Plantar fasciitis is a curse for runners. This common overuse injury affects one in every 10 people, many of whom are long-distance athletes who love to hit the track, road, or trail.
The plantar fascia, a resilient ligament that connects your heel to the front of your foot, acts as a shock absorber and provides support to your foot’s arch. When this band becomes damaged and inflamed, you have plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis causes intense pain on the bottom of your foot, usually around your heel and arch. It’s especially noticeable first thing in the morning when you get out of bed or immediately after exercise. The pain can also be present even when you put no pressure on your heel.
At Maryland Orthopedic Specialists, our team offers conservative treatments like physical therapy, rest, medications, orthotics, and splinting to help resolve your plantar fasciitis symptoms. If these measures don’t work or your pain is severe and is interfering with daily life, we may recommend surgery.
Runners who undergo plantar fasciitis surgery are eager to get back to their sport as soon as they can. While everyone’s experience is different, here’s generally when you can expect to lace up your shoes again.
When surgery is required for plantar fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis surgery addresses the underlying issues causing discomfort and limited mobility.
Surgery becomes necessary when plantar fasciitis reaches an advanced or chronic stage and conservative methods such as physical therapy, orthotics, or corticosteroid injections fail to provide relief.
There are two primary surgical approaches for plantar fasciitis:
Open plantar fasciotomy
This procedure involves making an incision to partially cut the plantar fascia, relieving tension and promoting healing. Generally, open surgery requires a longer healing time.
Endoscopic plantar fasciotomy
We perform this minimally invasive procedure using small incisions and a tiny camera for guidance when releasing tension in the plantar fascia.
Initial recovery period
For the first two to three weeks, we ask you to keep weight off your foot or use crutches. This phase is important for proper healing. Trying to run too soon or rush the healing can jeopardize the recovery process.
You should adhere closely to our postoperative instructions. We ask you to keep the foot elevated, use ice packs, and take prescribed medications to manage pain and inflammation.
Transitioning to weight-bearing activities
As your plantar fascia starts to heal, we have you start to put weight on your foot. This process is gradual, and physical therapy helps you to improve strength and flexibility. Remember, just because you can put weight on your foot doesn’t mean you can run yet.
As you transition to weight-bearing, pay close attention to any pain or discomfort. It's normal to experience some discomfort, but report sharp or worsening pain to our office.
The timeline for returning to running varies from person to person. Factors such as the type of surgical procedure, your overall health, and adherence to rehabilitation play a role.
You may be able to get back to most activities after three to six weeks of recovery. But you need to wait a little longer before running and participating in vigorous athletic activity.
We recommend you start with walking, swimming, or cycling before you start running. Your foot must adapt to impact gradually.
After about 12 weeks, you may be able to start running again. Begin with short distances and soft surfaces. We can guide you as to the best regimen.
Pay attention to any signs of strain, pain, or swelling during and after running. If these persist, consult our office right away.
While plantar fascia surgery can relieve the pain of plantar fasciitis, making it possible for you to run again, remember not to rush the healing process. We work closely with you to make your return to running as smooth as possible and without re-injury.
Contact us at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists at one of our locations in Bethesda, Rockville, or Germantown, Maryland. Call us at 301-515-0900 or set up an appointment here.