First thing in the morning, PAIN THAT FEELS LIKE NEEDLES IN YOUR FOOT…yep, plantar fasciitis. For my aspiring marathoners, triathletes, and leisure runners, when you first begin training, you’ll almost always confront foot/ankle issue of plantar fasciitis. Muscles in the bottoms of the feet become swollen and irritated from sudden demands of running. Some doctors will tell you to wear orthotics, which can provide short term relief, but many people have found orthotics can promote further weakening of the foot, and lead to dependency (and, in some cases create problems farther up the leg). Chronic pain can ensue if certain muscles aren’t inhibited, stretched and strengthened, so don’t be so quick to reach for those orthotics!
One common belief is that plantar fasciitis is caused by a problem in the calf when in fact the problem can be as far as the upper hamstring and glutes. How can this be? Think of the muscles in the body as links in a chain. Because a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, stress in one link can cause a break in a completely different one, the weakest among them. It can cause a break in a link which can be located at any point in the chain.
Your first step: reduce pain and swelling. First thing in the morning, roll the affected foot on a frozen can or bottle of water to relieve your pain. Your second step: break up the knots and adhesions and lengthen the muscle tissue. Roll your foot on a tennis ball, lacrosse ball or a golf ball, placing as much pressure on it as you can tolerate. Now roll your calves, hamstrings and glutes. Perform a wall stretch on your foot. Your third step: strengthen the fascia in the foot, calf, hamstrings and glutes with these exercises. Stand on one foot for a 30 second count (keeping the raised knee at hip level). After mastering this exercise, perform the same exercise in these progressions (in the following order): on the squishy pad (easy), then the BOSU (moderate), then the dyna disc (hard). When you’re really good at them, do them with your eyes closed (very hard). The not so obvious exercise choices that work wonders are exercises done on one foot, which will challenge your balance and force your foot to work even harder, thereby getting it stronger and better equipped to deal with the stresses of running. Do shoulder presses, shoulder raises, biceps curls, triceps extensions, standing cable flies, upright/bent rows, and squats on a single leg. Force your body to work harder, burn more calories, get stronger and increase stability, while working your way through the pain of plantar fasciitis.
Happy running and jumping! (and walking)