Solely Speaking: Preventing & Healing Plantar Fasciitis

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September 29, 2011 by CrossFit Hillsboro & Pacific Personal Training

For many of us, the most neglected (and often under-appreciated) parts of our body are our FEET or, more accurately stated, the foot and ankle complex, given that the muscles of the lower leg are intrinsic to the structure and function of both. When you consider that this joint complex is comprised of 26 bones, 33 joints (20 actively articulated joints), and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments, it begins to paint a picture of the amazingly dynamic and resilient qualities of our feet. And hopefully, begins to foster a new respect for their tireless devotion and compliance to our every command.

It makes perfect sense that they should be one of the most sensitive areas of the body, as they serve two primary purposes: 1) as our direct connection to the ground (simply bearing our weight) and 2) propulsion, the foundation for movement that’s then translated throughout the entire kinetic chain (a.k.a. our bodies). The sciatic nerves supply the majority of innervation to the feet. However, there are 5 more nerves that also provide a plethora of sensory feedback to the brain, allowing us to maintain balance, sense a need for and to produce a change in position or direction of movement (proprioception), and how, how much, and when to apply force to the ground, whether we need to clean & jerk 135 pounds or get the hell out of dodge, like yesterday.

As I learn more about this aspect of the body, I’m baffled as to how our feet don’t break down on us more often. They loyally rise to the occasion of our daily lives AND our WODs, with copious amounts of double unders, box jumps, bearing our weight, and then some, while moving large heavy objects at high velocity, walking and running on pavement and concrete, and, for some, being harnessed to Chuck’s truck and dragging it around the premises (ahem, Michael Wilson…Star Athlete of PPT/CFH!)…and for some, committing one of the most heinous of biomechanical crimes: wearing high heels! You know who you are!

But, the truth is we all have a threshold, including our feet. Believe me, I know. I’ve been in negotiations with my own case of plantar fasciitis for the past 2 1/2 months, and this experience along with hearing nasty rumors from several more of my fellow WODkillaz about their own “Flare o’ Foot,” has been the inspiration for this blog. So it’s high time we take the plunge–into the gritty details of plantar fasciitis and into the ice bucket! (Yes, this will call for you to submerge your lower extremity into an ice bucket which will feel like a hundred knives stabbing you in the leg, but then you’ll feel better. Just like a WOD: you feel like you’re dying but when it’s over you’re willing to entertain the idea that that was actually good for you).

The plantar fascia is a thick fibrous band of connective tissue on the bottom of the foot that follows the medial longitudinal arch, from the base of the heel to the base of the forefoot. Breaching its threshold produces micro-tears in this tissue over time and usually includes the following symptoms:

  • pain & tenderness in the aforementioned area of the foot, especially first thing in the morning upon getting out of bed
  • pain following long periods of weight bearing (walking, running, or WODing) or long periods of rest, but subsides after a few minutes of movement
  • inability or difficulty producing dorsiflexion (pulling the toes up toward the shin)

Affecting roughly 2 million Americans a year and about 10% of the population over a lifespan, common causes of plantar fasciitis include the following:

  • faulty biomechanics of the foot-ankle complex (which results from faulty hip and knee biocmechanics), usually through over-pronation (collapsing of the arch), flat feet, or high arches, all of which excessively stress the plantar fascia ligament
  • overload of physical activity or exercise, especially running and jumping, or increasing the difficulty and/or volume of training too quickly (which is why this condition is so prominent in the athletic population)
  • wearing shoes that don’t fit your feet properly or provide inadequate support
  • arthritis

Any of this sound familiar? The good news is there is an Rx for “Flare O’ Foot,” and once you pinpoint the factors that appear to be contributing to your particular bout, you can execute your plan of attack while also addressing the root of el problemo del pies. After scouring the massive mountain of treatment approaches, I decided the best, most thorough yet concise, and effective advice I’ve received in treating my feet should be shared with you, thanks to the Mobility WOD’s Kelly Starrett (whom many of you know as Kstar). Please click on the link below for said plan of attack. I’ve followed this mobility master’s wise words and recommendations (mind you he’s also a Doctor of Physical Therapy) with much success, not to mention less frustration! In a nutshell, mash (via lacrosse ball), stretch, ice, rest, repeat, smile.


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