How to work out with plantar fasciitis
Both professional and amateur athletes know well how debilitating even the smallest injury can be for maintaining your training regime. From restricted movement, chronic pain, all the way to impaired performance, even a mildly twisted ankle or a painful calf can pose a problem.
One of the most common injuries that affect fitness enthusiasts of all levels is the one that occurs in the foot, and it’s known as plantar fasciitis. However, this sneaky injury sometimes still allows you to keep up with your program, with certain changes for added safety, so let’s see how you can continue working out with this temporary setback.
Defining plantar fasciitis
Plantar fascia is a strip of connective tissue located between your heel bone and your toes, and it’s the most common culprit of heel pain. When you put too much strain on this little band of tissue, it can get irritated or inflamed, thus leading to limited movement in your foot. However, since we are all differently built, the cause varies greatly.
For some people, it takes a gruelling form of exercise or overtraining that puts too much pressure on your feet, such as running or jumping in inadequate shoes, to cause the injury. For others, it may be enough to switch to a new pair of shoes with a different sole than what you’re used to, and you might find your feet rebelling against this change.
Depending on the severity of your injury, your doctor may recommend several forms of treatment. For instance, pain killers may do it for those with a milder form of injury, while others may need a steroid injection in order to keep the inflammation at bay and minimize the pain to move freely.
Other routes include physical therapy to strengthen the sensitive area and the surrounding muscles and tendons, while the good old-fashioned ice, massages, and contrast baths can also be applied to help speed up the process. Surgery is only recommended to those who truly cannot solve the problem with these less invasive methods.
Stretching or strengthening?
This dilemma has been the centre of many a medical discussion, but it seems that research has shown that stretching, which used to be the-go to solution for connective tissue problems, may in fact lead to more sensitivity. That is why when treating your plantar fasciitis you should put a greater focus on improving your lower body strength, especially with the help of isometric exercises.
Simply put, isometric exercises focus on the contracting position of the muscle, and the goal is to prolong your ability to hold this position in order to increase the strength. A great example is an isometric calf raise, where you can hold the upper position for half a minute, all the way to two minutes.
Mind your footwear
Another key aspect of your routine that may help or harm your condition is what you choose to wear. Regular runners know the importance of a quality pair of durable shoes that provide ample cushioning, as well as also structure and support for your ankles and tendons.
Footwear to avoid includes those with very thin soles, such as flip-flops, and walking barefoot is usually not recommended. You should find sneakers and shoes that enforce the right foot alignment, without letting your foot move inward or outward too much, so that the pressure is equally distributed over your feet.
Change up your routine
If your doctor allows you to continue training, there’s no need to completely abandon your usual routine, as long as you do your best to make a few changes to minimize the chances of aggravating your injury. For example, if you’re an avid runner and you’ve felt your fair share of pavement, you should consider switching to a different cardio routine to relieve the stress from your feet. The least you can do is lower your training intensity. Exercise is a great way to heal faster as long as you listen to your body.
Swimming makes for a great alternative; weight lifting with proper footwear, as well as cycling, is also a great option. In case you love yoga, while following the guidelines from the above you’ll need to make sure you’re not over-stretching the tender area, as this may worsen your condition and slow down the healing. Anything that requires too much explosive moving on your feet (jumping, bouncing, or running) should be avoided until your injury fully heals.
Keep in mind that every person, much like every injury, is different, and there can be no single solution for every individual out there. The most important thing you can do is head straight to your doctor, confirm the diagnosis, and follow through with their guidelines to keep the recovery as short and effective as possible!