There’s little more concerning to a runner than a little niggle on a run. You ice it when you get home, maybe stretch the muscles in the surrounding area, and hope that everything is back to normal for your run the next day.
But what happens when the pain doesn’t go away? You now have a running injury and are left wondering if you can run through it or will be forced to take time off.
Runners often can run through mild cases of runner’s knee, IT band syndrome, and even shin splints, but what about plantar fasciitis?
Can you run with plantar fasciitis? Will running with plantar fasciitis make it worse or cause further damage?
In this guide, we will answer the question, “Can you run with plantar fasciitis?” and share tips and advice for running with plantar fasciitis.
We will cover:
- What Is Plantar Fasciitis?
- How Common Is Plantar Fasciitis In Runners?
- Why Does Plantar Fasciitis Cause Heel Pain?
- Symptoms Of Plantar Fasciitis In Runners
- Risk Factors For Plantar Fasciitis In Runners
- 12 Tips To Treat Plantar Fasciitis and Keep Training
Let’s get started!
What Is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is the thickening or degeneration of the collagen fibers in the plantar fascia, three bands of fibrous connective tissue that run from your heel bone (calcaneus) to the bases of the toes (metatarsals). The plantar fascia provides stability to your arch when you stand, walk, and run.
Plantar fasciitis is considered an overuse injury, which causes degeneration of the collagen fibers in the fascia due to overloading the tissue.
Note that the suffix –itis generally refers to an inflammatory condition, so plantar fasciitis is a bit of a misnomer. MRI studies have found that plantar fasciitis is less about inflammation of the plantar fascia and more about the degeneration of the tissue (fasciosis).
How Common Is Plantar Fasciitis In Runners?
Plantar fasciitis is, unfortunately, a common running injury. A review of eight studies examining the frequency of running-related musculoskeletal injuries concluded that plantar fasciitis has an incidence ranging from 4.5% to 10.0% and a prevalence ranging from 5.2% to 17.5%.
This made plantar fasciitis the most prevalent general musculoskeletal injury in runners in the analysis, and the prevalence was particularly high among masters runners and female runners.
Why Does Plantar Fasciitis Cause Heel Pain?
When you land on your foot during each running stride, your plantar fascia stretches and absorbs the impact, helping your foot maintain the shape of your arch as you roll towards your toes to push off.
Even though the fascia is “elastic” and designed to stretch and recoil, the repetitive load it must bear stride after stride, mile after mile, can exceed the limits of the tissue and lead to a breakdown.
This degeneration causes pain and can also trigger the development of bony protrusions in the heel called heel spurs. Heel spurs can poke the fatty heel pad as you run, which can be extremely painful.
Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis In Runners
As with most running injuries, symptoms of plantar fasciitis vary somewhat between individuals, but most runners with plantar fasciitis complain of pain along the arch and sole of the foot, particularly on the inside edge of the heel.
Pain is usually the worst first thing in the morning when you take the initial steps out of bed and will gradually fade in intensity as you move around.
There may be swelling, crepitus, and visible thickness to the plantar fascia with pain when you press along the sole of the foot or stretch the fascia. Some runners with plantar fasciitis also develop heel spurs.
Risk Factors for Plantar Fasciitis In Runners
Plantar fasciitis is typically an overuse injury, and the following factors have been implicated in increasing the risk of plantar fasciitis in runners:
- Weakness in the intrinsic foot muscle
- Wearing worn-out or unsupportive running shoes
- Increasing volume too quickly
- High mileage
- Tight calves
- Tight Achilles’ tendons
- High BMI
- Excessive time on your feet (standing job, for example)
- Excessively high arches
- Excessive range of motion with plantarflexion (pointing your toes)
Can You Run With Plantar Fasciitis?
The short answer is yes, you can run with plantar fasciitis so long as the pain is relatively mild. If your pain is no more than 4-5 on a scale of 1-10 when you are running, you can probably run through plantar fasciitis.
If the pain escalates during the run, keep your runs short.
It’s also important that the pain returns to the pre-run level within 24 hours; otherwise, it’s indicative that running is making your plantar fasciitis worse.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that running with plantar fasciitis may slow the healing process and prolong the course of the injury.
On the other hand, if your pain is moderate or severe, and/or gets worse from one day to the next after running, it’s a good idea to stop training, focus on treating the plantar fasciitis, and maybe try low-impact cross-training so long as it doesn’t elicit significant pain.
12 Tips to Treat Plantar Fasciitis and Keep Training
Running with plantar fasciitis is uncomfortable, even if your pain is relatively mild, but here are some tips to make running with plantar fasciitis easier:
#1: Warm Up Before You Run
A thorough warmup is a good way to prepare your body for any run. After some gentle jogging or cardio and dynamic stretches, focus on the mobility of your feet and lower legs.
Good warmup exercises for runners with plantar fasciitis include calf raises, toe walks, heel walks, ankle circles, and tracing the alphabet with your feet.
#2: Stretch Your Calves
Runners with tight calves or Achilles’ tendons are at a greater risk of developing plantar fasciitis. Use a foam roller, lacrosse ball, or massage gun to loosen your calves, and try stretches like the standing calf stretch at a wall or dropping your heels on a step.
You should stretch your calves periodically throughout the day if you are suffering from running with plantar fasciitis.
#3: Get New Shoes
Worn-out or unsupportive running shoes require your plantar fascia to absorb more load and force the tissue to work harder to maintain the form and structure of the medial-lateral arch of your foot when you land.
Replace your running shoes every 300-500 miles and consider getting stability shoes if you overpronate or need additional arch support.
Related Article: Best Insoles For Running In 2022
#4: Try Orthotics
If you have a high arch or overpronate, excessive strain can be placed on the plantar fascia when you run, increasing your risk of plantar fasciitis.
Consider seeing a podiatrist for custom orthotics to properly support your foot or test out over-the-counter insoles in your want to keep running with plantar fasciitis.
#5: Reduce Your Volume
It’s definitely possible to train through mild plantar fasciitis, so long as it is relatively mild, but you should consider reducing your volume while you heal.
Low-impact cross-training exercises like aqua jogging, cycling, and swimming can reduce the strain on the plantar fascia while still enabling you to get a good cardio workout.
#6: Wear Plantar Fasciitis Running Socks
There are running socks specifically designed for running with plantar fasciitis. For example, the highly supportive Feetures PF Relief Cushion No-Show Tab Socks deliver intense, targeted compression in specific areas of the foot and arch to relieve and prevent foot pain in runners.
The compression is intended to lift, stabilize, and stretch the plantar fascia and support the Achilles tendon while still allowing your foot to have the flexibility and freedom of movement it needs for a natural running stride.
#7: Use Kinesio Tape
Some physical therapists recommend taping your foot with Kinesio tape to support your plantar fascia, lift the tissue, and promote circulation.
#8: Strengthen Your Feet
Strengthen the muscles in your foot by performing foot exercises like picking up marbles with your toes, grabbing and squeezing a towel between your toes, and flexing and extending your toes.
#9: Wear a Night Splint
There’s some evidence to suggest night straps that keep your foot in a dorsiflexed position can alleviate plantar fasciitis pain and expedite healing.
#10: Take a Load Off
Limit how much you stand, if possible, and wear supportive shoes for prolonged standing.
#11: Do Physical Therapy
If you have insurance, physical therapy can help you treat your plantar fasciitis and address any underlying issues while you continue to train.
#12: Roll Your Feet
Rolling the sole of your foot along a massage ball or golf ball can potentially loosen the tissue. Many runners find that freezing a plastic water bottle filled most of the way to the top with water and then rolling the bottle under your foot for 5-10 minutes can provide pain relief.
As with any injury, if you have plantar fasciitis, the best plan is to listen to your body and shift your mindset to focusing on doing whatever you can to support healing. Allow your training to be secondary, but stay positive through your rehab. You will heal.
For guidance on how to strengthen your feet, check out our 10 Foot Strengthening Exercises For Runners.