shoes

Battling the Plantar Fasciitis Monster

Many people have experienced the terrible, awful pain of plantar fasciitis. Once the pain train starts rolling, it feels like it can’t be stopped. If you have experienced this, you understand how desperate one can be to find relief from heel pain and a way to get back to walking and running normally.  

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If you aren’t really sure what we’re talking about, here’s a short quiz to find out if you have plantar fasciitis: 

  • When you step out of bed, do you yell in pain then perform the “morning hobble” dance to the bathroom?
  • Do you find yourself telling co-workers about this knife like sensation in your heel?
  • Have you seriously considered walking on your hands?
  • Is “ouch” the first word out of your mouth when you stand up?
  • Are you reading WebMD articles about heel pain and looking at buying some ridiculously expensive shoe contraption to stop it?
  • Does a sharp pain makes you scream at the beginning of a run, but disappears a few miles in?
  • Have you made an appointment with your doctor to find out how much it is going to cost to amputate your foot?

If you answered yes to any of these, unfortunately, you have diagnosed yourself with plantar fasciitis. Some people struggle with the pain on and off for years, which is why it’s so important to catch the pain early on.

Local physical therapist Rebecca Wykle talked with us about what exactly is happening in the foot when plantar fasciitis pain flairs up and how to treat it before it gets too bad. By following a few basic care treatments, you can help the foot heal on it’s own and avoid getting to the point of seeing a therapist.

WHAT IS THE PLANTAR FASCIA

It’s a really thick band of strong connective tissue that runs from the base of your toes down to your heel. It helps support the arch of the foot.

WHAT IS PLANTAR FASCIITIS?

When there's extra tension being put on that plantar fascia band, inflammation occurs at the attachment at the heel bone. So what you feel is a really sharp stabbing pain at the bottom of your heel in the fat pad. It's typically worse at the start of the morning when you first step down.

WHAT CAUSES PLANTAR FASCIITIS?

Numerous things, but the root cause is usually that the area is being over used. Usually it can occur when you do something you don't normally do, or change up your routine. Did you recently add mileage to your training schedule, or go on a trip to Disney and walk a lot more than usual?

Here are a few factors that can put you at risk: tight calves, excessively walking around barefoot, standing all day on non-supportive shoes, weak hips, over pronation, and obesity.

HOW DO YOU TREAT IT?

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Stop walking around barefoot. Wear a shoe with cushion and support around the house. When you wake up in the morning, instead of stepping down and stretching out the plantar fascia, slide into a pair of shoes with support so that you won’t tear or strain the tissues. Socks with sandals are cool, right!? We carry Oofos and PowerStep sandals, which both provide support and relief, come check them out!

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Stretch your calves. The plantar fascia is connected to the achilles which is connected to the calf. Poor ankle movement and tight calves can have an affect on the feet. Stretch your calves several times a day, holding for 20-30 seconds for 2-3 times.

Strengthen the foot muscles. Strengthening the muscles of the posterior tibialis and the little intrinsic muscles can help support the foot. You can do that by sitting on a chair and picking up marbles with your toes or scrunching a towel with your toes.

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Use pressure to massage the foot to relieve the pain. There are two ways to do this: one, freeze a water bottle half full of water and roll your arch over it. This won’t fix the problem, but it will relieve some of the symptoms in the short term. Two, find a small ball like a tennis ball, or, even better, a massage ball and roll the ball under your arch and, if you can, around the heel. Starting and ending the day by rolling your feet is a good practice to get into regardless. By getting the pressure under the plantar fascia, you're working out the trigger points without trying to make changes to the plantar fascia.

Strengthen the muscles around the hips. When hips are weak, knees drop in and feet over-pronate. If you're over-pronating (heavily turning inwards when you walk), you're increasing pressure on the plantar fascia. So if you can strengthen the hips and the chain above the irritated area, you can relieve the pressure from the plantar fascia. Good exercises for the hips are clam shells, hip abductions, laying on your side doing leg lifts, and side planks. Make sure the hips are squared and stacked so that your glutes and core fire.

Wear correctly-fitted, supportive shoes, for both running and everyday wear. Wearing hard shoes, or no shoes will only irritate the problem area. Shoes that are too small or too flexible will not allow the plantar fascia to heal. It’s worth the time, energy, and money to be fitted for a good pair of running/walking shoes. You will notice a difference. Of course, we are here to fit you for shoes at Fast Break Athletics!

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Wear an orthotic that supports the arch. If needed, additional support under the arch can be useful for holding it up so to relieve the tension from the plantar fascia when you step on it. At Fast Break, we carry the PowerStep. It is semi-flexible, and still allows your foot to go through its full range of motion, all while supporting the arch and relieving heel pain. We carry these for both running shoes, and casual shoes or work boots.

Wear a plantar fasciitis night splint. Although it may look like a torture device, have no fear! A night splint keeps the foot dorsiflexed while you sleep, allowing the plantar fascia to heal in a stretched position to avoid the searing pain in your first step in the morning. We also carry these at Fast Break.

CAN I KEEP RUNNING?


This depends on how severe your case of plantar fasciitis is. Rebecca thinks that it’s pointless to tell a runner to stop running, so she aims to only keep a runner off his or her feet for 1-2 weeks if they absolutely need it. But it all depends on the body, feet, and person. Give your feet some rest while you do all of the above, then ease back into running.

If you have done all of the above and still struggle with heel pain, consult your doctor about seeing a physical therapist to assess if there are weaknesses in the body or other factors that could be prolonging the pain.

 

Stop by the shop if you have any other questions about plantar fasciitis!

Running Shoes: When to Replace and What to Buy

You’re getting into running and those three-year-old sneakers from Walmart aren’t doing the trick anymore. It’s time to find some actual running shoes. But where do you start? There are so many options, sizes, and types! And what about the color!?

Breathe. We’ve got you covered. Read on. 

We understand not everyone obsesses about running shoes as much as we do, so we've created Fast Break's handy fact sheet on buying running shoes. These few tips will get you to the point of trying on and deciding on a shoe. However, you cannot beat the help a local running store can offer you. The staff are trained in fitting feet of all shapes and sizes and know the details and specs of all recent brands and models. Plus, you can try them on and take them for a spin!

When do I need to get new shoes?

There are a few ways to tell if it’s time for a shoe upgrade. First off, listen to your body. Are your legs aching after every run? Do your knees hurt? Are your arches sore? Do serious runners point and laugh at your feet? It’s time.

Another way to tell is by checking the midsole. Squeeze the midsole backwards. If it bends like a taco, the foam has broken down and you’re no longer getting all the support and cushion the shoe originally offered.

If you log your miles, you can tell when your shoes need replacing by tracking the numbers. A lightweight trainer will last for 250-350 miles. A shoe with more cushion will live for 400-600 miles.

Your weight, running form, and training all affect how long a shoe will last. A smaller person who runs with correct form and midfoot strikes (weight over the midfoot) is going to wear a shoe longer than a 6’4’’ runner in the same shoe who lands on their heel (heel strikes).

If you’re still not sure if it’s time to replace your loyal companions, go into your local running store and try on the same version of the shoe you’re currently running in. If the foam feels “dead” and the new shoes feel like a memory-foam mattress, then honey, it’s time for new pair.

What types of shoes are there?

Lots! There are different shoes for different terrain, body weight, personal desires, and events. A road shoe is going to be smoother on the bottom. A trail shoe has more texture for gripping slippery rocks. There are high cushioned shoes and lightweight trainers with a snugger fit but shorter life span. A crossfit style shoe is going to be firmer and lower to the ground for lateral stability. Spikes are a minimalist style shoe with small spikes that screw into the forefoot to give the runner more traction while racing on a grass cross country course or a rubber track.

To make this a bit more complicated, there are two categories of shoes within all of the different styles. There are stability shoes and a neutral shoes. A stability shoe has a harder foam post on the inside of the shoe to support a foot that rolls inward, or pronates. A neutral shoe has the same softer foam throughout the foot bed.

We highly recommend coming into Fast Break so that we can analyze your gait to fit you in the right shoe. There are multiple factors in determining if you need a neutral shoe or stability shoe. Don’t stress about this part, head to the experts for help!

Heel-toe-WHAT?!

While you are trying on shoes, you might hear your friendly shoe fit expert say, “This shoe has a 4mm drop” or “The offset is 8mm on this shoe.”

A heel-toe offset is the height difference between the level of your forefoot and the level of your heel. Until the past few years, most running shoes had a 12mm heel-toe offset (meaning the heel was 12mm higher in the footbed than the toes). More recently research has come out that a lower offset, or drop, aligns the runner to have better posture and form. A lower offset can help stretch and lengthen the achilles and fascia as well, which has been found to help some people with back, knee, and hip issues. Today, many shoe companies make shoes with a wide range of offsets from 0mm to 12mm. Find one that works with your body!

How does a running shoe fit?

There are many factors that go into finding a perfect fit. Here are two that we especially find important:

LENGTH: To fit for running shoes, we measure the length of the ball arch. The widest part of the foot (the forefoot, ball arch area) should be in the widest part of the shoe. If the fit is correct, you will have about a 3/4” (a thumbnail size) space between the end of the toe and the end of the shoe. The space prevents your toes from jabbing into the end of the shoe when you run. Goodbye black and blue toe nails!

WIDTH: We measure not just how long an arch is but also how wide. There are several different widths in both men’s and women’s shoes. If your foot is pushing out the sides of the shoe or is hanging off the outer edges of the footbed, YOU NEED A BIGGER SIZE! A shoe is supposed to fit more like a slipper and less like a rock climbing shoe.

How many shoes do I need?

All of them. So many shoes.

Ultimately, this depends on how much you are willing to invest in running gear and the volume of your training. The bottom line is that you put less wear on a pair of shoes if you can switch them out. There is an advantage, besides time and wear, in owning several pairs. A lightweight trainer allows you to run more efficiently (and faster) during your tempo runs or track workouts, while a more cushioned shoe will cushion the impact during long runs.

What are the rookie mistakes?

1. Don’t buy for the color. Buy for comfort! You won’t care what the shoe's looks when you’re floating on a cloud during a run.

2. Don’t be a stickler about the number. Shoes are cut differently. Your size WILL be larger than our street shoes size. Some brands tend to be long and some short. Your local running store employees will know all of this.

3. Shop for running shoes at the end of the day when your feet are slightly swollen. Your feet swell just a little during longer runs, so find a good fit when your feet are already at their largest point so that your shoes aren’t tight by mile 3 during tomorrow's workout.

4. Wear your running shoes only for running. Don’t wear them to the mall, to work, or to the grocery store. Non-running activities will also break the foam down and shorten the life of the shoe. If you need a comfortable shoe for work, keep one pair for work and one for running. Both will last longer this way.

Stop by Fast Break this week to be fitted by our experts. Try on the shoes and even take them for a spin. Find your perfect fit!