Training Room Tips (Video): Plantar Fasciitis - Backward Walking as an Alternate Treatment
Backward Walking on a Treadmill
Backward Walking on a Treadmill

Training Room Tips (Video): Plantar Fasciitis - Backward Walking as an Alternate Treatment

Dick Moss, Editor, Physical Education Update

Plantar fasciitis is a nasty injury in which inflammation affects the fibrous bands that run from the heel to the ball of the foot and maintain the foot's arch. Typical rehab advice for plantar fascia pain includes:

  • Light stretching before practice
  • Ice massage, possibly by rolling the injured arch over a frozen juice container
  • Wearing a boot while sleeping to keep the patient stretched overnight.
  • Not walking barefoot, especially first thing in the morning.

However, there are cases in which traditional therapy methods don't work and the pain can linger for months. If that's the case, it may be time to take a different approach towards healing your case of plantar fasciitis.

The following method was suggested to one of my athletes by a trainer in the University Michigan athletic therapy department. It came after a full year of traditional cold treatment and sleeping with a boot had provided no relief. After two weeks of his treatment, during which my athlete continued to run workouts, her plantar fasciitis was gone.

I tried the same treatment with another runner this winter. She'd had plantar fasciitis problems for two months and couldn't get rid of them. Two weeks with this treatment and voila - gone!

I don't have empirical evidence that this treatment is effective. Just my limited experience. You should probably start with the traditional treatment (stretching instead of backward walking). But if it's not working, give this approach a try.

Alternate Treatment Method
Here's the treatment regimen.

  1. Heat for 10-15 minutes before the workout. A hot tub with jets is ideal, hydrocollator is good, or just use a heating pad (moist would be best).
  2. Instead of stretching, walk backwards for 10-15 minutes. This can take place on a track, a treadmill, or even up and down a school hallway. Exaggerate the movement: rolling off the toe at initial contact, then rounding the foot as it rolls onto the ground.
  3. Perform the workout. Or, if the pain is too severe, skip the workout.
  4. Use traditional treatment methods after the workout, including ice massage with an ice cup, or rolling the foot on a frozen juice container. A pattern of ten minutes on, 20 minutes off, 10 minutes on is highly effective.

Why This Treatment is Effective
This treatment works because it stretches out the fascia from a different angle, but in a very running-specific manner. It may also break up adhesions between the fibres of the fascia and alleviate some of the tension on the band, resulting in some reduction of the inflammation.

Other Points

  • To improve your recovery time, get 5-10 minutes of ultrasound between Step 1 (heat) and step 2 (walking backwards). I realize this won't be possible for most students.
  • In fact, most students won't even have access to a heat source before a workout. While heating will make the treatment more effective, it is actually the backward walking that is the most important element in this treatment method (my athlete this winter did not apply heat or ultrasound before walking backwards).
  • Speaking of the heating phase, if you don't have access to a hot-tub, whirlpool or hydrocollator, you could purchase a portable foot-spa. You can often buy them at department stores for about $50.

To see a demonstration of the backward walking technique for plantar fasciitis rehabilitation,
watch the video below:


References:
1. From a conversation with Lisa Labrecque, former member, Canadian national cross-country team and All-American with the University of Michigan track and cross-country running teams.
PE Update Articles:
2. Plantar Fasciitis - Use Drink Cans
3. Plantar Fasciitis - Night Splint
4. Plantar Fasciitis - Homemade Night Spllnt
5. Plantar & Achilles - Barefoot?


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© 2009, Physical Education Update, www.peUpdate.com

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