Recently I was I asking my better half to help me come up with a title to a blog post I was writing. After some discussion, she said, “Don’t worry too much about it, only three people read your blog anyway.” Ouch! Unfortunately, she is mostly right, BUT, I have noticed that I get a lot of hits when I write about plantar fasciitis (PF), that dreaded ailment that causes so much heel pain.
If you search the internet for plantar fasciitis advice, you will certainly find thousands of articles, forums and products promising cures, instant relief and prevention tips. It seems that everyone suffering from it turns to the web for answers.
Many runners know I have had the dreaded condition in the past so often ask me what I did to cure, manage or deal with it. The problem with this ailment is that it can come on unexpectedly and go away just as suddenly. It’s hard to know what really worked for you. People on running forums might say, “I used a poultice of eye of newt, clicked my heels together three times during a full moon and, voilà, I was cured.” In reality, it just went away on its own for whatever reason.
Keep in mind that everyone is different and what worked for one may not be the cure for all. Eye of newt may be the best thing for you, but I may just need some stretching and ice. Although, one website selling a product said that stretching was the worst thing for PF and that if I bought their product I would be cured. Hah!
Another problem is that the heel usually only hurts first thing in the morning or after you have been sitting for a long time. Once you start walking or running the fascia loosens up and you feel better. This encourages you to keep running where it will eventually heal or get so bad that you will need to stop running for a while.
I have had PF come on during periods of heavy ultramarathon training as you might expect, but also had bouts when I was in a cycle of low mileage running. The pain can fluctuate daily and doesn’t seem to correlate to the amount of miles I’ve run. Weather changes seem to make the pain worse just like it effects your grandmother’s knee before it rains, but scientific studies show otherwise. Who are you going to trust? The medical experts or Grandma? Of course, when you see a podiatrist, they will tell you that you are running too much and that you should quit running
|My heel hurts before days like this|
These days, I don’t pay attention to advice from articles, forums, doctors or companies selling arch supports, heel cushions, night splits,TENS units, etc. Some of these things may bring relief to some, but not everyone. Most of my flareups were managed with ice, heat and stretching and I was able to run through them. On the other hand, I was once hit with a severe case where I had to stop running for 4-5 months and see a physical therapist. My body tells me when it’s time to stop running.
Here is an anecdote for you: In the Fall I was training for Javelina Jundred; building up my mileage feeling great all summer. In addition to my daily mileage, I ran several training runs in the 45-50 mile range on mostly flat terrain. I then did a very hilly 30 mile run in the Franklin Mountains and shortly after suffered heel pain. One might deduce that it was hilly mountainous running that caused the condition. You could also say I was overtraining. I was preparing for a 100 miler so of course I was overtraining. Maybe it just came on because the weather was getting colder and days shorter. Who really knows?
Nevertheless, I tapered for my race icing my foot and stretching after runs, ran a light mileage week before the race and ran 100 miles with little pain; heel pain, that is. Yes, I was sore for about a week afterwards. But that isn’t all. After a week of recovery, I started training (overtraining?) for the Bandera 100K. A little more than two months later I ran the race with minimal heel pain, but had soreness afterwards. OK, so I’m a podiatrist’s worst nightmare. That’s why I stay out of the doctor’s office as much as possible. I’m not convinced that refraining from running is always the answer and actually believe that increased circulation from, say, eight hours of slow running could actually help the healing process.
What can my three readers take away from my incessant rambling?
- Dealing with plantar fasciitis isn’t the end of the world.
- Know that it is going to take a long time to go away.
- It most likely will go away on its own.
- You may be able to run through it.
- Doctors are going to tell you to quit.
- Try different things to see what brings relief.
- What worked for one won’t work for all.
- What “cured” it may just be a coincidence.
- Listen to your body and take a break if need be.
If you have to stop running, here are a few things you can do with your extra time:
- Spend more time with your family and friends
- Swim, bike or go to the gym (Eew!)
- Take up curling
- Grow some vegetables
- Read a few good books
- Volunteer at a race, food bank, etc.
- Remodel the kitchen
- Watch paint dry
|My winter veggies|
As for me, I will keep running as long as I can regardless of what the doc says. According to the latest news headline, “Intense jogging may shorten life span, study shows”, I will be dead in a few years anyway, but these are going to be the happiest few years of my life. Live today like it’s your last day on Earth!
See you on the trail.