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Most Common Marathon Running Injuries –Plantar Fasciitis

Updated on August 29, 2010

Many people have “getting in shape” as their new year’s resolution.  A few people take it to the next level and look at running a marathon.  And as spring is just around the corner, many people are beginning their marathon training.  One of the biggest problems that most first time marathon runners have is starting out too hard.  Even veteran marathon runners can develop running injuries in the first few months.  In either case, your body just isn’t ready to take the punishment that you give it. 

Below we discuss the marathon running injury of Plantar Fasciitis, some of its symptoms, what you can do to prevent it and how you can treat this running injury.  While this is no substitute for medical advice, it will give you an idea of your problem and point you in the right direction towards recovery.  As with any serious pain, it’s important to seek medical attention.

By far, the most common running injury that first time marathon runners experience is plantar fasciitis.  Plantar fasciitis is characterized by a dull ache to sharp pain on the bottom of the foot that spreads from the heel all the way to the ball of the foot.  One telltale sign you have plantar fasciitis is when you wake up in the morning and the first 5-10 steps you take hurt and then feel a lot better (this is the plantar fascia stretching out, more on that later).  Plantar fasciitis stems from the inflammation and damage to the plantar fascia; which is a thick connective tissue that runs from the heel to each of the toe bones on the bottom of the foot.  The function of the plantar fascia is to act as a rubber band-like tie rod that keeps the foot from falling completely flat.  This rubber band bears most of the load when the weight is on the foot.  When running you are stressing the plantar fascia repeatedly with every step.  Too much stress and the tissue can be torn. 

How to Prevent Plantar Fasciitis

There are several simple steps you can take to prevent plantar fasciitis.  The first is proper support.  It’s very important when running to have the correct shoes.  There are many types of running shoes that all use slightly different technologies to support the foot.  They also support different types of feet in different ways.  There’s way too much information to cover in this article; however, there is a lot of good information online regarding running shoes and the right fit for you. 

Another step you can take to prevent plantar fasciitis is to make sure to stretch after every run.  You can easily stretch the plantar fascia by doing simple calf stretches which force the plantar fascia to stretch out as well.  These stretches are very simple and can (and should) be done throughout the day.  Remember when stretching to carefully apply pressure and don’t bounce.  Just slowly apply pressure until it’s slightly uncomfortable and hold until the discomfort subsides.

Finally, you’ll want to make sure to ease in to your running routine.  Even if you do a lot of stationary exercises (exercise bikes, elliptical machine, etc.) for long periods of time, make sure to scale back for your initial runs.  There’s a big difference between running on the road and exercising on a machine. 

Plantar Fasciitis Treatment

If you already have some version of plantar fasciitis pain there are a number of treatments you can try to find some relief.  With minor versions of the injury you can do simple things like stretching (described above) and icing.  This will help to reduce inflammation and maintain flexibility.  By all means, stay off of your feet as much as possible.  You can still train using exercise equipment but you shouldn’t run until you are symptom free. 

With more intense foot pain there are a number of products available that can help treat plantar fasciitis.  Night splints are probably the most popular treatment.  These are special socks that you wear at night that keep your foot stretched all night long.  There are plantar fasciitis boots out there that you can wear during the day to more or less do the same thing.  Some people have had success with orthotics or inserts.  These correct the posture of the foot and provide the support that a quality shoe has.  Speaking of which, there are also special plantar fasciitis shoes that do the same thing.

There are a number of products out there than can help you treat plantar fasciitis pain.  You should spend some considerable time researching your options to understand which is best with you.  For that there are a number of resources online.  Make sure to check with retailers for prices and whether you can get insurance to cover it.  As with most things in life, a little bit of homework will go a long way in helping you find a plantar fasciitis cure.

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