How to Prevent Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendonitis

Plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis are very common issues with runners. Strength training is very important to build up essential muscles such as glutes, core, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves, but we often forget about strengthening some feet muscles. Strengthening our 10 little muscles that stretch from the heel to the toes may help improve running performance and prevent injuries. Runners that are mostly affected by Plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis, are runners dealing with over or under pronation. The plantar short foot muscles play a crucial role in supporting the medial arch, providing the foot stability and flexibility for shock absorption. Another issue is when these muscles are fatigued after long-distance runs, there is a change in the foot posture leaning towards a pronated position.

Over-pronation is a very common foot issue, where the arch is very low. Runners with over-pronation, their arch is not as strong, is not as powerful, and while running the feet roll inwards by more than 15% when they land. This over-pronation forces the big toe and second toe to push off the ground without the support from the rest of the midfoot. This type of motion can cause extra stress on the foot and lower leg muscles, which can lead to plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis and even runner’s knee issues.
Under-pronation or supination can cause some similar side effects. Runners with under-pronation, their foot rolls outward on the landing, creating strong impact on the metatarsal bones (toe to heel bones), this can also create issues with Plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis.

Plantar Fasciitis: Inflammation of the plantar tissue that runs from the heel to the ball of the foot. Plantar fascia originates at the heel bone and runs along the bottom of the foot, attached to the base of each toe. Plantar fascia supports many functions during running or walking, it stabilizes the metatarsal joints, while running it acts as a shock absorber for the entire leg and helps lifts the arch of the foot for the “push off” motion.
Achilles Tendonitis: Tightness or inflammation of the Achilles tendon. This tendon is attached from the calf muscle to the heel bone. The Achilles tendon is the thickest and strongest tendon in the whole body, with the least blood circulation. Tight Achilles tendon can affect the plantar fasciitis tendon and vice versa. Tight hips, hamstrings, glutes, calves can all affect plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendons. To perform regular stretches and foot strengthening exercises will prevent these types of injuries.

Foot Strengthening Exercises: 

  1. Arch Curling: 
  • Sit in a chair with both feet placed flat on the floor
  • Raise the arch of your foot by sliding your big toe toward your heel without curling your toes or lifting your heel
  • Hold the position for 5 seconds then relax and repeat for 10 times.
  1. Toe Spread & Squeeze with Band
  • While sitting, loop a small resistance band around your toes. Spread toes; release.
  • Then place a toe separator (used at nail salons) in between toes. Squeeze toes in and release. Do three sets of 10 reps of each exercise on both feet.
  1. Towel Crunch:
  • Sit in a chair with your bare feet on the floor. Place a bath towel flat on the floor.
  • Put the toes of your right foot along the bottom edge of the towel.
  • Use your toes (and the entire bottom of your feet) to crunch up the towel. When you reach the end of the towel, extend the towel flat on the floor again. Switch foot and repeat.
  1. Heel Raise:
  • Pick a flat and convenient spot for this exercise with wall or furniture to hold on for balance near by
  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart, hand holding on a firm structure for balance
  • Raise both of your heels up so that you are standing on your tippy-toes, then slow lower your heels down back to ground
  • Repeat the exercise as many as you can, and stop once your calves feel tired.
  • While performing the basic heel raise exercise, place a small ball or towel roll between your ankles (squeeze the ball or towel roll gently with your ankles so that they are not falling out). This ball squeeze heel raise exercise will involve the tibialis posterior muscles and promote ankle stabilization.
  1. Toe Walking:
  • Stand as tall as you can on your toes.
  • Balance then begin walking forward with slow small steps.
  • Maintain a tall balanced posture.
  • Dorsiflex the ankle and toes of the free (moving-ahead) leg upward as high as you can with each step, while maintaining your balance on the toes and ball of the support foot. Walk 20 metres for 3 sets.

Foot Stretches:

  1. Calf stretch:
  • While standing on a step, slowly lower your heel over the edge of the step as you relax your calf muscles.
  • Hold for about twenty to thirty seconds, then tighten your calf muscle to bring your heel back up to the level of the step.
  1. Foam Rolling:
  • While seated, roll your foot back and forth over a frozen water bottle, ice-cold can, or foam roller
  • Do this for one minute and then switch to the other foot.
  1. Towel Stretch:
  • While sitting on the floor, fold a towel lengthwise to make an exercise strap, or use a stiff resistance band.
  • Sit with your legs straight, and place the folded towel under the arch your foot.
  • Grab the ends of the towel with both hands, and gently pull the top of your foot toward you. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, and repeat three times.
  1. Big Toe Stretch:
  • While seating on a chair, cross one leg over the other for the big toe stretch.
  • Grab your big toe, pull it gently toward you, and hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Perform three times, then reverse and do the same with the other foot.

Add these stretches to your regular basic stretches. Releasing the hip flexors, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and IT band will help release the calf and foot muscle as all these muscles are connected even to our lower back. To look after our entire body muscles will help prevent several types of injuries.