When you're training for a marathon, the last thing you want is to find yourself injured and unable to compete. Unfortunately, training puts your lower limbs under a lot of repetitive stress, increasing your risk of overuse injuries. Plantar fasciitis, also known as 'runner's heel', can be a runner's worst nightmare. Affecting thousands of Australians daily, this complaint is caused when the plantar fascia tissue in your heel becomes stretched, bruised and inflamed. Plantar fasciitis is painful, and could leave you unable to run in your next race. Luckily, there are measures runners can take to lower their risk of this condition. Here are three ways you can prevent plantar fasciitis from ruining your chances in the marathon.
Increase Your Mileage Slowly
When you're training for a marathon, it can be easy to go overboard. The combination of natural endorphins and excitement about the race leads many runners to put their body under more stress than it can handle. The tissues in your feet need to be stretched and strengthened slowly. Like all ligaments, the plantar fascia can become damaged if it's put under sudden, unexpected strain. If you become overenthusiastic and increase your mileage too quickly, you could find yourself with a case of plantar fasciitis. In this case, slow and steady wins the race. Never increase your mileage more than 10% every week. For example, if you ran 5 miles twice this week, make sure you only run 11 miles next week. Keep increasing your mileage by 10% or less every week to stretch your muscles without hurting yourself.
Run on Softer Ground
If you punch a brick wall, your hand is going to suffer quite a bit of damage. If you punch a pillow, you probably won't feel much at all. The same goes for your feet -- making constant contact with hard ground puts you at higher risk of injury than soft ground does. Studies have linked hard training grounds like asphalt to plantar fasciitis and other stress injuries. Try training on soft surfaces like grass and hiking trails to minimise the impact on your heels. Irregular surfaces like gravel running tracks are also an excellent choice, as the uneven ground varies the amount of force exerted on your foot.
Buy the Right Shoes
As a runner, chances are you spend a lot of time choosing the perfect shoes. While most runners tend to look out for factors like how lightweight the shoe is or what it looks like, these aren't necessarily the ideal criteria for preventing plantar fasciitis. While light, minimalist, flexible shoes may offer performance benefits, they don't protect your feet. In general, you should opt for a more sturdy shoe that's rigid at the heel and flexible at the front. These shoes prevent the plantar fascia tissue from stretching. In addition, keep an eye out for shoes with shock-absorbing soles. When you run, your feet strike the ground with a lot of force (around 3 to 4 times your bodyweight). A shoe with a good sole will absorb some of this shock, and disperse it across the whole foot -- not just the delicate heel. A supportive arch is another essential shoe quality when it comes to preventing runner's heel. The midsole should be firm to protect your foot from strain, and those with high arches will appreciate a thick cushion at the arch. If you're struggling to find the perfect running shoe for your foot shape, ask your podiatrist about custom orthotics. These are shoe inserts made to fit you, offering many of the benefits of a high-quality shoe.
If you're suffering from plantar fasciitis, visit a podiatrist like McLean & Partners immediately.