As every athlete knows, avoiding injury is as important to long-term athletic success as training and performance. Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain and a frustrating interruption to training regimes and athletic performance.
Here we look at 8 key plantar fasciitis causes, so you can take steps to reduce your risk of injury during sporting endeavours, and your day-to-day life.
1. Certain types of exercise
Activities such as long-distance running, ballet dancing and certain kinds of aerobics and HIIT workouts can contribute to an earlier onset of plantar fasciitis. This is due to the pressure these exercises apply to the heel and surrounding tissue. Taking up running without existing conditioning for this activity, may also result in injury.
2. Flawed foot biomechanics
Being flat-footed, having a high arch or even having an abnormal pattern of walking can adversely affect the way weight is distributed when you’re standing and put added stress on the plantar fascia. Furthermore, those with pronation of the foot are at increased risk. Pronation is the term for the mechanism of walking with an inward rotation or twist of the foot.
3. Existing muscle tension
Those suffering from tight calf muscles are at heightened risk of suffering from plantar fasciitis. If you experience muscle tightness, it is important to incorporate stretching into your daily routine, utilise heat therapy or consult a sports physiotherapist for a professional massage in these areas. A plantar fasciitis night splint is an excellent piece of kit for helping to prevent the calf muscles and plantar fascia tightening up overnight.
4. Excess body weight
Excess body weight increases stress levels in the body, as movement impact is heightened and overall stability and balance are compromised. In order to reduce your susceptibility to injury, it is strongly recommended to maintain your weight to a healthy standard. For those with a high level of excess body weight, low-impact exercises such as swimming are an excellent way to partake in cardiovascular exercise and burn fat, whilst exerting minimal impact stress on the muscles and joints.
5. Inappropriate footwear
Wearing shoes with poor cushioning or structural support can increase the risk of injury. Furthermore, women who transition from wearing high heels for extended periods of time to flat sports shoes may also experience heel and foot pain or injury. Wearing shoes that suit your running style can provide the support necessary to help avoid injury.
Plantar fasciitis is most common between the ages of 40 and 70. Foot pain is, unfortunately, an affliction that is common among the middle-aged and elderly. Ensuring you wear correct supportive footwear, and maintain mobility of the foot muscles – by performing simple stretches and staying active – will help protect you against the risk of injury.
7. Extended periods of standing
Those in occupations that require long periods of standing on hard surfaces are at a heightened risk of experiencing damage to their plantar fascia muscle. This risk may be minimised by wearing correct, supportive footwear, and varying the levels of movement throughout the day (e.g periods of strolling at various speeds, and some seated rest periods.)
8. Training on hard surfaces
Training on hard surfaces such as concrete, non-built-for-purpose exercise studios, and non-sprung wood floors heightens the risk of plantar fasciitis. Over an extended period of time, the heightened impact of such surfaces is a significant stressor to the joints and supporting muscles, which may result in injury. As such, athletes in extended training are recommended to use built-for-purpose training facilities where possible. Built-for-purpose facilities – such as tennis and basketball courts, gymnasiums, and dance studios – have sprung floors which minimise the stress impact on the body.
Tellingly, plantar fasciitis is also sometimes referred to as ‘joggers heel’. Runners are recommended to vary their terrain to help negate the damaging impact of running on hard surfaces such as concrete. Varying a running training routine with cross-country terrain, where possible, is highly favourable in order to reduce the risk of injury.
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