Plantar fasciitis is a painful foot condition that involves inflammation and tearing of the strong connective tissue on the underside of your foot. Your plantar fascia connects your heel to your toe and is essential in handling stress when you run, jump and push off your feet, but these stressors can also take a toll on your feet. This is especially true in athletes, who perform all of the above motions excessively and intensely during the course of competition.
Plantar fasciitis sidelines tens of thousands of athletes each year, and while the condition is not completely preventable, there are a number of things you can do to prevent the issue and treat plantar fasciitis if it begins to develop. Below, we share some tips on how athletes can prevent and treat plantar fasciitis.
Preventing And Treating Plantar Fasciitis In Athletes
The most common underlying cause of plantar fasciitis onset is due to overuse or repetitive stress on your feet, and both of those factors are common in active athletes. And while athletics may help to strengthen your feet and its supportive tissues, too much intense activity can overload the plantar fascia and result in microtearing and inflammation.
Plantar fasciitis can also be harder to treat in athletes because rest is one of the main treatment options. Rest alone will not fully resolve your plantar fasciitis, but you do need to avoid intense activity for a certain amount of time and pair that rest with targeted physical therapy for best results. Many athletes do not want to be sidelined for a few weeks, and they may jump back into activity too quickly or as soon as they see some progress, and that can send them right back to square one. As tough as it may be, you need to look at the long-term future instead of focusing on short-term goals, otherwise a mild and highly treatable case of plantar fasciitis can turn into a major tear that requires surgery and months of rehab.
So how can athletes work to prevent and treat plantar fasciitis? Here are some foot specialist approved tips:
- Stretch Before Activity – Odds are you go through a stretching routine before athletics or exercise, but don’t ignore key lower body muscles. A tight Achilles tendon muscle can put additional strain on your plantar fascia and lead to inflammation, so make sure your Achilles is properly stretched before you jump into activity.
- Wear The Right Shoes – If you’re not wearing the right shoes for the activity, your plantar fascia is going to end up bearing more stress, and over time that can wear it down and trigger an inflammatory response. Shoes that are overly tight or too loose will lead to additional pressure on your plantar fascia. Make sure that you buy athletics shoes that are built with your specific foot design in mind.
- Maintain A Healthy Weight – Athletes are less likely to be obese or overweight compared to the normal population, but there are many people who turn to athletics and exercise as a way to lose weight. It’s great that you want to slim down, but you need to be extra mindful when starting a new exercise or athletics routine if you’re carrying some extra weight. The new stress from the activity combined with your extra weight can put a lot of strain on your plantar fasciitis, so you’ll want to start slow and gradually increase your intensity and duration to help protect your plantar fasciitis.
- Low-Impact Cross Training – Odds are you’re going to do some exercises or weight room routines between games and practices, and you’ll want to be mindful that these routines aren’t putting too much strain on your plantar fascia. Remember, overuse is the most common cause of plantar fasciitis, and if you’re doing some high-impact exercises between games, your plantar fascia isn’t going to have time to recover between activities. Instead, opt for some low-impact exercises like swimming, cycling or resistance band movements to test different muscles and improve flexibility without putting direct strain on your plantar fascia.
- Stop If Pain Develops – If you start to notice some pain in your heel or under your foot arch, don’t keep playing through the pain. Learn to listen to your body and treat small issues before they snowball into a major tear. Plantar fasciitis can easily become a chronic annoyance if not treated appropriately, so don’t ignore the early warning signs.
If you want professional help overcoming your plantar fasciitis or related foot condition, reach out to Dr. McDonald and his team today at (860) 244-8889.