WHAT IS PLANTAR FASCIITIS?
Written by Dr. David Strassburg, President of Strassburg Medical, creators of the Strassburg Sock
Let's say you are a new runner/walker. Or perhaps, a long-time recreational runner. You hop in your car and pick out a pair of flashy new sneakers from mega-sports store. The price is right and they are your favorite color so you put a couple more dollars on the VISA card and off you go. Your first couple days on the roads are great and your dirty clothes hamper is rapidly filling up with the fruits of your labor. You're feeling pretty good about the miles you are putting in your training log.
Pretty good until you get up one morning and notice something doesn't feel quite right. It's your heel and it’s a little tender, almost a bruise-like feeling. Similar to that one you felt when you were at the beach last summer, running across the parking lot and you firmly planted the heel of your bare foot on that unexpected stone. Your first few steps out of bed are a little cautious, but as you make your way towards the coffee pot and your foot gets moving, the dull ache slowly goes away. "Hmm…. Must be getting old you tell yourself. Just a little stiffness. Nothing a little stretching won't fix". The pain is gone, your shoes are on and now it's time to get in a few miles. The previous days heel issue is all but forgotten. The next morning you get up and the pain is there again.
It's a bit more painful than the day before but once again disappears after you get up and move around. This cycle repeats itself until one day you find yourself having to tiptoe to the bathroom in the morning to brush your teeth. "What in the heck is going on?" you ask yourself as you try to figure out why this heel pain goes away during the day only to return with a vengeance every morning. Welcome to the world of the most common running injury, Plantar Fasciitis!
You may feel alone but as you start asking around among your runner friends, you'll find that this problem is all too common. And it's not just found among runners. Dr. Scholl (yes, the guy whose name you see in all the drugstores) referred to the condition in a book he wrote in 1915 as "Policeman's Heel". Plantar Fasciitis was the injury that ended the career of Joltin' Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees. It's also been the bane of superstar 1st baseman Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals, arguably one of the best players in the game today. So you're not a sports superstar or even a runner and you think you're off the hook. Think again. Plantar Fasciitis is an equal opportunity afflicter affecting everyday people as well. By some estimates 10% of the population has had it and there are an estimated 7 million new cases each year. It’s the number one reason someone goes to the foot doctor, accounting for an estimated 46% of all office visits.
What causes Plantar Fasciitis?
In most people, it's a perfect storm of a variety of factors that starts the ball rolling. In the example above where the person gets out of bed and has their initial pain relieved by gentle stretching, effective injury-halting treatment is often delayed. Some of the more common causes are listed below:
Incorrect Footwear - This includes summertime favorites such as dollar-store flip-flops or going barefoot. Not that they will always cause the injury but they certainly will accelerate it. Shoes that flex in the arch as opposed to closer to the toes will put extra stress on this Plantar Fascia. Your local Running Specialty Retailer can help you select the right running or walking shoes for you, or help you find sandals with appropriate support.
Over-pronation - A little pronation is a good thing but too much of a good thing is rarely good. Pronation is the twisting or rolling your foot undergoes from the time your foot touches the ground until the time it leaves the ground. Generally, in ideal cases, it's about 15 degrees. Its function is to absorb shock and position the foot to allow you to push off of your toes. Think of it like twisting a hand towel to wring it out. As you twist it more, it becomes tighter. Sometimes it can become too tight and can cause the fascia to tear away from the heel. This over-pronation can be modified through use of an appropriate running shoe selection or an insert, such as Superfeet.
Sudden Increases in Activity - Like the new runner mentioned above too much too soon is also never good. Find a training group at a local running store to guide you through the process of increasing your activity at a rate your body can handle.
Sudden Weight Gain - A little too much turkey after the turkey trot followed by Christmas cookies and a winter wonderland of slippery streets are not always conducive to running and can help add a few pounds. Pregnancy also often comes with some rapid weight gain as well as a hormone called Relaxin which can make joints more unstable.
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