Training Tips

Tips for Plantar Fasciitis

I call it the elephant in the room… You are mid-way through your training cycle and you get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Those first few painful steps make you walk with a huge thud sounding like an elephant walking. If you know what I am talking about, you have probably dealt with plantar fasciitis. This leads you to a hectic google search of ways to cure or fix plantar fasciitis so you don’t derail your training program. Sometimes those fixes help, sometimes they don’t or sometimes they come back as soon as you start training again. If you found a fix that helped, you can stop reading now. If you haven’t then you are like so many runners that often just accept plantar fasciitis as an unwanted training partner, but you don’t have to. 

The plantar fascia is a thick fibrous band that attaches to your calcaneus (heel) and extends to the front of your foot (metatarsals). When you first step, your plantar fascia stretches out as the arch of your foot stretches – this is why you have pain often with the first few steps after sitting or lying down for an extended period of time. As it progresses, you can always have pain not just with the first few steps. Rest is the first step in helping to get rid of your pain. However, if you don’t address why your pain started, the pain will return as soon as you start running again.  

Why you have pain can be for many reasons, and this is why there are so many different approaches to help plantar fasciitis. It is the reason why some help and some do not. Often it is triggered in runners as mileage and intensity is increased. It can be due to isolated foot mechanics or due to weakness in your gait and pelvis. The following exercises can help you get rid of your unwanted training partner, plantar fasciitis.  

Before you start these exercises, ask yourself a few questions. Are you running too many miles? Are your fueling enough? Did you start ramping up your miles significantly? Does your heel ache at night and keep you awake like a toothache? Are you limping with every step? Any other trauma like a fall? If you answer yes to any of these questions, you should check in with your doctor. 

I recommend beginning by doing these exercises twice a day until your pain significantly improves. Then I would decrease to 2-3 times a week. In general, start with 2 sets of 10 unless otherwise stated. 

  1. Calf Raises: for these, you want to focus on lowering your heels slowly. I often recommend instead of counting, do these for a certain amount of time like when you are brushing your teeth. You can also add a set with your heels turned in, turned out and in the middle (normal stance.) 
  2. Clam shells: definitely focus on slow controlled closure. You want to feel a burn in the middle of your gluteal area. That’s how you know you are doing it correctly.  
  3. Water bottle or can roll out- do this every time you go to stand up after sitting for a long time. 
  4. Towel Curl: lay a hand towel out on the floor. With your foot lightly over the towel, use your toes to pull the towel toward you. Then you will move the towel with your toes back to the start. 
  5. Walking lunges: you will do these like normal lunges but slow and take your time. At each point in your lunge, stop and gain control if you wobble at all. Once you complete a lunge on one side, step through with your other leg and lunge on that side. Again, slow and control. This will help to strengthen everything along the chain to help decrease exacerbation on your plantar fascia. 

Dr. Jennell Kopp
– Medical Director of Athletics and Head Team Physician, University of Denver
– Sports Medicine Physician at Common Spirit
– Colfax Marathon Medical Director