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Plantar fasciitis is a common injury in athletes, especially runners. If you suffer from plantar fasciitis, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you must stop cycling. It’s important, however, to identify the cause of the pain before continuing your exercise regimen. Continuing to exercise while symptoms are still present can lead to chronic inflammation and a longer recovery time. In most cases, with a little rest and proper treatment, athletes will be on their feet again in no time.
When the plantar fascia, or the thick tissue in the bottom of the foot that connects the heel to the toes, becomes overstretched, it becomes inflamed. This condition is known as plantar fasciitis. This inflammation makes it difficult to walk and perform certain movements of the foot. It may be caused by shoes with poor support; sudden weight gain; long distance running, especially downhill or on uneven surfaces; or a tight Achilles tendon. People whose feet have a high arch or are flat footed are also prone to plantar fasciitis. Cyclists who drop their heels excessively or who place excess pressure on the feet when they stand to climb are also at risk.
Pain and stiffness at the bottom of the heel are common symptoms of plantar fasciitis. The pain may be sharp or dull and is generally the worst first thing in the morning. Climbing stairs and spending a long time standing are also painful and can be accompanied by swelling, redness or tenderness of the heel. Pain may develop quickly after the start of an activity or take longer to develop.
Cease the activity that causes pain and ice the area or plunge the affected foot in a bucket of ice water and then gently massage the arch. You can also keep the arch loose by rolling it on a tennis ball. Also take an anti-inflammatory over-the-counter pain reliever and keep the foot elevated at first. Work on loosening your calf muscles and Achilles tendon with daily stretching. If symptoms still persist after two weeks, call your doctor.
It’s important that athletes wear shoes that support the arch and have enough bend in the ball of the foot. This is also true of cyclists. Cyclists should wear stiff shoes to support the arch and consider adding footbeds if they have high arches or flat feet. Runners should do the same and will often find relief cycling while they are recovering from plantar fasciitis, because it is a low-impact activity. Both cyclists and runners with foot pain should cycle in low gear in a high cadence, to avoid irritating the foot.