This post has three useful tips for cyclists and runners on how to prevent plantar fasciitis and maintain healthy feet. Anyone who cycles or runs regularly may develop pain or injuries. One of the worst is plantar fasciitis, which can cause enough pain to stop you cycling and running, and interfere with all of your daily activities. In this post, Amanda Roberts offers three useful tips to cyclists and runners on how to maintain healthy feet and prevent plantar fasciitis. Plus! We include a case study of how Maggie cured a tough case of plantar fasciitis.
Are you a cyclist or runner? Do you like to do regular training? If your answer to either of these two questions is yes, you have arrived at the right post! If you ride a bike or run regularly, you need to take a few preventative measures to keep your feet healthy. In particular, you need to be sure to prevent plantar fasciitis.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
The plantar fascia is a flat band of tissue (a ligament) on the bottom of your foot that connects your heel bone to your toes. In plantar fasciitis, this vital connective ligament becomes inflamed, as shown in the illustration below.
“Plantar fasciitis is a common overuse injury found in runners. The plantar fascia, which is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the longitudinal arch, becomes irritated, inflamed or torn by repetitive stresses placed upon it.” (Source: Plantar Fasciitis in Runners: Causes and Prevention. See Sources List at end of post.)
Plantar fasciitis is a progressive, inflammatory condition, which causes heel pain and limits your range of motion. If left untreated, plantar fasciitis can become severe. Eventually, plantar fasciitis can prevent you from putting weight on the affected foot, which will significantly impact the overall functionality of your foot. The inflammation can become chronic, which will have a negative impact on the quality of your life (especially with regard to your daily living activities). Obviously, if it gets bad enough, it will stop you from cycling or running.
Is Plantar Fasciitis Common in Cyclists and Runners?
Even though cycling and running do not necessarily cause plantar fasciitis, these activities can make the symptoms worse. Also, the wrong footwear or foot position can cause plantar fasciitis. Do not assume that only professional athletes are affected by this condition. As long as you ride your bike or run on a regular basis, you are at risk.
It is important to recognize the symptoms of plantar fasciitis at an early stage and seek treatment. Even better, follow the tips in this post to prevent plantar fasciitis. (Source: Evaluation and Treatment of Biking and Running Injuries – see source list at end of post.)
What are the Main Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?
These are the main symptoms of plantar fasciitis:
- Heel pain (plantar fasciitis is the number one cause of heel pain)
- Limited range of motion in the affected foot
- Difficulties in taking the first steps in the morning (morning stiffness) or after prolonged periods of sitting
- Redness and tenderness in the area
- You may have difficulty in bearing weight on the affected foot, climbing stairs, or standing for a long time
How to Maintain Healthy Feet during Athletic Training
To maintain healthy feet during athletic training and keep the risk of plantar fasciitis down to a minimum, follow the three easy but effective tips below.
Tip 1: Wear Proper Footwear
Whether you are a professional athlete or just an average Joe who likes to ride or run, wearing proper footwear is one of the best preventative things you can do. The shoes you wear while cycling should provide adequate arch support while being flexible enough (they should bend at the ball of the foot). The shoes you wear while running must be specialist running shoes that provide appropriate support. (Source: Cantor – see Source List at the end of this post.)
Always opt for specialized cycling shoes, or specialized running shoes, of the best quality you can afford.
The risks associated with low quality footwear
Low-quality footwear can damage the biomechanics of your foot and cause the plantar fascia to become inflamed. There is a widespread movement towards wearing everyday clothing for cycling. That is all well and good, but your feet are under a lot of stress when cycling, so they deserve special treatment – which starts with wearing shoes that are designed for the purpose. A good pair of cycling shoes is your first step towards preventing plantar fasciitis.
Flat feet or high arches are both risk factors for developing plantar fasciitis, so if you have either of these conditions, you should consider adding footbeds to your shoes.
Tip 2: Pay Attention to Your Cycling or Running Technique
You may find you love cycling or running so much that you don’t spend too much time thinking about your technique. While having fun is a big part of the experience, you do need to pay attention to your technique. The most important thing is to choose a technique that is gentle on your feet, so that you do not irritate the plantar fascia and increase the risk of inflammation.
For cyclists, the recommended technique is based on low-gear cycling, preferably at a high cadence. This means that you choose an easy gear and make sure you are spinning the pedals around 80 times per minute.
Read about how to use your gears properly while cycling in this post, a Beginner’s Guide to Changing Gears on your Bike.
This cycling technique is recommended to prevent plantar fasciitis. However, if you are already suffering from plantar fasciitis or similar conditions, it will also be useful. It can prevent the plantar fascia from becoming more irritated, and thus help you reduce your symptoms (while still being able to enjoy cycling).
For runners, it may also be necessary to consult a sports physiotherapist to ensure that any anatomical or biomechanical inefficiencies of your feet are corrected (Source: Warren – see Source List at the end of this post.)
Tip 3: Get it Right! Saddle Height and Foot Placement on the Bike Pedals
According to a scientific article published in Primary Care, plantar fasciitis is one of the conditions that can affect cyclists and runners (whether professional or amateur) (see Oser, Oser and Silvis in Source List at the end of this post). The authors stress that the plantar fascia does not become inflamed overnight, but rather as a result of repeated stress (repetitive microscopic trauma at the origin of the plantar fascia).
They found that incorrect saddle height is one of the main factors that contribute to plantar fasciitis in cyclists. So, a simple measure such as adjusting your saddle height to the correct level could help you maintain healthy feet and enjoy your bike training at the same time. The researchers found that the usual problem is that saddles are set too low. Your legs should be almost straight at full extension.
Related Posts about Saddle Position
Position your feet correctly when cycling
The authors of the study point out that the positioning of your feet on the bike pedals can also make a major difference. When you position your feet correctly on the pedals, you decrease the risk of plantar fasciitis and other injuries. Your feet should not be rotated with your toes pointing outward or inward – keep your feet as straight as possible. Also, make sure your feet are not too far back on the pedals.
If you use cleats, make sure you do not have to exert too much pressure to get out of them – set the tension low.
Note that an incorrect cycling position may cause foot problems such as plantar fasciitis, and may also cause pain and injuries in knees, hands, and lower back. If you are not sure about correct saddle height and foot position, either get a professional bike fitting, or else consult a book such as Bike Fit: Optimise your bike position for high performance and injury avoidance.
Case Study: How Maggie Cured a Tough Case of Plantar Fasciitis
Finally, here is our case study of how Maggie cured a tough case of plantar fasciitis. Over to Maggie!
A couple of years ago I found myself working as a camp host in Squamish B.C. My job required me to be on my feet 10 to 12 hours a day. I confess I made the classic mistake of not springing for high quality work boots. Not only that, the work was hard, requiring tough manual labor most days. By the end of the summer I was hobbling, and we were due to leave for the US within a matter of days.
With no time to see my physiotherapist, I decided to rely on my own research and heal myself. How hard could it be? I quickly determined that I indeed had plantar fasciitis. But I had no idea at the time that this journey would have me limping for almost a year before I found relief.
Over the course of 11 months, I tried resting and icing my foot. That did not help. So I started sleeping every night using a specialized night splint. Yet month after month I found no relief. Out of desperation I even bought a walking cast to completely immobilize my foot. Nothing worked!
I finally reached out to our physiotherapist, Saqib Niaz of Tri City Physiotherapy, who we think is a miracle worker. He gave me five exercises to do twice a day. I felt immediate relief after a couple of days and was completely healed within a month.
The Five Daily Exercises that Healed my Plantar Fasciitis within a Month
Sit with your feet flat on the ground. Your lower leg should be at a 90 degree angle to your knee. The center of your knee should be lined up with your second toe. This leg position will create a natural arch in the foot.
Exercise #1 to Heal Plantar Fasciitis within a Month
Lift all your toes off the ground. Only the toes; the rest of the foot should be flat. With all toes raised, lower your big toes to the ground. Once they touch the ground, drop the remaining toes. Try to keep all your toes flat, not curled.
Exercise #2 to Heal Plantar Fasciitis
With all your toes flat on the ground, lift the big toe up. Once you get to a 45 degree lift, then drop the toe down again.
Alternate these two exercises, repeating each 5 times.
Exercise #3 to Heal Plantar Fasciitis
Lay a small towel on the floor. Scrunch your toes to lift the towel and hold for five seconds. Lift only with the toes, the rest of your foot should be flat.
Assuming that the problem is in your left foot: Cross your left leg over your knee. With your right hand grab all the toes of your left foot and pull back to stretch the bottom of the foot – hold for 10 seconds. Go for a stretch, not pain.
Repeat 5 times.
Wrap a small ball in a towel or cloth. Place under the arch of the foot and roll the ball diagonally and horizontally for a count of 10. Move the ball to another area and repeat until you have massaged the whole area of the foot.
Essential Extra: Ice Bath for your Foot
Place at least 6 ice cubes in a pan of cold water and submerge your foot up to the ankle. Keep foot in water for 5 minutes. Remove for 2 minutes and then repeat another 5 minutes. If you wish you can rest for 2 minutes and repeat a third time, but no more than three. Do this last thing at night.
I confess that the ice baths were an awful experience, but probably the most essential part of the whole healing experience. The icy cold forces a complete change of blood to the area, which removes waste material and expedites healing.
Also, be sure to wear shoes with an enclosed heel.
We hope that this post will help you to prevent Plantar Fasciitis – and heal it if you are afflicted with this painful syndrome.
A Final Note on Maintaining Healthy Feet
As you have seen, it is possible to cycle or run regularly and keep your feet healthy at the same time. Follow the above suggestions and you will be able to enjoy your cycling and running, without pain. It is also essential that you recognize the symptoms of plantar fasciitis early on, and seek treatment before the condition becomes chronic and prevents you from cycling altogether.
Thanks to our Guest Blogger, Amanda Roberts
Amanda Roberts is a professional blogger and a podiatry student. She is an enthusiast who loves to write in several niches. She particularly enjoys writing about foot health, including plantar fasciitis, toenail fungus, foot massage and reflexology. Read more of her blog posts on foot health at Feet Remedies. You can follow Amanda on Facebook. If you have suggestions on how cyclists can maintain healthy feet, please use the comments below.
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Ames DL. Overuse syndrome. Journal of Florida Medical Association 73: 607–608, 1986
Cantor R. Give Yourself Proper Support. Runner’s World (Special Advertising Suppl. 24): 50–55, 1989
Oser, Sean M., Oser, Tamara K., and Silvis, Matthew L. Evaluation and Treatment of Biking and Running Injuries.
Warren, Barbara L. Plantar Fasciitis in Runners: Causes and Prevention.