If you, or anyone you know, has dealt with plantar faciitis, you know it is not to be taken lightly. The facia is a thin band of fibrous tissue between muscles. Plantar faciitis is an inflammation of the plantar facia of the foot. As runners, we spend a lot of time on our feet and are particularly susceptible to plantar faciitis. Most people with plantar faciitis have pain in the heel of foot and describe it as a stabbing feeling that is especially bad in the mornings and after prolonged standing (or running). Like many overuse injuries, plantar faciitis can sideline your running career for a long time. There is no quick fix for this, and it can take from months to years to rehabilitate. So, what are we going to do to prevent it? …YOGA! Plantar faciitis often comes on from tightness of the calf and achilles tendon, which are two areas that are notoriously tight on runners. These are also areas that are easily taken care of by a few yoga postures. I’m going to touch on a few postures you can do at home that are great prevention and relief for plantar faciitis.
Downward Facing Dog Pose
Start by coming to your hands and knees. Place your hands one hand length forward, spread out your fingers and lift the knees up. Press your chest toward your thighs and lift your seating bones up. The knees can be bent, especially if you are not warmed up. Try to drop your heels towards the ground (don’t worry if they don’t make it). Start by peddling the feet and trying to straighten one leg at a time, while bending the opposite a little deeper. After a few breaths, you may find that you can straighten the legs fully. If you get tired, go to hands and knees to rest, and once ready come back to downward dog pose.
Once you are comfortable with the posture, try coming to your toes by lifting the heals off the ground as high as you can and then drop the heels back down to the mat. Try this a few times with the breath and notice if your heels are able to make it a little closer to the ground.
Runner’s Lunge & Crescent Lunge
You may need blocks or two stacks of books on each side of you for this posture. Come to runner’s lunge by starting on your hands and knees. Step your right foot forward in between the hands (make sure that it is all the way forward and that the knee is stacked above your ankle). Then, bring your left knee back a few inches and tuck your left toes under. If you need blocks, place each hand on a block. Lift up your chest and try to get your back straight. Take a moment here to feel the posture. Then, try to bring your right hip back and your left hip forward and straighten your back leg. Press into your left foot a little and notice the sensation in your foot and in the back of your leg.
Take a few breaths in runner’s lunge and then begin to feel your inner thighs engage. Draw your belly button up towards your spine and then lift the hands up, lift your torso up and reach your arms into the air for a full crescent lunge. Continue to push weight into your back leg and straighten the back leg by lifting the hamstring as high as you can.
Warrior III Pose
Warrior III is a difficult posture, but it allows you to get deep into the back of the leg while building strong hips, back, and core. Start by coming to standing with the feet together. Step forward about a foot and a half with your right leg. Engage your core and left leg and flex your left foot. While drawing forward with your chest, hinge forward at the hips, eventually making a “T” with your body. Keep the arms by your sides at a low “V” or reach them forward for more core work. Try to remain here for 5 breaths, but if you wobble and fall, just come right back in.
Bonus round: Try coming into this from crescent lunge!
Seated Head to Knee Pose
If you have tight hamstrings or calves, grab a strap or towel. Come to a seated position and extend both legs out in front of you. Take a moment to remove the flesh from the seating bones (I know, beautiful cue, but it’s necessary). Draw your left leg in so your foot makes contact with your right leg and the left knee flops out to the side. If the left knee is uncomfortable, take a pillow or blanket and place it under the knee. Flex your right foot, reach your arms into the air and inhale. On your exhale, hinge forward at the hips reaching your arms to your toes. If your hands can’t make it to the toes, grab your strap or towel, wrap it around the ball of your right foot (keep it flexed) and hinge forward at the hips. Avoid any rounding of the back by trying to bring your chest up. Breath here, keep your right foot flexed and when you are ready, switch sides.
When treating and dealing with plantar faciitis, be careful of the foot tissue and don’t do any yanking or extreme stretches of the foot so you don’t tear the fragile tissue. There are more extreme stretches that target the feet, but these five postures are a good starting place. Have fun and keep running! Namaste! 🙂