What are three running drills that might lead to a plantar plate sprain? Well, that’s what we’re talking about today on the Doc On The Run Podcast.
If you’re a runner who has a plantar plate sprain, and you’ve got some vague aching pain in the ball of the foot, and you’re trying to get back to running, but you’re getting lots of conflicting advice, I can understand why you’re frustrated. And this is probably not the first video that you’ve watched, podcast you’ve listened to or article that you’ve read talking about plantar plate sprains in runners.
Given how frustrating they are, given how hard they are to heal, the last thing that you do is want to mess yourself up and set it back by repeating the same activity that may have caused it in the first place. And in my experience with the injured runners who call me for a consultation when they have a plantar plate sprain, it’s very rare that they got the injury from what I call overtraining, where you just ran way too much, too many miles too long, all that sort of stuff. It doesn’t really happen that way.
What happens is that you do some specific movement that twists your foot in a way that pushes the second toe up, likely while you’re pushing off, pronating or changing direction in a way that just overloads that little ligament and causes a strain or sprain of that ligament itself. So, obviously if you do that you don’t want to do it again.
There are lots of things that we do to build our running fitness, to complement our running fitness and our strength as runners that will help us run marathons longer, ultra marathons, triathlons, all that kind of stuff. Like hill repeats, okay, hill repeats, we know it’s hard to run up hill. So, if you run uphill really quickly, as hard as you can, well that’s going to build a lot of fitness really quickly and there’s some more confined workouts that actually put your plantar plate at really high risk of getting injured, and the first one is burpees.
Burpees are a very popular workout among CrossFit athletes and they will build a lot of strength really quickly. But if you do a whole bunch of repetitions of burpees, what’s happening is that as you jump backwards with your toes landing in that push up position, and you’re jamming this toes upward, and then you push off again, well, you can really strain the plantar plate ligament, and the more reps you do, it’s predictable that the worse your form will become, the less able your muscles are to actually dynamically stabilize your foot and protect the ligament. So, as the muscles fatigue, the things that hold the foot in place like the ligaments and the tendons start to get stressed more.
Doing lots of burpees can actually lead to you getting a plantar plate injury. And if you think that’s how you actually got your plantar plate injury, well don’t do that. It’s just going to aggravate it and it’s going to potentially reinjure and make it even worse. You don’t want to do that.
Second thing is wind sprints and what we’re talking about here as you go someplace where you can run a defined distance and change direction and do it again. You go to a football field, you stand on the goal line, and you take off and you sprint toward the 10-yard line and then you stop, you maybe even touch the ground on the line and then you change direction, you run back to the goal line, you bend down, touch the goal line and take off in the other direction and go to the 20-yard line and then back to the goal line and the 30-yard line, back to the goal line.
Every time you stop and change direction, you’re severely pronating the foot particularly if you’re bending down to touch the ground, and then you take off again and you’re pushing and you’re really stretching and straining that plantar plate ligament. So, f you’re doing wind sprints about the time that this started, you might want to avoid those.
The third thing is running on sand barefoot. We all know that running on sand, walking on sand has lots of good benefits. It kind of massages the feet. It also works the intrinsic muscles, the little muscles that stabilize your toes on the inside of the foot. And that can be good for the plantar plate ligament because the ligament is a static thing that holds the bones together.
Whereas the muscles are dynamic things that actually pull and stabilize the toes using active strength. So, if you can build some active strength by walking on sand or running on sand, then that should be a good thing, but it’s easy to overdo it. And so, if you’re on sand and you’re running barefoot and you see how the foot slips and slides and moves in the sand when it’s loose and it’s unstable beneath you, it’s easy to understand how you could slip and push and jam the toe upward in a way that stretches and strains of plantar plate ligament. So, if you were doing workouts on sand, particularly barefoot when this started, you might want to avoid that as well.
But you’ve really got to think about what is the thing that actually caused your plantar plate ligament injury because remember, rule number one is don’t do it again. You’ve got to let it heal and above all else, if you’re going to maintain your running fitness, you’ve got to work out, maintain your fitness that actually matches the strength in the ligament and you don’t want to make it worse by doing a workout that you know is too much for it when it was healthy, if you do that again when it’s injured. it’s just going to make it way worse.
If you know what caused your plantar plate sprain, I want to know in the comments. So, post like what is it that you think actually caused your plantar plate sprain, because it’s very rare when I see somebody thinks it was overtraining and sometimes it’s people stepping on a Lego in their kid’s bedroom. Sometimes it’s people stepping off the edge of a carpet just wrong doing some kind of workout at home hitting the edge of a yoga mat, something like that. What do you think caused yours?
If you want to learn more about plantar plate sprains in the entire framework and the strategies I actually use with runners who have this injury, you can check it out for free. It’s in the plantar plate masterclass, which you can get at www.docontherun.com/plantarplatemasterclass. So, go check it out, and I’ll see you in the training.