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Plantar fasciitis is inflammation caused by excessive stretching of the plantar fascia, the connective tissue that runs the length of the bottom of your foot, connecting your toes to your heels. The plantar fascia's main job is to absorb shock and support your foot arch —it’s known as the spring ligament. The plantar fascia plays a crucial role in helping your foot transition into the propulsion or the push off phase of your gait cycle.
If you're one of those unfortunate runners or athletes who's struggling with plantar fasciitis, you're most likely going to feel that pain in your heel, and it's most likely that pain is going to occur in the mornings when you're first waking up and stepping out of bed, or after a really long day spent on your feet.
Here’s how figure out where your plantar fasciitis came from, and give you a few ways to help you get over that pain and prevent it from coming back in the future.
What causes plantar fasciitis?
A drastic increase in your weekly mileage and/or weak or tight calves that cause your foot to work harder to flex especially during walking, running, or prolonged standing,can cause plantar fasciitis.
An unstable foot, or any instability of the kinetic chain, like in your knees or hips, can also put additional strain on the plantar fascia.
Strengthening Exercises to Help Prevent Plantar Fasciitis
Let’s first talk about some preventative exercises that you can do for your calves and your feet to make them strong and stable, and able to handle that repetitive intensity on those lower muscles in your body. Be sure to warm up before you start these exercises — try a light jog, some jumping jacks and even running in place to get those feet warmed up.
Stand upright and keep your shoulders rolled down and back, really engaging your core. Feel the weight in your heels and then slowly roll up to stand on your toes. Keep the movement slow and controlled. Pause at the top before slowly lowering down. You want a full range of motion in this exercise so be sure to move through it slowly — rushing will do you no good. We suggest taking your shoes off for this exercise. You can do three to four rounds of these calf raises, and add them in three to four times a week as they shouldn't leave you sore and achy. This is a great exercises to squeeze in while you are doing other things — I like to do these while I'm doing the dishes, brushing my teeth, etc.
Calf Raise Variation — Harder
To make this strengthening exercise harder, try doing this entire exercise one leg at a time. It's a little trickier to maintain your balance on a single leg, so feel free to use the wall to stabilize yourself. As with the other variation, be sure you have an engaged core, with shoulders rolled back. Another variation is to stay on two feet at the beginning, for the "up" part of the exercises, then shift to one foot and slowly lower down.
For this exercise, you'll want to take your shoes off and grab a band or towel. No need for special equipment — just look for something that flexes with a little bit of give. You are going to be in a seated position, legs extended out in front of you, with a gentle bend in your knees. Wrap the band or towel around the bottom of your foot at the toe and then start to point and flex your foot, providing gentle resistance with the band as you move. You want slow, controlled movements. You are not only working on strengthening your calves with this exercise, you are also focusing on controlling all the little muscles in the toes and giving them a good stretch at the same time. For this exercise, do about 30 seconds on, with 10 to 15 seconds of rest in between each side. Like the calf raises, you can incorporate these movements three to four days per week.
Exercises for Plantar Fasciitis Relief
Here are a couple exercises that can help provide relief for those who are suffering from plantar fasciitis pain. Often, tight calves can pull on the plantar fascia and make pain worse. These exercises can help loosen tight calves.
You can use a roller stick, or a broomstick for this exercise, like the name suggests (but please, don't really bash anything — that's just a play on words). Kneel down, sitting back on your heels and put the stick down towards the bottom of your legs. Slowing move the stick back and forth, working up your legs slowly. For more intensity, you can sit back on your calves, adding pressure from above. Continue rolling your calves for five to seven minutes. As an option, if there is too much pressure, you can roll one leg at a time.
Toe Towel Grab
For this exercise, you will again need a band or towel. Sit on the ground with your legs extended in front of you with bent knees. You'll want to do this exercise with bare feet. Put your right foot at the end of the towel or band. Extend your toes forward and try to scrunch the towel with your toes and pull it back towards you. Continue extending, gripping and pulling back until you've reached the end of the towel. Plan to work each foot for about 30 seconds or so on each side.
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