How to Treat and Prevent Plantar Fasciitis for Runners

Are You Wearing the Right Socks?

The reason plantar fasciitis is so tough to defeat is that most of the healing occurs at night, when the ankle is extended and the fascia shortened. As soon as you get out of bed in the morning and put weight on the foot, the fascia stretches out and all that healing is undone. The Strassburg sock is a special sock worn at night that keeps the ankle flexed to allow the fascia to heal at a functional length, and often brings miraculous results to plantar fasciitis sufferers.

Should You Go Without Shoes?

It is estimated that over 75 percent of shod runners are rear-foot strikers (landing heel first). Rear-foot strikers who do not properly transition to forefoot or mid-foot striking bear a greater risk of severe injury. By continuing to land heel first, the shock on the body without the cushioning of running shoes leads to a considerable number of fractures (both stress fractures and full fractures) in the heel area or tibia. Likewise, converting to barefoot running too quickly can lead to a much higher incidence of metatarsal stress fractures and plantar fasciitis.

MORE: 4 Ways to Fight Plantar Fasciitis

Your Weaknesses Don't Originate in Your Feet

Many injuries can occur from weaknesses in the hips, including plantar fasciitis. Since the hips stabilize each leg during the stance phase of the running gait, strength in that area is particularly vital. Washington D.C.-area running coach Jason Fitzgerald has his athletes try a one-legged squat to determine hip strength. "You should be able to squat down so your femur is about parallel with the ground and your knee remains pointed straight ahead," he says. "If you're wobbling all over the place and your knee collapses inward, you have hip weakness."

Try these five hip-strengthening exercises to help combat plantar fasciitis.

Will Changing Your Running Form Help?

Form follows function, and you can't jump directly into running form improvements without making the right investments in strength and coordination. This may involve fixing imbalances, improving your mobility, or overcoming inherent weaknesses. Shortcutting this step is a major cause of issues such as Achilles tendinitis or plantar fasciitis arising from the use of minimalist running shoes.

Can Heel Pain Be Cured in the Toes?

"Most people are unaware that the answer to plantar fasciosis is in the toes," says Ray McClanahan, DPM, sports podiatrist, founder of Northwest Foot & Ankle in Portland, Oregon, and long-time competitive distance runner. "Repositioning the toes to the location nature intended—splayed and in line with their corresponding metatarsal bones—reduces tension on the flexor retinaculum and allows sufficient blood flow to reach the plantar fascia tissue."

Dr. Ray created Correct Toes, a toe-spacing device made of silicone that places toes in their normal anatomical position, helps strengthen the feet, and encourages proper blood flow to the plantar fascia, to help his patients recover.

READ THIS NEXT: How the Toes Can Impact Plantar Fasciitis

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