As the New Year begins, the easiest – and most common – way for most people to kick-start a more active lifestyle is with some form of cardiovascular training, e.g. running, cycling, or aerobic training at the gym. And with a new fitness program comes the need for new active wear, and in particular, the right new shoes for the job.
So, you put on your new kicks and workout gear, and head out with an ambitious mind-set that you’re going to hit that personal best. But as the session wears on, you become aware of a strange feeling in the arch of your foot, perhaps a stretching, or even tearing sensation. What is going on?
The plantar fascia is the flat band of ligament that connects your heel bone to your toes, providing support to the arch of your foot. That foot pain could well be as a result of this tissue being over-stretched, or even tearing.
So what causes the plantar fascia to stretch or tear?
- Your feet aren’t yet used to your new shoes, which may be very stiff;
- Your shoes haven’t yet moulded to the shape of your feet;
- Your feet haven’t yet adapted to the different support that your new shoes are providing.
However, no matter how much or little support your shoe brand suggests it is providing, you should never train intensively in box-fresh shoes, no matter how tempting. If you do, you’re highly likely to feel the wrath of your feet by the time you reach the end of your session. Reduce the chance of straining your plantar fascia by always giving yourself a few workouts to “bond” with your new kicks before pushing yourself too hard.
If, on the other hand, you suffer from a sharp pain in the heel – especially first thing in the morning when you get out of bed, gradually subsiding as you take a few more steps – this could be caused by an inflammation at the attachment points between your heel bone and the plantar fascia, medically known as plantar fasciitis.
There are multiple reasons for the onset of plantar fasciitis, but in most cases that I have treated, it is caused by tight joints, muscles or ligaments:
- Joints: Ankle (Talocrural Joint), mid-foot (Tarsals and Metatarsals), toes (Phalanges);
- Muscles: Back of lower leg, calves (Gastrocnemius and Soleus), front of lower leg (Tibialis Anterior), and foot muscles;
- Ligaments: Plantar fascia, Achilles tendon.
So what can be done to treat this? The best way to keep on track with your regime is to perform self-treatment regularly, reducing any symptoms, while limiting the chances of pain developing. Always start from the surface layer, working your way inwards, e.g. from the top layer of muscle, migrating toward the joint. Start with stretching, then add foam rolling or massage tools, such as a ball, finishing up with some joint mobilisations as needed.
Lower leg, (Gastrocnemius, Soleus and Tibialis Anterior);
When stretching, apply only enough pressure till there are tension in the targeted muscles, hold for around 30 seconds, after stretch the opposite side, and repeat one more time.
Leveraging off a block or a step is the most efficient and effect stretch for the calves.
Tibialis Anterior, is a frequent neglected muscle. It is located at front of the lower leg, on the outside of
Foam rolling or massage ball:
Calves, Tibialis Anterior and bottom of foot (Plantar fascia).
When using tools to release deeper tissues, only apply light to moderate pressure, around 2-3 minutes per area once to twice a day.
If you are unsure as to what is causing the pain, or it persists, always seek professional assessment.