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Finally nice weather is back in Baltimore. We want to get our running gear and go for a nice jog outside, or maybe train for your first 5k or long distance race. Running is a great exercise with so many benefits…

• Improves your cardiovascular health.
• Build endurance.
• Helps your immune system.
• Reduce chances of having a stroke, cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
• Get the “runner’s high”. You can have a love and hate relationship with running but it is a great way to relieve stress, fight depression, gives you a lot of positive energy, makes you feel accomplished when you finish your running workout and when you see improvement by running faster, longer, gradually adding hills and obstacles to give you more challenge.
• Train your mind to focus and give 100%
• Best ways to lose or maintain a healthy weight.
• Makes you feel young.

When starting an exercise program it is great to learn about the benefits but it is very important to know how to do it right, and learn also to listen to your body. When it comes to running, our main goals are to finish strong and never give up (no matter what). These are very good reasons to start however you also want to learn about proper running form, having the right running shoes and making sure you don’t have any foot imbalances.

Running with cheap running shoes, an incorrect form and with foot imbalance in the long run can cause common running injuries like Plantar Fasciitis, which is a painful condition that causes irritation of the plantar fascia (a thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes). This condition can be caused by overstretching or overusing the fascia and it can make walking or standing too long a painful experience.

Who could be at risk for this condition?

• People who have flat fleet or high arches.
• Not warming up before a run and not cooling down.
• Overweight individuals.
• Tight Achilles tendon (connects the calf muscle to the heel).
• Long distance runners.
• Rapid increase in your running mileage.
• Using high-heeled shoes too much.
• People who use worn out shoes or shoes without enough heel and arch support.

What symptoms could you experience?
• Pain in the heel and sometimes along the arch.
• Pain when you first get up in the morning because of how your feet lay when you sleeping causing the fascia to tighten up.
• Pain in the foot throughout the day if you stand for long periods, walk or do any other activities.

What can you do?

Visit a podiatrist. During your doctor’s appointment, other than questions, he/she might want to see your running shoes, perform x-rays, and maybe a gait analysis (or gait scan) using a computerized pressure mat where you need to walk normally over it with both feet so it can record the pressures on your feet with each step. The way the pressure is distributed relates with your posture and stability of your feet. If you have foot imbalance this can cause stress to the joints which can also affect not only your feet but also shins, knees, hips, and even your back.

What you can do for prevention or to reduce plantar fasciitis pain?

• Changing your running shoes every 350-550 miles (this depends on how much you train, how much you weight, and the surfaces you usually run).
• Alternate your shoes every day – try to have 2 running pairs. Maybe others for activities like weight training, spinning class and walking.
• If you have any foot imbalance, you may need prescribed orthotics (foot insole) to improve your feet placement (to a more neutral position), alleviate foot fatigue and cushion them better.
• Don’t forget to stretch!
• Try adding exercises in your routine where you won’t have a lot of impact on your feet, like swimming or biking.

What are some treatments?

Stretching! Stretching! Stretching! – Early in the morning and after any periods of activities. There are so many benefits of stretching – reducing muscle tension, improve range of motion, improve flexibility, helps your body to get ready for any strenuous activity, you feel good overall and relaxed.

Great stretching exercises to help alleviate plantar fasciitis symptoms are:

  • Towel Stretch: Sit on the floor with your legs stretched in front of you. Put a towel under your right heel and cover the entire foot with the towel. Slowly pull the towel towards you and keeping your knees straight. Hold for 15-30 seconds, relax and repeat on the other foot. You can also repeat this exercise for 1 or 2 more sets.
  • Plantar Stretch. Sit down in a chair or bench barefoot. Cross your right leg so your ankle rest in your left thigh. Hold your toes and bend them towards your shin to stretch your plantar fascia. Release returning to the starting position and repeat 10 times per foot. Try to perform 3 sets.
  • Achilles Tendon Stretch: Face the wall and place your hands on it. Put one leg back and make sure your back foot is flat on the floor. Move the other leg forward leaning towards the wall until you feel your calf muscles stretching. Hold it for 15-30 seconds. Relax and switch sides. Try to do 2-3 sets.
  • Hamstring stretch with a band or belt: Lie on the floor (on your back). Place a resistance band around the right foot. Straighten the right foot as much as you can while keeping the other leg bent on the floor. Pull gently the right leg towards you and you’ll feel the stretch behind the leg. Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds and switch sides.

Sleeping with a night splint: It holds the foot in a dorsiflexion position to prevent the fascia from tightening and helps to alleviate morning foot pain.
ICE or Cold Therapy to reduce pain and inflammation.
Foot Exercises: Some I learned from therapy…

  • Ball or Bottle Roll Up: While sitting, have a tennis ball or a bottle of ice water below your foot. Roll it below the arch to stretch the plantar fascia. Keep rolling for 1-2 minutes under each foot. Repeat if necessary. This exercise feels much better when you had the ball frozen or with an ice bottle.
  • Towel curls: With a towel on the floor, curl the towel using your toes. Relax and repeat. Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps.

Foot Taping: It helps to limit stretching in the plantar fascia ligament which will aid to reduce stress.
NSAID: Pain medication if your doctor recommends it.
Physical Therapy
• Foot Massage
REST is also very important but it is so difficult when every day you need to be in motion and you can’t leave your feet behind.

If you are adding running in your training, then make sure you have the right running shoes, practice stretching, and if you need extra support or if you’re experience discomfort and pain, make a podiatrist appointment for prevention and reduce your chances of developing this condition or other common running injuries. And keep your feet happy; after all, they do most of the work when it comes to your daily activities.