Every day we rely so much on our feet. As runners we will generally ensure we are equipped with the best shoes and socks. Unfortunately, every running stride means our feet are impacted with more than the full weight of our bodies. As a result, runners are more prone to foot pain and injury.
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of pain in runners, affecting nearly 10 per cent of the active running community. Your plantar fascia is the ligament connecting your heel and forefoot, supporting the arch. Every time you step down, your plantar fascia is affected. When the ligaments in surrounding tissue becomes irritated and inflamed, your risks of plantar fasciitis increases dramatically.
To avoid foot pain and plantar fasciitis, runners need to take proper care of their feet. This not only means the right equipment for running (shoes, socks, etc.) but also means cross-training your feet with stretches and strengthening exercises.
The following yoga stretches can help you reduce your risks of plantar fasciitis. Try each exercise a few hours before or after a run.
Begin kneeling on the floor with your knees and ankles about hip distance apart. Sit back between your calves pushing your buttocks towards the ground. You should be sitting comfortably on the ground feeling a stretch along the front or your feet and shins. If you cannot reach the ground with your butt, or if you feel any pain in your knee or thigh, try sitting up on a folded blanket or block. Press the tops of your feet into the ground and hold for about a minute.
Kneeling Toe Squat
Begin kneeling on the floor with your knees, ankles and feet together. Using your fingertips to support you, tuck your toes under, trying to ground each toe. Try and push the balls of your feet towards the ground. Try and stay in this pose for 5-10 seconds as you stretch your feet, then gradually increase your stretch time. It’s an intense stretch but you should not stay if you’re in pain. Instead, just spend less time in the pose. When you’re finished, come return to kneeling or push back into child’s pose for a few minutes to relieve your tendons and muscles.
Begin in mountain pose, standing with your feet about hip distance apart. Squat, bringing your butt towards the ground while keeping your heels and toes on the floor. If this feels too difficult, bring your feet apart slightly. It’s more important your feet remain flat on the ground. If you don’t feel you can get low enough to begin with, fold a yoga mat and place it under your heels. This will help with balance as well. Separate your knees slightly wider than your hips and bring your elbow and torso forward between your thighs. You can press your elbows against your inner thighs while resisting. Ensure you maintain a straight back and neck. You’ll feel a stretch both along the bottom and top of your feet. Try and hold this pose for 30 seconds and gradually increase your stretch time as it gets easier.
Tip: Stretching your feet will be uncomfortable at first. Stick with it! The more love you give your feet, the more comfortable stretching will become.