The Running Doctor: Plantar fasciitis becoming more prevelant

Now that many people are getting out, walking, playing tennis, golfing, and running for exercise during this COVID 19 pandemic, plantar fasciitis is more prevalent than ever. This condition appears as a strain or partial rupture of the strong ligament which runs along the arch from the heel to the toe. It elevates, or supports, the arch. The plantar fascia is a tough, fibrous band composed of three slips. Plantar fasciitis is one of the more common conditions in all athletes as well as those who just walk.

Plantar fasciitis and heel spurs cause pain on the bottom of the heel. In both conditions, symptoms are present after exercise but not necessarily while exercising. In some cases, however, athletes will complain of pain during the actual event. Abnormal pronation and pull on the plantar fascia of the foot during heel contact, midstance, and the toe-off phase of gait aggravate the condition.

If the fascia becomes stretched or strained, or in some cases torn, the arch area becomes tender and swollen. This inflammation of the plantar fascia is likely to be painful from the heel through the arch. On palpation, in the early stages, there is a feeling of rigidity and stiffness in the arch.

There are several possible causes of plantar fasciitis. One is poor training shoes. They might be worn down on the heel area or may lack rear-foot control and cushioning.

Another possible cause might be from playing and training on hard surfaces such as concrete roads and/or artificial turf.

Increase in training, sprinting, track workouts for speed training and hill running often contribute to the condition. However, it is primarily due to the abnormal geometrical changes of the pathological foot mechanics, due to excessive inward foot roll and pronation.

Therapy for plantar fasciitis includes resting from one’s respective event and going to an alternate aerobic activity such as swimming or biking to maintain cardiovascular condition. I am a firm believer in long-distance walking to increase blood flow to the tissues as our body's healing element.

A biomechanical orthotic device will be helpful for rebalancing the foot and the ankle pronation.

It is important to remember that perhaps the best treatment for the athlete is rest. Hopefully, this information can prevent this condition for many.

Dr. Robert F. Weiss is a podiatrist. He is a former member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the Olympic Marathon Trials. Dr. Weiss is a veteran of 35 Marathons. For more information visit