Running has become an increasingly popular activity throughout the United States. Races such as 5k’s, 10k’s and marathons are prevalent in most communities, and recreational runners are common. Whether you are running for a cause or for fun, you may find yourself with foot pain while training and even after you’ve crossed the finish line.
Both athletes and non-athletes suffer from foot pain. Causes include ligament sprains, bunions, and inflammation of the joints located in the foot. One common source of pain is plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that starts at the heel and spreads the length of the bottom of the foot. It acts as a shock absorber for the foot and is therefore susceptible to a great deal of stress. As with any other structure of the body, when too much stress is placed on the plantar fascia – whether it be a sudden, unexpected step off a curb or chronic stress from running or walking on hard surfaces – the structure can become inflamed and painful.
Typically, the pain from plantar fasciitis begins at the heel where the structure originates. As the injury progresses, the pain extends from the heel to the toes. Usually, the first step after prolonged sitting or rising from bed in the morning will cause a sharp pain in the foot. Wearing shoes with poor support or high heeled shoes can worsen the injury. Individuals with flat feet or high arches are susceptible to this injury, as are those with average arches but who suffer from tight calf muscles. Plantar fasciitis can be caused by prolonged standing, running, and jumping sports.
Conservative treatment for plantar fasciitis is usually successful if the injury is addressed early enough. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, cold therapy, and a good stretching program can alleviate the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. In worse cases, a visit to an orthopedic physician or podiatrist is warranted. Leaving plantar fasciitis untreated can result in chronic pain and worsening of the injury. Early physician intervention may include a prescription for both anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy. The physical therapists can use different modalities to alleviate the pain and provide stretching and strengthening exercises. A physician can also provide a special splint, worn at night, to keep the lower leg and foot in a stretched position. If this intervention does not help, the next course of action may be an injection of a corticosteroid for more localized treatment of inflammation. In worst case scenarios, surgery may be required to repair or release the plantar fascia.
Prevention is key in regard to plantar fasciitis. Whether you are an avid runner or a female who wears high-heeled shoes to work every day, a comprehensive stretching program that focuses on stretching your calves, achilles tendon and toes will benefit you. Make sure your shoes have proper support and cushion, and don’t ignore foot pain. The earlier you begin treatment, the sooner you can get back to running or other activities you enjoy.
Dr. Brad Homan, medical director of sports medicine and chief or surgery at Florida Hospital Celebration Health, is uniquely trained in treating athletes of all ages. To make an appointment with Dr. Homan, visit www.thesportsmedicineteam.com or call 407-303-4204.