Is a Stationary Bike Good Exercise When You Have Plantar Fasciitis?

The plantar fascia is a thick fibrous band of connective tissue that originates at the heel bone and runs the entire length of the sole. It helps maintain the arch system of the foot and plays a role in your balance and phases of your gait. An injury to this tissue, known as plantar fasciitis, can require physical therapy, depending upon the recommendations by your physician.

Two riders exercise with stationary bikes in a gym. (Image: Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images)

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a painful inflammation that represents 8 percent to 10 percent of all injuries for sports clinics, according to Coachr.org. It's also the fourth most common injury to the lower limbs. Pain affects the foot's ability to move and ultimately limits your capacity to participate in all types of physical activity. Plantar fasciitis is usually found in only one foot. Bilateral plantar fasciitis, on the other hand, is probably the result of a systemic arthritic condition.

Treatment

Treatment for plantar fasciitis can include a combination of rest, night splints, massage therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, injections and, of course, physical therapy. Bicycle riding, either stationary or street, is a common method of rehab and a good way to warm up before other exercises. Though rest is ultimately needed, some activity is also necessary to recover, according to Dynamic Chiropractic.

Low Impact

Bicycling is preferred to running or participation in sports because it is low-impact. The feet do not strike the ground and bear little mechanical load but instead proceed smoothly in a circular motion. Stationary bikes reduce impact further by avoiding all of the variations in the uneven environment that can jar the sensitive plantar fascia. However, you must first ensure that the bike is the proper size and the handlebars and saddle are at the correct height, otherwise you can still hurt yourself.

Equipment

While you are riding the bike, it's a good idea to wear shoes with slightly higher heels or, at least, insert heel pads 1/2 an inch to 1 inch thick into both shoes. This should cushion the feet and prevent possible stress. However, they should only be used for low-impact exercises. Playing tennis and other high-impact activities with elevated heels can cause a serious ankle injury.

Warning

Plantar fasciitis is typically caused by overuse and protracted trauma of the connective tissue. Bicycle riding can excessively stress the plantar fascia and should probably be avoided for a few weeks after the injury until there is no pain, according to Coachr.org. In the meantime, water training can begin immediately. It takes stress off the foot completely and works quite well for convalescing the tissue. Either way, you should exercise caution.

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