THIS week I'm continuing my running injury theme by looking at Plantar Fasciitis, which can be a horrible and debilitating condition.

This is a condition I see not just in runners but also rugby and football players, especially this time of year with the ground getting harder, and also professions such as nurses and lifeguards.

The Plantar Fascia runs along the sole of your foot and connects from your heel bone to the ligaments of your toes.

It is a strong piece of connective tissue which has little blood flow to it.

It is a part of the body people often neglect, but is so important and used everyday.

Plantar Fasciitis is the inflammation and micro tears of the Plantar Fascia.

Common causes include wearing worn out/inappropriate shoes, having low/high arches, being overweight, long hours on your feet, tight calf muscles, walking barefoot on soft ground, repeated high-impact activities and sudden increases in activity levels.

In running populations, this is normally seen as an overuse injury.

Training errors, surfaces, biomechanical alignment and muscular dysfunction and inflexibility also cause inflammation in the area.

Symptoms can be varied and usually have a gradual onset:

n Pain and stiffness in the sole area of your foot, radiating from the heel.

n It can feel like a burning sensation or deep ache. It is not uncommon to feel several of these sensations throughout the course of the injury.

It is normally worse in the morning - with the foot getting stiff overnight with lack of movement.

Pain also increases with activity and this is with the inflammation after impact.

Treatment is very hit and miss for this condition. If you catch it early enough and rest you can get on top of it very quickly.

It is not uncommon for Plantar Fasciitis to last a year in length.

First stages are to rest to decrease the inflammation.

Rolling a frozen bottom of water under the foot is also great to do straight away. This also helps with blood flow and decreasing inflammation.

After a couple of days, stretches to release the area include:

n Stretch one - focussing on the Achilles Tendon. Stand with your painful foot behind your healthy one. Point your toes of the back foot toward the heel of your front foot. Lean forward into a wall. Bend the front knee and keep the back knee straight. Keep your heel firmly placed on the floor. Hold this for around 20 seconds.

Stretch two - focussing on the Plantar Fascia. Sit on the floor and place your painful foot across your knee. Using the hand on the side affected by plantar fasciitis, pull your toes back toward your shin until you feel a stretch in your arch. Run your thumb along your foot—you should feel tension. Hold this for around 20 seconds.

Try and do these stretches three times per day. This is just phase one for the rehab and prevention protocol.

To prevent Plantar Fasciitis or on recovery from the condition, only increase your mileage by ten per cent per week.

This is especially important for runners who are training for a first half/full marathon.

Use well supported shoes/running trainers that have been specifically looked at by a running specialist.

Most importantly, vary your training.

Use different types of training, vary running/cycling routes and surfaces to avoid overuse.

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