If you struggle with plantar pain, this is a simple checklist you can follow to ensure you are being proactive about your recovery.
Plantar pain is massive in the hiking community. And if you have experienced it before, you will know just how much it sucks...
That shooting pain first thing in the morning as you step out of bed.
The burning discomfort while hiking, which stays at the back of your mind every step you take on the trail.
Having to hobble around the house after a big day on your feet, just wishing things would finally sort themselves out.
It ain't no fun at all.
And when it comes to overcoming plantar pain, there is one mistake I see again and again and again from hikers:
Thinking in one dimension.
All too often, hikers get stuck on one particular solution, whether it is an exercise, a stretch, a piece of gear or whatever, and hoping that will make the difference.
But it is rarely that simple.
Any type of plantar pain is usually a multifactorial issue. Meaning, that if you are focusing on just one solution, you are setting yourself up for failure.
Instead, a much better way to approach this is to look at a more comprehensive view. And tick off as many boxes as you can, which may be contributing to the issue.
So if you struggle with this, today I want to share a quick checklist of things you should be considering.
By no means is this exhaustive. But it is a good place to start.
If you struggle with plantar pain, you should be considering these things in your week (in no particular order):
1) Plantar specific strengthening
This involves doing specific exercises to strengthen up the muscles in the feet, ankles and calves. This is crucial for most types of plantar pain, and if you are not doing it, then you are missing out.
2) General lower limb strengthening
As a whole, the legs act as 'shock absorbers'. The stronger they get, the force will go through the feet each step. On top of this, some muscles in the legs will help the feet remain strong and stable (and prevent them from falling into compromising positions) which can often be a contributing factor.
Mobility through the legs is essential. If certain muscles are excessively tight, they can put extra pressure through the feet, change the way our foot operates and generally, contribute to the issue.
*Important note: some people may need to put more focus on mobility, and not so much strength. Some people may need to do the opposite. And some (or most) will need equal doses of each. It is important to understand where you should be putting your efforts, or you may be wasting a lot of time!
4) Weight management
For every kilo you carry, you take a hugely disproportionate amount of extra force through the feet. So considering weigh management (for both bodyweight and your pack) is very important for overcoming plantar pain.
Obviously, this is often easier said than done. But that doesn't mean you should ignore it!
5) Recovery and pain relief techniques
Do you know what exercises and techniques you can use to help relieve discomfort when your feet are hurting? And do you know what you can do to help speed their recovery after training and hiking?
6) Foot support
There are several different foot support strategies which can be valuable to someone struggling with plantar pain. Taping, orthotics, supportive footwear are a few examples. If you are struggling with plantar pain, you should be considering this area.
7) Gear strategies
Do you know what pieces of gear can make a significant difference to your feet while hiking? There are
8) Load management
Last (but definitely not least), load management involves ensuring you are not doing too much (or too little) work on your feet each week (when it comes to walking, training and hiking). This is absolutely crucial.
Upon first glance, considering all of those things may seem a bit overwhelming...
But they are important! And it is entirely possible to fit all of this into a typical week, without having it take over your life.
So if you struggle with plantar pain, and you are not regularly doing any of the above things, you know where to start.
If this sounds like you, just reply to this email with the words 'tell me more', and we can see if and how the program might be a good fit for your goals and situation.
Yours in trekking,
Want some extra help with your plantar pain?
Check out the Happy Plantar Program!
Rowan is a personal trainer who specialises in training for hiking, trekkers and mountaineers for their bucket list adventures.
Summit Strength is a personal training for hiking service created specifically to help hikers have the best chance of a safe, enjoyable and successful adventure.