A client of mine recently contacted me complaining of persistent heel pain that she just couldn't get rid of. Naturally, I told him to follow the RGCE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) protocol. But she immediately interrupted me and made me realize that nothing was working.
So I asked him, "Do you think you might have an acute case of plantar fasciitis?"
To which she replied, “Plantar what?! What is this thing ?"
And that's when I realized that there are loads of runners out there who have absolutely no idea what overuse injuries are, how they happen let alone how the prevent.
This had to change, as it is clear that there is a need for education in our running communities about the different injuries.
That's why we decided to create a new series covering the most common overuse injuries suffered by runners. We will define injuries, their signs and symptoms, how to prevent them and treat them effectively.
So, without further ado, let's get to the heart of the matter, starting with arguably the most common overuse injury suffered by runners:
Plantar fasciitis: the running injury
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
For you to understand what plantar fasciitis is, we need to cover some definitions first. The plantar fascia is a bowstring-like connective tissue sheath. Its purpose is to support the arch of the foot by acting as a shock absorber when walking or running.
Fasciitis, on the other hand, is an inflammatory disease. When a certain piece of fascia in your body experiences stress or is overused, the connective structures that make up the fascia become irritated and inflamed. So basically plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the fascia found in your foot, as a result of overtraining. Make sense ? Good.
Is plantar fasciitis a common condition?
4 out of 5 people with chronic heel pain have plantar fasciitis and most of them go undiagnosed. This equates to ±8% of all foot injuries caused by running are related to plantar fasciitis. So to put that into perspective, 13% of the population on average suffers from plantar fasciitis.
What are the signs and symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis ?
First and foremost, plantar fasciitis presents as persistent pain and/or discomfort in the heel area of one (or both) feet. The actual painful sensation that individuals may feel varies from a sharp or piercing pain to a dull, throbbing pain or sometimes even a combination of both. The precise location of the pain can vary from case to case and it almost never radiates to other areas of the foot.
Plantar Fasciitis can be acute or occur gradually over time. In acute cases, the person usually experiences mild to severe symptoms within 24 hours of their run or workout. These cases are usually resolved within one to two weeks depending on individual management techniques. On the other hand, when the Plantar fasciitis symptoms present gradually, a person can go up to 6 months without realizing that you are actually suffering from this condition. Symptoms slowly worsen over time, so by the time you recognize and diagnose your condition, you're usually already experiencing significant, chronic pain. In these cases, recovery may take some time, up to 9 months in some specific cases.
Why do runners get plantar fasciitis?
There are many factors that can be directly linked to the development of this disease by runners.
In summary, the Plantar Fasciitis is a common overuse injury that affects a large number of runners worldwide. Anyone can develop Plantar Fasciitis at any time in their life, it all depends on their individual risk profile. Being able to recognize and manage the signs and symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis is of one crucial importance for a runner. Early diagnosis and proper management can mean the difference between a one-time injury and a recurring overuse injury that could potentially sideline you for months.