Beat the Seven Body Breakdowns

Prevent and recover from the seven most common running injuries

by Christine Aschwanden

plantar fasciitis, running injury, common running injury, prevent running injury
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6. Plantar Fasciitis

When you consider that with each step our feet absorb a force several times our body weight, it's not shocking that about 15 per cent of running injuries strike the foot.

The nagging bite of plantar fasciitis - tears or inflammation of the tendons and ligaments that run from your heel to your toes - is the top foot complaint among runners. The RW survey found that 10 per cent have struggled with it this past year.

The pain typically feels  like a dull ache along your arch or the bottom of your heel. And watch for an urge to sprinkle ibruprofen on your corn flakes: the pain usually peaks first    thing in the morning.

Are you at risk?
Runners with very high or very low arches are vulnerable to plantar fasciitis, according to Saxena, because both foot types stretch the plantar fascia away from the heel bone.

Other causes are extreme pronation (excessive inward rolling of the foot), supination (excessive outward rolling of the foot) and upping your mileage too quickly.

Tight hip flexors, weak core muscles and a history of lower back pain can also contribute. "Back problems and core weakness can lead to subtle changes in your stride that you will feel in the feet," says Merrill.

Can you run through it?
This is a notoriously nagging injury and running through it, while possible, can delay the healing process. Recovery time can range from three months to a year, but six months is typical, Saxena says. In chronic cases, a complete break is best.

Pool running and swimming keep pressure off your feet, while cycling and elliptical training help to maintain fitness - but avoid them if they cause pain.

Rehab it
Roll your foot over a frozen water bottle for five minutes, five times a day, Saxena says. To stretch your plantar fascia, sit with one leg crossed over the other so your ankle rests on your knee.

Grab the toe end of your raised foot and gently pull back. Because calf tightness can be a factor, Merrill recommends using a foam roller to loosen them up. He also stresses the importance of core work such as planks and back extensions.

"When I see someone who has had plantar pain for years, they're almost always lacking core strength," says Merrill. "Sometimes all they need is to do some core work and their heel gets better. A stable core reduces stress on the spine and stops the transference of pain to the foot."

Prevent a relapse
Make sure your shoes match your foot type by getting your gait analysed by a specialist running shoe store, podiatrist or physiotherapist. Custom-made orthotics may help the problem.

Stretch and massage the plantar fascia several times a day, and in the morning, hang your feet over the edge of your bed and roll your ankles. Schedule in some core work at  least twice a week.

Elite tip
Magdalena Lewy Boulet, who is a 2:26 marathoner, struggled with plantar fasciitis that became so severe, she contemplated ending her career.

"I got on a rehab routine that included active-isolated stretching and it cured me," she says. "Now it's part of my maintenance routine - 15 minutes, twice a day."

Plantar pain: How to proceed

Stop running
Arch pain and tenderness that doesn't fade - even once you've warmed up on your run.

Run with caution
Pain when you get up after sitting for a long time, or during the first few minutes of a run.

Go run!
Pain-free all day, including your first steps in the morning. Walking barefoot on hard ground is fine.

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Discuss this article

Ballet foot exercises work really well for the plantar fasciitis.  They sorted my pain right out.  I have also started doing planks which seem to be helping as well.

Posted: 19/08/2011 at 22:52

They forgot the most obvious and common one. The stomach! Affects 1/3 of runners, if previous articles are to believed, and causes inescapable misery that can strike no matter how fit you are, no matter how much training you've done.

Posted: 23/08/2011 at 20:56

Great article! I have stopped running for just on 7 weeks with plantar fasciitis and am desperate to start running again, but still experiencing pain so not in the ''Go run!'' zone just yet...... Kimberlee, are ballet foot excercises just pointing and straightening your toes??

Posted: 23/08/2011 at 23:58

I have been diagnosed with Runner's Knee.  I'm finding it a long and slow rehab process.  I originally stopped running for a month (after attempting a couple of runs and being in pain throughout).  Since then the knee has got better, but it's still very painful after about 5k.  To the point that I can't actually run much further than this at the moment.

I've been given lots of physio and strengthening exercises to do.  Just feel quite depressed at the moment as nothing seems to be helping.  Maybe I want a quick fix and it's not going to be one.  I am signed up for a half marathon in October and really not sure whether to pull out.

Posted: 25/08/2011 at 12:49

Listen to your body.

If you are training for say a marathon or half marathon where the volume of training will require you to run consistently for maybe five days a week you are bound to feel tired either due to overtraining or general fatigue.

There are certain runners who feel that if they miss even a single training session then their fitness will suffer.

Wearing ill fitting shoes or running when feeling unwell due to a heavy cold or such like can result in muscle injury.

Simply over doing it and not listening to your body can result in injuries.

Check your heartrate regularly and if it's abnormally high think of some other form of excercise or even rest.

The secret to successfull running is to remain injury free and with a little sense and listening to your body injury's are not inevitable


Posted: 11/10/2011 at 16:23

what about back pain? i'm always suffering with it post-run, and have tried backward stretches lying on my tummy, but it hasn't helped. and when i lower my legs for 'that' ab exercise i get a clunking sound... i don't really have the time or inclination to start yoga...
Posted: 08/02/2012 at 11:06

Hey not sure if you still use this, but i have the same thing and feeling the exact same way, how are you getting on? did you manage to get rid of it and run your half marathon?
Posted: 22/04/2012 at 19:32

I'm always amazed by how little sports massage is cited in these articles. It's used by every Premier League football team, every professional rugby team, every top athlete and thousands of amateur sports people. It was part of the medical services team at the 2012 Games (250 therapists!) and at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. It was in greater demand from athletes than any other therapy------and yet the most common recommendation for soft tissue problems is self applied foam rolling! Yikes! 

Is there any reason your experts seem to largely ignore this key component of soft tissue prehab and rehab? For the record I come from an utterly biased standpoint as Chair of the Sports Massage Association.

Posted: 01/10/2014 at 14:22

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