Overcoming Plantar Fasciitis: Don’t give up

As an avid hiker or runner, you are on your feet a lot. This means mile upon mile of heavy-impact on your feet, up and down inclines for as much time as you can squeeze in. But then, one day it happens. You suddenly feel an odd pull down the arch of your foot and your heel starts to throb. The pain makes it hard to not only run but difficult to walk as well. If this has happened to you, you are the victim of plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis happens to active people all of the time. In fact, it is one of the most common injuries you can receive. Unfortunately, it means that you will not be able to get around as well as you had before and you could find yourself hobbling as you attempt to continue on your daily routine. There are ways to work around it, however.

What is Plantar Fasciitis? 

The plantar fascia is the ligament that runs from your heel, across the arch of your foot, and ends in your toes. Usually, when you have strained it, it is the arch of the foot that is most likely damaged, but it pulls hard against your heel, making the heel ache. It typically happens from a strain to the ligament, caused by unsupportive shoes and overuse. Rest from running or hiking can reduce symptoms, but you will also need to stretch out the ligament and keep it from tightening while you are recovering. 

Can you still Workout with Plantar Fasciitis?

 The short answer is yes, you can still workout with the injury, but your workouts and activities will need to be modified to accommodate the injury. If you continue on your regular activities without paying attention to the injury, it is not going to heal on its own and it can get worse and more painful. The best thing to do is stop the heavy impact activity that caused it in the first place while you are recovering and ensure that you have supportive shoes to prevent the injury from continuing to happen in the future.

What can you do?

If you want to maintain your active lifestyle and be sure that you are not losing any muscle tone while you are in recovery, there are still plenty of activities that you can do that will not involve heel pain. Gaining weight can also exacerbate the issue, so you do not want to become a couch potato.

Swimming is a great cardio alternative to running
Swimming is a great cardio alternative to running

Some cardio alternatives that you can do while your foot heels are:

  • Swimming: This is usually one of the best exercises you can do while you are injured. The water ensures you are not putting any pressure on your injury while still giving you an excellent workout.
  • Yoga: Yoga can be hard on an injured body, but as long as you are aware of what could affect the injury, it will help the healing process by encouraging stretching. For a plantar fasciitis injury, it could stretch the ligament out for you, helping the healing process along.
  • Stationary Bike: You could also do an outdoor bike if you would like to, as long as you are not putting weight on your feet. A stationary bike will allow you to sit while giving you a cardio workout and working out your legs without pressure on your feet.
  • Elliptical trainer: The elliptical may not be an option for everyone, depending on both how your body works with the elliptical and the severity of your injury. If it is not severe, an elliptical will still provide you with good movement and cardio while having a low impact on your body. If your injury is severe or you are in a lot of pain, you may need to skip the elliptical and try something else.
  • Ab Exercises: Most ab workouts can be done in the comfort of your own living room, allowing you to tone your core while you are still resting your feet. There are quite a few that you can try.
    • Crunches
    • Reverse crunches
    • Mason Twists
    • Bicycles
  • Lift Weights: There are endless options to weightlifting in a gym, all of which will be ok on your feet while giving you a good workout. Here are a few you can do. A lot of these can be done at home with little to no equipment needed.
    • Bench press
    • Leg extension
    • Leg curl
    • Pull-ups
    • Dips
    • Push-ups
    • Arm curl
    • Shoulder press

Other things you can try

Outside of physical activities, there are also other things that you can do to help encourage your ligament to heal.

  • Stretching when you get up. One of the most important things you can do to encourage healing is to stretch out the ligament before you even step out of bed in the morning. Overnight, it is likely for your muscles and ligaments to tighten. If you step on a hard floor with a foot that has a plantar fascia injury, the ligament could simply continue to tear, pushing back the healing process. Instead, massage the arch of your foot before you even put your feet down the morning. This can help heat up the ligament thus loosening it, ready for the day.
  • Avoid heeled shoes. This may not apply to everyone, but shoes that have a tall heel on them are going to repeat the injury you received in the first place, making the healing process slow and almost impossible. Avoid high heels whenever possible.
  • Wear shoes or slippers at all times. If you are walking barefoot around your house, you can be doing your ligament a disservice. A hard floor especially will only continually bang your heels, causing you a lot of heel pain while continuing to slow the healing process.
  • Stretch throughout the day. You should also take the time to stretch your heel out whenever possible throughout the day, just to keep it loose. It will allow the ligament to heal without it shortening.
  • You can and should also contact a doctor or physical therapist if the injury as not improved as time goes on.

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marion-fernandez is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival