Since the onset of Covid-19, many of us have tried to find alternative ways to stay in shape and lose weight. With all the gyms, dance schools, martial arts studios, etc. forced to close, people have turned to running to stay in shape. The range of runners goes from seasoned runners who have increased their mileage, to first time runners hitting the streets for the first time. Unfortunately, many of us have encountered foot pain that has made it impossible to continue with this simple form of exercise.
The two most typical areas of pain are the plantar arch, known as plantar fasciitis or heel spur syndrome, and the second most common area is the back of the heel and calf area, known as achilles tendinitis.
Plantar fasciitis is the supportive band on the bottom of our foot that extends from our heel and reaches the ball of our foot. With running, the increase of pressure on this structure can often lead to inflammation that lends to pain along the bottom of the foot and heel area.
Achilles tendinitis is inflammation of the achilles tendon, which is the continuation of the gastric soleus complex (our calf muscle) that attaches into the calcaneus or our heel bone. As with plantar fasciitis, the increase stress that running puts on the foot can often lead to inflammation of the achilles tendon, and pain in our calf and posterior heel area.
The level of pain from either of these sites can be so intense, that it not only stops you from running and exercising, but also makes it hard just to walk. The good news is that these conditions can be avoidable if you take the proper precautions.
CHECK YOUR SHOES
You would not plan a cross-country drive without first making sure that your car was in good shape, so why would you start running without making sure your shoes are in good shape? There is a definite difference in running shoes versus the average sneaker. Take the time to purchase a shoe that fits your needs. In this case, you would find a running shoe that is created for outdoor running.
Many shoe companies will further break down shoes to what type of foot you have, but don't complicate things with these choices. Simply pick a running sneaker that fits comfortably in the store. To insure this, always shop for shoes later in the day to allow any foot and ankle swelling you may typically have so that the shoe fits properly.
Also, bring or wear an athletic sock to try the sneaker on with so the fit is consistent with what you will wear when running. If you already have running shoes, make sure they are in good shape, typically running shoes should be replaced once or twice a year depending on your mileage.
The reason I told you not to worry about your foot type is that shoe companies will typically create shoes for people who are "overpronaters" or "supinators", "high impact" etc. The truth is that the difference in these sneakers is negligible, and often does not fill the needs of the runner. Custom-made orthotics are a wonderful thing, but not all of us need or have them. Over the counter orthotics is the next best thing, but what do you choose? This is where you may need the help of an orthopedist of a podiatrist to make the correct choice.
At Rothman we provide both custom made orthotics, and over the counter orthotics. We typically utilize the company Powerstep for our over the counter arch supports. What these devices provide, that typically a shoe will not, is arch and heel support that we need during running. It is this arch support that is typically missing from running shoes that is necessary to avoid both plantar fasciitis and achilles tendinitis.
Stretch your feet before you run. The stretch for the plantar fascia and the achilles tendon is the same—any stretch that feels as if it is stretching your calves. You dorsiflex your foot - bring your toes up towards your nose- but the key is that you must keep your knee straight and locked during this stretch. You hold this stretch for about ten to twenty seconds and then release. Do this multiple times before your run, and if you take a break while running, stretch again. When your run is finished stretch some more. The more flexibility you can develop in these two areas, the less likely you will encounter the pain.
SEE A SPECIALIST
Plantar fasciitis and achilles tendinitis can be helped and possibly avoided with these tips but ultimately, the pain and discomfort can become debilitating. When this becomes the case, don't hesitate in seeking out a Rothman Orthopaedic specialist to help you.