Returning to exercise with a foot injury Returning to exercise with a foot injury

Plantar fasciitis and heel spurs are common foot problems, particularly among runners. The plantar fascia is the fibrous ligament running from the heel to toes, which stretches and contracts during weight bearing. Damage to this tissue results in inflammation – called plantar fasciitis.

If poorly managed, the condition may cause bony outgrowths on the heel bone called heel spurs, which makes the heel painful and sensitive to touch or place down, especially after resting periods.

According to Dr James Clayton, a SPORTSMED-SA orthopaedic surgeon specialising in feet, ankles and knees, these conditions typically result from a sudden increase in exercise, particularly when wearing non-supportive footwear.

Wise workouts

Throughout recovery, Dr Clayton recommends upper body workouts and non-impact activities like swimming, cycling and cross-training to keep fit and put your best foot forward.

Added protection

Night splints stretch the affected area during sleep, making those first steps in the morning more comfortable. Orthotics to support your arch may be helpful if you’re experiencing pain through the heel, arch or forefoot.


Dr Clayton recommends replacing well cushioned footwear every 12 to 18 months, or around every six months for high volume use or regular running. A heel lift or heel shoes and specific stretches of the plantar fascia, calf muscles and Achilles tendon may avoid recurrence, as can rolling the arch of the foot over a hard ball.

Of course there is no one-size-fits-all with fitness programs, particularly those of a rehabilitative nature. Your recommended recovery time and regime will vary depending on the type and severity of your injury, so be sure to seek regular advice from an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist. Listen to your body and ease back into your former fitness regime safely. It is natural to be filled with an abundance of enthusiasm when symptoms subside, but remember: slow and steady wins the race!