Let’s say you get up one Saturday morning and the weather is great. You can feel the outside calling your name so you decide it is time to get some exercise. You haven’t been running for a few months (you lost your zeal when it got cold) and so you go to your closet and grab your old running shoes and off you go. It feels great to be back out and so it is easy to talk yourself into doing it every day for the next week. After that you feel that just going out for a 5 mile isn’t enough that you should go longer and you up it to 10 miles. Wow, you feel great!
And then your foot starts to hurt when you are walking. The pain is sort of in your heel and sort of in the bottom of your foot. What could this be? And why? You just enjoyed that 10 mile run and you don’t want to stop but it really hurts.
It sounds like you have opened yourself up to a case of plantar fasciitis. What did you do? Well, there were a couple things in your story that could be the cause of your pain. One of the causes of plantar fasciitis is suddenly ramping up your exercise program. Going from nothing to running 5 miles and then doubling that in a week or so would qualify you for suddenly ramping up your exercise program.
The other problem? Going into the closet and pulling out your old running shoes. Your foot needs support when you are running (actually all the time) and your old shoes may have gone beyond their life expectancy. Wearing shoes that are not supportive of your feet is another cause for plantar fasciitis.
What is plantar fasciitis? Let’s have a look at the structure of the foot.
So, when you look at this picture, you can see where the plantar fascia muscle is in the foot and that it runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the toes. This band of thick fibrous tissue supports the many muscles in the foot and the arch of the foot. When plantar fascia is irritated by over stretching, tears will form and cause swelling and pain. The pain is usually felt in the heel area and can sometimes be confused with an irritated Achilles tendon.
There are several ways to irritate the plantar fascia. Overuse or sudden increase in use is one way along with wearing shoes that don’t offer enough support. A sudden switch from high heels to flats can also cause a stretch of the plantar fascia. Then there are foot conditions like flat feet or really high arches can make a person prone to have having plantar issues.
What should you do if you think you have plantar fasciitis? It is time to visit your friendly local podiatrist. Rather than going with “Dr. Google”, you should get a real evaluation of the problem and talk to the doctor about things you can do to heal the band and stop the pain. (You know, like make sure you really have plantar fasciitis rather than Achilles tendinitis.)
It may be that your treatment would include icing the area, taking some over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs and most of all resting the area. Your doctor may feel that a custom orthotic will help you. (If you get a custom orthotic, make sure you listen to the directions on how to break it in. They give you those directions for a reason.)
Hopefully, you didn’t start off your running season in the way described and you are having a great time. Just remember, your friendly local podiatrist is there to help you put your best feet forward!