Plantar Fasciitis: Much More Than What Fits Your Feet


The reason why you’re dealing with plantar fasciitis is about much more than what fits your feet.

 

In order for a ball to come into the strike zone at upwards of 90 mph, there has to be much more to a pitcher’s delivery than just a strong arm.  Or even a longer arm that has the potential for more leverage (i.e., whip).

In order to have the kind of velocity and movement on a ball that can cause a major league hitter to swing and miss on a regular basis, the pitcher has to have a chain that is capable of going through all of the motions that would go along with pronation (i.e., flexion).

That is also the case with supination (i.e., extension).

So this is not only about the joints that make up the pitcher’s arm, it’s also about what the human chain is capable of doing throughout the entire delivery.

In other words, a pitcher doesn’t end up needing Tommy John surgery because of what their arm is not capable of doing all by itself.  That tiny elbow ligament has very little room to stretch beyond its current length, so instead it will do its best to prevent motion.

Ultimately, a pitcher’s elbow is one link in a great big chain.  Which makes the athlete only as strong as their ability to compensate for their weakest link.

This is also the case for the person who has been dealing with the persistent pain that plantar fasciitis (PLAN-tur fas-e-I-tis) can bring.

Although there is an inflammation of the fascia that is located all along the bottom of your foot, there are many other things that are contributing to that tissue getting beat up on a continual basis.  And it’s just one piece of a very complex puzzle that is often over- simplified.  Which makes the plantar fascia nothing more than the location of the sensation (i.e., pain).

[Note:  Just in case you’re not up on the whole story on pain, it’s more about an output of the brain than it is about where you actually feel the discomfort.  Which means that when it comes to clearing the pain, the technique has to be capable of reaching the level of the brain.  And most of the ones that have been used for plantar fasciitis throughout the years don’t even come close to having that kind of an impact on the brain.]

So the question is, how can anyone target a sensation?

Answer:  They can’t.  But that doesn’t stop them from doing the same thing over and over again…

They will continue to go at the foot with everything under the sun. And by going at the sensation in that way, they are only addressing the symptom.

Which means that even if you end up not having the same pain and stiffness throughout the bottom of your foot, you’re still not going to be capable of performing to the best of your ability.

(Curiosity)

If you have been struggling with plantar fasciitis for some time now, I think you would agree that your feet are not strong enough to hold themselves up.

Assuming you aren’t already going through your day with shoes that are artificially supporting your already tired feet, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that gravity is winning.

And since gravity is a natural law, this is one of those times where you don’t have a choice in the matter; whether you like it or not, gravity is going to continue doing what it does (i.e., pull).

And the ground is going to continue doing what it does.

Having explained it that way, I think you can see that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to support something that is already weak.  And if you do choose that path, the muscles that are capable of pulling their own weight are only going to get weaker.

If you want to fire a canyon, you’d be much better off doing it from an environment that doesn’t resemble something as unstable as a canoe.

The sport doesn’t matter.  If a golfer wants to drive the ball farther, they have to be able to pronate and supinate at the appropriate time.  And if they want to avoid degeneration of a joint anywhere in their chain, they’re going to need to pronate and supinate at the right time.  Not only at their feet but throughout their entire chain.

Much like the pitcher who can throw multiple innings while still maintaining somewhere around 90 mph, what separates an elite runner is their ability to take advantage of motion throughout their entire chain in such a way that allows them to move across planet Earth much more efficiently.

It’s not only about the strength of their feet, the overall health of their plantar fascia, or even what is on their feet; it’s their ability to take advantage of the motions that they have available to them on every single step that just so happens to be in a forward direction.

Steps that propel them forward with a level of explosiveness that can only be achieved when there are certain things taking place at the right time.

What that means is, no matter how small, every muscle is just as important as the next.

For many years now, college professors throughout the world have been telling their students that if you have more mobility at a joint, you’re going to have less stability at that same joint.  And that is true.

But there’s an enormous disconnect between the statement that all of those professors are making in the lecture hall, and what is actually happening in practical application in clinics throughout the world.

And that is, everybody and their uncle is focusing on increasing mobility without even stopping to consider whether or not there is going to be stability throughout the new available range of motion.

(Principles)

So rather than buying into something that hasn’t been delivering on a promise for many years, I think it’s time to start thinking about why you continue to struggle with the same pain and inability to perform at the level that you’ve been accustomed to.

In order to understand this better, it might help to think about your own work.  Or maybe the workplace of somebody that you know.  What happens when five of your co-workers are working with you to get a job done in a timely manner?

Is it realistic to think that everybody on your team is going to share the workload evenly?

Due to many different factors, some of the people that were assigned to do the same job as you are not going to carry their share of the load.  Even if it only turns out to be one person that doesn’t pull their weight, you and the remaining four are going to be forced to work harder and faster to get the assignment done on time.

Muscles throughout the human chain function in a very similar way.  Just because they are taking up space, doesn’t mean they are working with any level of efficiency.

When that is the case, the muscles that are responsible for motion at the same joint will pull harder and faster to make up for the under-performing muscle’s inability to carry its own weight.   And those same muscles that have been forced to take on the majority of the workload are the ones that are labeled as tight.

So the key is, instead of spending valuable time addressing muscles that are doing as much work as they possibly can look to the muscles that are under-performing.

Because much like a sensation, the tight muscles are the symptom.

[Side Bar:  In order for the Washington National’s athletic trainers to give Ryan Zimmerman the green light to return after being out with plantar fasciitis for several weeks, they must have felt like he was ready.  After returning to the line-up, Zimmerman was one of the National’s hottest hitters over 39 games. Then, he went back on the disabled list with an oblique injury at a time when his team has a slim chance of making the playoffs. Coincidence?  Not when you stop to consider that the athletic trainers were not only chasing the pain, they were also only addressing the symptom and a sensation.]

Although I don’t have a crystal ball, I’d be willing to take a wild guess that the reason you’ve been struggling with plantar fasciitis for so long is not so much about having too much motion into pronation, but instead, not having enough motion in the opposite direction.

Which is supination, the muscle’s ability to overcome the pull of gravity!

Whether your goal is walking or running, there are many different things that are capable of driving your foot into supination.  But none of those things are possible when your foot is supported by something that is outside of your body.

Even if you choose not to support your arch, just because there are many different parts throughout your body that are responsible for allowing your foot and the entire chain to overcome gravity at the right time doesn’t mean they will be capable of doing them.

 

runner with plantar fasciitis competing in ultra marathon

Image Credit: John Bridger (@mightbeanybody)

 

The chain’s ability to pronate (read: load) and supinate (read: unload) with efficiency is the reason why an elite runner is capable of performing at such a high level.

An elite endurance runner’s arms are not moving separately from each other. (That is only what the experts say.)  In fact, when a runner’s arms are moving independently of their torso, there is going to be less-than-optimal motion throughout the running gait cycle. Which means that the foot is not going to supinate at the right time.

And when the foot can’t supinate at the right time, it’s going to remain on the ground longer than it should. Which again comes back to what the trunk musculature is not capable of doing.

The calf-raises you do in the gym do very little to lift your foot away from the ground.  In other words, in the running gait cycle, it’s not your calf muscles that are responsible for lifting your foot off of the ground. It’s the muscles in your trunk and thighs that are primarily responsible for that.

When it comes to the close-knit relationship between your trunk and foot, it’s really about the available motions that are occurring throughout your torso. Which means that when an elite runner’s trunk rotates, it’s moving as one unit.  And then the arms will follow the trunk in that same direction.

When you think about the oblique muscles and all of the possible motions of the spine, the ability of an elite runner to rotate their trunk in one direction, at a time when their pelvis is moving in the opposite direction, is really a thing of beauty.  And in the process of taking advantage of all of the motions that are readily available to them, they’re still keeping their eyes focused on the road ahead.

This is only a glimpse into what it takes to drive a runner’s feet into a position of supination (i.e., the muscle’s ability to overcome gravity).

When it comes right down to it, your ability to pronate at the right time is just as important as your ability to supinate at the right time.  But yet all you ever hear about is pronation.

By continuing to use the term (over) pronation, the experts are only distracting you from what is really going on with your chain.  Meaning, that over-priced device that you put in your running shoe didn’t improve your trunk muscles’ ability to pull at the right time.

In fact, it was only a workaround.  (emphasis added)

In other words, since your foot can no longer pronate, it actually DEcreased your chain’s ability to perform.

But if you were only focused on the pain, and it’s suddenly gone, it’s difficult to see the bigger picture.

Because the truth is, that orthotic not only drove your foot away from the pain, it also made all movement more difficult.  Which means that the muscles throughout your chain are going to have to work much harder just to cover the same stretch of ground.

So you can see that pronation is not only about what is occurring throughout the 33 joints in your foot.

Pronation is a series of motions that occur at every joint in your chain.  It just so happens that when your foot makes its initial contact with the ground, everything is driven from the ground up.

And in order for your foot to leave the ground on time, everything has to be driven from the top down (i.e., supination).

And who’s responsible for your ability to pronate and supinate at the right time?

Your muscular system.  Which tends to take a back seat.

(Priorities)

As you might have already imagined, I’m not only referring to the muscles throughout your legs and feet here.  I’m also referring to the muscles throughout your trunk.  If you think back to what I was saying about what an elite runner’s trunk is doing, it’s also important to consider the ramifications of a trunk that’s not capable of moving well.

Meaning, for the person who’s having a difficult time with the inflammation of their plantar fascia, their torso and pelvis are not only not moving with anywhere close to the same amount of motion that an elite runner would, those same body parts are also not moving at the right time.

And that is what was going on before somebody recommended putting a pebble in your running shoe.

If you enjoyed this post, I would greatly appreciate it if you would help my message on plantar fasciitis spread. You can do this by emailing it to a friend, family member, colleague or feel free to share it on Facebook.

A BIG thanks in advance.  (:D

SHIP.

(Art)

 

 

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Rick Merriam

Owner/Licensed Massage Therapist at Engaging Muscles
I have held a license to practice massage therapy for over 20 years. For the first 18 years of my career, I was a nationally certified personal trainer. During that time, I completed thousands of one-on-one personal training sessions. I went on to teach biomechanics to personal trainers, group exercise instructors, and physical therapists throughout New England. I worked as a sports massage therapist at ESPN. Over the last few years, I have been quoted in Runner’s World UK, Massage Therapy & Bodywork, Massage Magazine, IDEA Fitness Journal, Massage & Fitness Magazine, and The Guardian Liberty Voice. I have also served as an applied biomechanics consultant for the fitness staff at Canyon Ranch, The Greenbrier, and ESPN. For the last 8 years, I've been teaching applied anatomy & kinesiology at Parker University. I have a private sports massage therapy practice in Dallas, Texas.