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Running With Plantar Fasciitis: 12 Tips To Keep On Training

Don't let Plantar Fasciitis get in your way!

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There’s little more concerning to a runner than a niggle on a run. You ice it when you get home, maybe stretch the muscles in the surrounding area, and hope 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 experience 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 to running with plantar fasciitis, we will discuss the condition, its symptoms, and our top tips and treatment options for getting back to running as soon as possible.

A person on the ground in pain from running with plantar fasciitis.

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 the arch of the foot 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.1Lemont, H., Ammirati, K. M., & Usen, N. (2003). Plantar Fasciitis. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association93(3), 234–237. https://doi.org/10.7547/87507315-93-3-234

‌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.2Lopes, A. D., Hespanhol, L. C., Yeung, S. S., & Costa, L. O. P. (2012). What are the Main Running-Related Musculoskeletal Injuries? Sports Medicine42(10), 891–905. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf03262301

‌A review of eight studies3Lopes, A. D., Hespanhol, L. C., Yeung, S. S., & Costa, L. O. P. (2012). What are the Main Running-Related Musculoskeletal Injuries? Sports Medicine42(10), 891–905. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf03262301 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 master runners and female runners.

A close-up of a person's feet with a red glow on their heel showing pain.

Why Does Plantar Fasciitis Cause Heel Pain?

When you land on the bottom of 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 band of 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 bottom 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.

A close-up of a person's feet with a red glow on their heel shows pain.

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 running routine
  • Tight calf muscles
  • Tight Achilles’ tendons
  • High BMI
  • Excessive time on your feet (standing job, for example)
  • Excessively high arches 
  • Overpronation
  • Excessive range of motion with plantarflexion4Hamstra-Wright, K. L., Huxel Bliven, K. C., Bay, R. C., & Aydemir, B. (2021). Risk Factors for Plantar Fasciitis in Physically Active Individuals: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach13(3), 194173812097097. https://doi.org/10.1177/1941738120970976 (pointing your toes)
A pair of old, dirty running shoes.

Should I Still Run If I Have 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 remember 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 for a long as it doesn’t elicit significant pain.

A physical therapist giving assistance to a person's foot.

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 an excellent 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. To loosen your calves, use a foam roller, lacrosse ball, or massage gun, and try stretches like 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.

A person stretching their calf.

#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 your pronation needs adjusting or additional arch support.

#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 inserts if you want to keep running with plantar fasciitis.

A close-up of a person's foot with a red glow on on it indicating pain.

#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 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 allowing your foot the flexibility and freedom of movement needed for a natural running stride.

A close-up of a person's feet, one foot on its toes, one on the ground.

#7: Use Kinesio Tape

Some physical therapists recommend taping your foot with Kinesio tape to support your plantar fascia, lift the tissue, and promote blood flow and 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 that in the case of plantar fasciitis, night straps that keep your foot in a dorsiflexed position can alleviate pain and expedite healing.

A close-up of a person's feet with a red glow on their heel showing pain.

#10: Take a Load Off

Limit how much you stand, if possible, and wear supportive shoes for prolonged standing, especially on hard surfaces.

#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 relieve pain.

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.

You can also visit your healthcare provider for more help with plantar fasciitis pain relief.

For guidance on strengthening your feet, check out our 10 Foot Strengthening Exercises For Runners.

A close-up of a person's foot as they roll it on a ball.

References

  • 1
    Lemont, H., Ammirati, K. M., & Usen, N. (2003). Plantar Fasciitis. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association93(3), 234–237. https://doi.org/10.7547/87507315-93-3-234
  • 2
    Lopes, A. D., Hespanhol, L. C., Yeung, S. S., & Costa, L. O. P. (2012). What are the Main Running-Related Musculoskeletal Injuries? Sports Medicine42(10), 891–905. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf03262301
  • 3
    Lopes, A. D., Hespanhol, L. C., Yeung, S. S., & Costa, L. O. P. (2012). What are the Main Running-Related Musculoskeletal Injuries? Sports Medicine42(10), 891–905. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf03262301
  • 4
    Hamstra-Wright, K. L., Huxel Bliven, K. C., Bay, R. C., & Aydemir, B. (2021). Risk Factors for Plantar Fasciitis in Physically Active Individuals: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach13(3), 194173812097097. https://doi.org/10.1177/1941738120970976
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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