How to Treat Plantar Fasciitis as a Runner

​In the previous edition of this series, we introduced the concept of overuse injuries. We discussed what plantar fasciitis is and how to recognize the condition based on its signs and symptoms.

But what if you already have an overuse injury?
What the hell are you doing now?

Lucky for you, we have the answer to your problem. In this article, we will cover the following topics:

Comment traiter la fasciite plantaire en tant que coureur

​Now, before I begin, I think a brief recap of Plantar Fasciitis (PF) is in order.
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammatory overuse injury characterized by thickening of the fascia located on the arch of your foot. Symptoms of plantar fasciitis include tenderness, sharp or throbbing pain, and swelling around the base of the foot.

Plantar Fasciitis can be caused by a few different risk factors such as being overweight, inappropriate shoes and overtraining. 

1. How to Test for Plantar Fasciitis

Even though plantar fasciitis is technically an orthopedic condition, there is no 100% proven method to test for it. If you think you have plantar fasciitis, the best option is to contact your primary care physician or family doctor. He or she will do a physical exam and in some cases additional scans such as an X-ray or MRI would be needed to determine the extent of the disease.

2. How to treat plantar fasciitis

When it comes to treating overuse injuries, the prognosis is usually to stop your activity for a while and gradually return to training. However, we suggest a more structured approach to the treatment of plantar fasciitis. This approach consists of 3 phases:

Phase 1 would be to treat the symptoms. For this step, the RGCE protocol is usually the way to go, and we recommend that you begin this method of treatment immediately after your injury begins and up to a week after.

Let's go into a little more detail, RGCE is the acronym for:

  • REST - Rest is vitally important, as any weight-bearing activity can significantly worsen your condition.
  • ​ICE CUBE - Icing or cryotherapy is an effective method to reduce pain and inflammation. This can significantly increase the recovery period. A really cool way to do this is to fill a plastic bottle with water and freeze it. Once it's frozen, use it as a "frozen foam roller" for your feet. Roll the soles of your feet once a day for 15-20 minutes. It works like a charm.
  • COMPRESSION - Compression also helps treat pain and reduce swelling, but it goes a step further and reduces internal bleeding into the surrounding soft tissues. Again, another method to enhance the healing process and help speed up recovery.
  • ELEVATION - This is an absolutely crucial step, but it is always overlooked, because it makes you feel a bit uncomfortable. Elevating your foot immediately after your injury has occurred or your symptoms have manifested reduces blood flow to that area. But does that seem counter-intuitive? You see that the reduced blood flow to your injured area prevents a buildup of fluids in that area. Fluid buildup increases swelling and discomfort and you don't want that! So grab a stack of pillows and sit down and put your foot (or feet up). Trust us, it helps!

3. Rehabilitation of plantar fasciitis

You have identified that you are indeed suffering from an acute case of plantar fasciitis. You have done the research and followed your doctor's orders and followed a full RGCE protocol. It's been a few days without training and you have little to no symptoms.

You decide to go for a quick run around the neighborhood. I mean what could it hurt, right?

Unfortunately, within 2 minutes of leaving, your symptoms begin to escalate and you decide to stop and walk home. Back to square one and all of your “diligent” efforts to treat your Plantar Fasciitis have been for naught.

Don't be that person.

Remember that plantar fasciitis is like any injury, something is broken and needs to be fixed. The initial treatment protocol is only one step in the healing process. The RGCE protocol is used to relieve you as quickly as possible. But that's only half the battle.

In order to rehabilitate or “fix” your injury, you will need to follow a return to play protocol or in this case a return to run protocol. It is a series of steps aimed at restoring your body, or in this case, your normal foot function.

Well, phase 1 (RGCE protocol) is finished and dusted off.

In Phase 2, during this stage, you will focus on mobilizing and strengthening your plantar fascia. To make this as simple as possible, you will focus on stretching and reintroducing the load to the affected area.

Doing a series of daily calf and soleus stretches is the best and most effective way to engage the plantar fascia.

Now, in terms of strengthening, we don't mean going to the gym. But what we recommend is to strengthen the affected joint, which in this case is the ankle and foot joints. By doing a series of lower extremity exercises, you will strengthen an area of ​​your body that once lacked stability and some degree of durability.

Stretching and strengthening exercises should be done at least 3 times a week to ensure that your plantar fascia receives adequate stimulation to recover as quickly as possible.

And finally Phase 3: return to the race. During this phase, your objective is simple. Mimic the stress you'll feel when doing your favorite activity or sport. So you'll basically be running, but with a bit of a twist.

Instead of putting on your trainers and hitting the road for 25 minutes, you will instead introduce controlled running sessions. So, for example, you would run for 5-10 minutes each day for the first 3 days. On day four, you would do two separate 10-minute runs per day for 5 days. Rest for a few days, then start by running 10-15 minutes a day for 3 days. And repeat. You had the idea.

Now, this is purely an example of a phase 3 implementation. There are many ways to do this, so be creative by all means. As long as you retrain in exactly the same way as you would for competition, you should be good to go!

Conclusion

To conclude, when trying to treat plantar fasciitis, there are 3 phases you should follow.
Phase 1 is to implement the RGCE protocol as soon as possible.
Phase 2 focuses on mobilizing and strengthening the affected area.
And finally, phase 3 is your return to play (race) stage. Here, you'll use limited, controlled periods of similar activity as a method to gradually reintroduce your body to the activity you plan to return to.