I am a competitive distance runner and personal trainer. Last month, I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. Can I still run with this injury? My coach asked me to continue running while the physio said rest. I have lots of running competitions coming up. I do not want to detrain myself. The physio mentioned the spin bike and cross trainer are both bad for my foot. What about lunges, squat, balance training? What type of exercises can help to improve the recovery?
Plantar fasciitis results from the long, flat ligament on the bottom of the foot (Plantar Fascia) stretching irregularly, causing small tears that inflame the ligament. The pain associated with this condition is most notable after getting out of bed, since sudden pressure is put on the area after a long rest period. The pain usually dissipates after walking for a while. Unfortunately, the only way to heal this injury is to stop running until the condition goes away. Any exercises that put pressure on the foot should also be avoided since the plantar fascia runs along the bottom of most of the foot. This includes the cross trainer, spin bike, lunges, squats and balance training.
Alternative exercises can be done to maintain conditioning and help speed up the recovery. Swimming and pool exercises are best, as long as no pressure is put on the heel of the foot. An arm ergometer (a machine where you sit and pedal with your arms) can be used to help maintain cardiovascular conditioning as well.
Plantar fascia specific exercises to aid your recovery include the following three things:
- Band Stretch: Hold a long flat resistant band (available at physical therapy offices or sporting good stores) or towel over the ball of your foot. While keeping your knee straight, pull your ankle toward you by using the band and the muscle by your shin bone (called the tibialis anterior muscle). Hold for 10 seconds and release. Repeat for five minutes.
- Incline Board Stretch and Heel Raise: Position a board or book about two feet from the wall. Place the balls of your feet over the end of the board or book, keep your legs straight and lean forward into the wall. Hold five to 10 seconds then do 15 to 20 heel raises. Relax and repeat for five to 10 minutes. This same exercise can be done with the knees slightly bent as well.
- Massage: Place the ball of your foot over a tubular device or foam pad about two inches in diameter. Roll the foot back and forth over the device or pad, increasing the pressure until slight discomfort is felt. Maintain this pressure and continue rolling the foot for five to 10 minutes.
Taping the plantar fascia, wearing orthotics and icing for 20 minutes at a time can also help relieve pressure in the affected area.