Plantar fasciitis is an injury to the foot that can range from mild to debilitating. Catching and treating plantar fasciitis early on can minimize pain and shorten the duration of the healing process. By switching exercise modes from running or walking on a treadmill to working out on an elliptical trainer, you can reduce trauma to your plantar fascia.
The plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot, connecting your heel to your toes. When you move your foot through its normal range of motion during walking or running, the plantar fascia serves to stabilize your foot, and facilitates the toe-off phase of your gait. It does so by stretching when your ankle is in a dorsiflexed, or toes-up position, arching your foot and providing a windlass mechanism for more efficient push off from the ground. Plantar fasciitis is an overuse injury marked by painful inflammation that is a result of damage to the fascia tissue. You may experience a sharp pain in your heel or a throbbing pain along the entire bottom of your foot.
Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis can have a variety of causes. High-impact activities like running place a great deal of stress on your plantar fascia. Poor foot mechanics during physical activity, worn or insufficiently supportive athletic shoes, long hours spent standing or a combination of several factors can contribute to the condition. The structure of your foot can also predispose you to plantar fasciitis. If you are flat footed or have extremely high arches, you may be more vulnerable. Women are more prone to plantar fasciitis than men, and obesity is a contributing factor.
Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis
If you are physically active, supportive athletic footwear is critical to injury prevention. Many stores that specialize in athletic shoes feature trained professionals who can help you select the best shoe based on your foot shape, arch type, activities and gait patterns. A gait analysis by a trained running coach can help you correct mechanical errors that can lead to plantar fasciitis. Treatments include elevating your feet, applying ice, decreasing the time spent on your feet, decreasing your running or walking mileage and eliminating high-impact exercise.
Ellipticals Vs. Treadmills
The elliptical trainer offers a low-impact alternative to the treadmill that can reduce the risk of plantar fasciitis. Because your foot does not travel through its full functional range of motion when using the elliptical, the plantar fascia is not stretched to the extent experienced when walking or running. The Mayo Clinic's Edward R. Laskowski notes that an elliptical trainer can also be easier on your knees, hips and spine than running on a treadmill. To minimize stress, use good body mechanics by centering your weight and keeping an erect posture. Refrain from leaning on the hand rails.
Michelle Matte is an accomplished fitness professional who holds certifications in personal training, pilates, yoga, group exercise and senior fitness. She has developed curricula for personal trainers and group exercise instructors for an international education provider. In her spare time, Matte writes fiction and blogs.