What Every Runner Needs To Know About Plantar Fasciitis

If you've recently started running and are having heel pain, you may have what is called plantar fasciitis. According to The New York Times, 10% of runners experience plantar fasciitis at some point. In fact, plantar fasciitis is such a common ailment among runners that it is called runner's heel. Here are several things you need to know about plantar fasciitis. 

What is a tell-tale symptom? 

Plantar fasciitis has a tell-tale sign of first step pain. If the base of your heel has a sharp, stabbing pain when you first stand up in the morning but the pain subsides after walking or running on it, you likely have plantar fasciitis. Because of this, many runners try to push through the first steps of pain because they know the pain will go away after they get warmed up. But it's important to avoid doing this, as it can prolong the pain and make it more difficult to recover from. 

What causes plantar fasciitis? 

In medical terminology, plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia, since medical terms that end with -itis means an inflammation. The plantar fascia is a ligament that runs on the bottom of the foot and attaches the bone in the heel to the toes. It's the rope of tissue that forms the arch in your foot. The plantar fascia acts like a shock absorber. The constant pounding that occurs in your feet while you run, particularly in ill-fitted footwear, can cause tiny tears in the plantar fascia where it connects to the bone in your heel. The tears lead to inflammation and, thus, plantar fasciitis. 

How will the podiatrist diagnose it? 

During a physical examination, your podiatrist will ask for a detailed history from you regarding your heel pain. He or she may push on your heel and ask you to tell them when you experience pain. While pushing on your heel, the podiatrist will try to feel the inflammation to help determine the exact location of it to see if it is located at the plantar fascia. 

The podiatrist may also ask you to walk around the office to see if your gait is abnormal. Therefore, you want to refrain from taking pain medication and anti-inflammatory medication prior to your appointment so the podiatrist can properly evaluate your painful condition. 

Will you need medical treatment? 

While there are stretches for plantar fasciitis that you can find on the Internet, it's important to be evaluated and treated by a podiatrist for your heel pain. The reason for this is to make sure that what you have is indeed plantar fasciitis and not another potentially more complicated cause of heel pain, such as plantar fibroma or a heel spur. 

If you do have plantar fasciitis, treatment can involve a combination of anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injections, physical therapy, and shock wave therapy. You may be given a splint to wear at night while you sleep and orthotic devices to place into your footwear.

If treatment doesn't help, your podiatrist may order some imaging tests, such as radiography, ultrasonography, and magnetic resonance imaging. Imaging tests can aid in the diagnosis of plantar fasciitis, and it can help determine whether or not there are other causes of concern. 

For more severe cases of plantar fasciitis, a Tenex procedure may be done, which is a minimally invasive procedure to remove scar tissue in the plantar fascia. Sometimes, surgery may be needed to detach the plantar fascia from the bone of the heel. Therefore, it is important to seek treatment from a podiatrist for plantar fasciitis as soon as possible instead of trying to push through the pain until it subsides during a run.