Plantar Fasciitis and Marathon Training – Part 1

If you have had before, you know, plantar fasciitis sucks. There is really no other way to describe it. I first developed plantar fasciitis in the second month of my four-month marathon training program. I was training for my first marathon and while I had read many articles on training for a marathon, I did not fully know what I was getting into. But that’s what also made it the training exciting – uncharted territory.

Me in the Dublin Marathon

Anyway, I heard of plantar fasciitis before, but when I started having pain in the arch of my right foot, just in front of my heel bone, I did not put two and two together. I visited my physiotherapist a couple of days after my 2.5-hour run where I initially noticed the pain in my foot. It was any easy diagnosis for him; I had all the classic signs of plantar fasciitis.

The real kicker however, was that he also diagnosed me with IT band syndrome at the same time (I wrote about that in a previous post). I was a mess and still had many miles of training to fit in before I lined up at the start line for the Dublin Marathon.

Image source: Spectrum Wellness

What is the plantar fascia?

The plantar fascia is a fibrous tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the toes. In short, the plantar fascia is responsible for creating the arch of the foot. During walking and running, the plantar fascia is responsible for:

  • stabilizing the bones within the foot when it makes contact with the ground;
  • assists in absorbing shock for the leg; and
  • helps lift the arch of the foot in the gait cycle.

What is plantar fasciitis?

Now that you know what the plantar fascia is, what does it actually mean to have plantar fasciitis? When the plantar fascia becomes irritated and inflamed, pain will result. This inflammatory process is called plantar fasciitis.

Symptoms

Plantar fasciitis can be identified by a few distinctive symptoms:

  • Sharp pain in the heel that develops gradually
  • The pain is most intense with the first few steps out of bed in the morning, but slowly subsides throughout the day
  • During exercise the pain may subside slightly, but the heel becomes more painful after exercise
  • It usually affects only one foot, but does occasionally affect both

The above symptoms were right on the money for my bout with plantar fasciitis. Before taking off into the streets for my morning marathon training runs, the pain in my right heel was very sharp. I would describe the pain like someone is taking a sharp peg and is digging it into the spot between the middle of the arch of the foot and the heel bone.

After about ten minutes of running, the pain slowly subsided to a point where I did not even notice it. The mornings were the worst. I literally hobbled into the bathroom in the morning to shower. From some of my own research, I discovered that the plantar fascia actually shortens when you sleep as your feet are typically in a pointed position. This means that the plantar fascia is contracted while you sleep, but when you take those first steps of the day and stretch the plantar fascia out again, the pain can be excruciating.

More to come!

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I will take a look at causes, treatment, rehabilitation exercises and avoidance strategies for plantar fasciitis.

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