This post was written by Keith Hatfield.
Plantar fasciitis affects more than 2 million people ever year and some athletes, especially runners, suffer from the condition for their entire lives. Sports Illustrated ran a story in 2011 titled, “Plantar fasciitis — the most maddening injury in sports.” If you’ve suffered from PF, then you know all too well that can sideline you for weeks, months—even years in severe cases.
As an athletic trainer in the Kansas City Royals organization, I saw athletes suffer from this condition as I personally have for years. I ran track and played football and basketball in high school and went on to run cross country and track at Dodge City Community College in SW Kansas.
Plantar fasciitis started in on my left foot and I tried everything I could to treat it. I put ice on after running, stretched a lot, even saw a podiatrist and had an injection. I bought every product on the market, but none would give the satisfaction of really pulling on the arch of the foot which is made up of the plantar fascia.
So I had an idea to develop a strap that is wide enough to fit under the foot with handles that make it easy to pull. With the running community in mind, I ordered the parts and stitched it together myself and called it the Hatfield Strap. After using my new device, I was thrilled because I felt the stretch in the foot where I wanted it. That’s when I knew that this could help many people who suffer from plantar fasciitis, as well as anyone wanting to get a great foot, calf, and hamstring stretch.
Through my years in professional baseball all the way down to high school, I devoted much of my time learning and absorbing different techniques on how to improve performance, rehabilitation and treatment of various sports related injuries. Many “sports related” injuries are the same as everyday maladies that anyone can get at any age and from all walks of life.
When you are running, whether it’s a 5K, 10K, marathon—or running around the block, you put a huge strain on your feet. If your plantar fascia has been injured or pulled, you know the pain that comes with it. According to the New York Times, 10% of runners will suffer from plantar fasciitis or some kind of foot injury. Even stars like Kobe Bryant, Eli Manning—even former Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has suffered as well.
There is a great quote in that Sports Illustrated Article from Morgan Valley who played basketball at UCONN. She missed more than 20 games because of the injury and told SI, “Sort of the same as someone picking up my foot, grabbing a thick piece of wood and slamming it repeatedly into my sole. It’s a uniquely terrible injury.”
To me, the Hatfield Strap gives you everything that you need combining the best of all the other options in a small portable device. You can sit in front of the TV, use the shoulder strap and have your body act as the facilitator and use your body weight to stretch the foot. It’s allowed me to continue my workout regimen and get back to my love of running.
Some people say that the condition is caused by over use of your body, but I don’t necessarily buy into that. I know plenty of distance runners who have been running for 3 decades with no discomfort. Plantar fasciitis causes inflammation that tightens tissue causing it to be more rigid when it needs to be flexible like a shock absorber. At some point, your body could tear; especially the ligaments or plantar fascia in your foot. That is why I recommend everyone to train their feet even before getting injured. If you are more proactive than reactive, you can potentially prevent plantar fasciitis from ever occurring.
Also, if you feel an injury coming on, take it easy (on your feet by swimming or biking for aerobic workouts)—your long-term health is more important than short term gains. I’ve been teaching that to athletes my whole life and now I can equip them with a strap and they can stretch the foot at work, at home, in a hotel—wherever you have a little space.