I'm not entirely stupid though... almost there, but not quite. I did follow my own advice and rested completely from running for 4 months. I even laid off walking as much as possible. With a plantar fascia injury, rest is key.

There's more info in a previous blog post about plantar fasciitis - but it's worth noting here that it comes in 2 flavours:

  1. on the heel (also known as Joggers Heel), 
  2. in the arch of the foot

Both are a real pain - mainly because the blood supply down there is rubbish, so healing nutrients are in pretty short supply. 

To be honest, I was lucky - although I'd strained the fascia in the arch of my foot, it would have been worse if it had been the heel, which takes even longer to sort itself out.

Very gentle massage of the plantar fascia when you get up in the morning can help too. It always seems to be worse when you wake up!


Avoiding plantar fasciitis

The number 1 cause of plantar fascia injury is impact, especially on the heel. The number 2 is overstretching the foot during the gait cycle - known as over-striding (basically, taking too big a stride).

The most important thing, then, is to get your running shoes right.

Matt Phillips has written a great article on choosing running shoes. As he says, the most important thing is are they comfortable when you run?

But where do you start in finding a comfortable pair of shoes?

I'm realy "anti" sports shops that put you on a treadmill, video you and tell you that you over-pronate. There are 2 main reasons for this:

  1. Most of us don't run on a treadmill in real life, we run outdoors. On a treadmill the "ground" moves by itself - you don't have to push off with any effort. Outside, your muscles have to work a lot harder at the toe off to push you away from the ground. You have a different gait when running on a treadmill to running outside - so why would you choose a shoe that doesn't match how your actually going to run outside the shop?
  2. Over-pronation comes in a bewildering variety of complexity, which just aren't understood by shop assistants.

To make sure you get shoes that are really right for you, you need to try on several pairs (running in each pair) under the watchful gaze of an expert who understands running gait. To be honest, the best place I know is Run & Become in Victoria (London) who really are expert at it.

So anyway, I have new shoes. I'm running again; fingers crossed that's my plantar fascia problem sorted.