After six weeks of not running and following several recommendations to the “T” and still no progress on regaining a pain-free left foot, I finally went to a medical specialist this morning for my nagging case of plantar faciitis— a common running injury that is hard to treat successfully. The graphic to the left that I got from the AAOS web site shows it’s location.
I’ve been suffering from a worsening case of plantar faciitis on my left foot and a secondary injury of hip bursitas on my right hip (which since has subsided since I stopped running about 2 months ago) and intermittent lower-back pain (sacrum area), since December 2008.
The injuries seemed to correlate with a sudden-I’m-so-dumb-to-do-this jump in running miles (more than 10% increase each week) and research paper on the foodways of triathletes and runners that I was trying to finish for an anthropology class. My days in December were sleep-deprived generally and usually involved long hours of sitting during the week at my computer, in my car on the 101 Freeway or in class followed by a weekend with a long Saturday road run with the gazelle-like Inside Track Running Club ultra and marathon runners. (“Who needs to gradually increase their mileage to train for a marathon? Not me!”) Nine months is long time for me to be nursing an injury. Lately, I’ve been doing more mileage writing and reading about running, than actually doing it. I’ve been a runner who can’t run.
Since I forgot to ask the good doctor’s permission to blab about his advice to me online, his identity won’t be revealed. However, I’m confident he knows what he is talking about. He’s an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the foot and ankle, is athletic himself (runs and surfs) and has been treating foot injuries for twenty-five years. Finally, two of my doctor-swimmer friends recommended him.
After the doctor reviewed my gait and stance, an x-ray of my foot and the wear pattern on my old NB 1224 running shoes, according to him, I had no obvious mechanical problems with my gait. Both feet have good flexibility and perform well. I just have a very painful heal (pain located at the mid-point/center and front area on the sole). And, I have tight soleus muscles. Apparently tight calves strain the plantar facia & Achilles tendons by deprecating my gait efficiency which puts additional weight and pressure on the arch/heal area with each step.
Here are his recommendations (as I understood them) to treat my plantar faciitis:
1. Wear a foam heal-lift in my shoes to remove the constant strain on my plantar facia & Achilles tendon’s attachement on the calcaneous (heal bone)
2. Stretching my soleus muscle (muscle below the gastronemius/just above the heal bone) with a wall stretching technique 3x/day; Here are links that show how to do the stretches properly at SportsInjuryClinic.net and at the AAOS web site.
3. Using ice on my heal/arch for pain management within 30 minutes after an activity (walking, massage, etc.) inflames it; massage with ice is okay if done gently
4. As for strength training: it’s too soon for me to engage in heal lifts or heal dips (off a step) or walking around barefoot for a while; “If it hurts, don’t do it!”
5. No running of any kind until pain/inflammation subsides; That means no barefoot walking or running and no up hill, forefoot, or beach walking or running for a few weeks
6. Go for a walk on flat ground with supportive shoes (Brooks T5 with Superfeet insoles & foam heal lifts or NB 1225 with Superfeet insoles and foam heal lift) for a mile; then progress to a 1/2 mile walk, 1/2 mile jog (no faster than 8 or 9mpm for jogging intervals); and work up the mileage if there is no pain (If there is pain, back off and go back to walking)
7. When I can run again, practice a mid-foot running style with a shorter stride and feet landing underneath my center of gravity–not in front of me, landing lightly on my mid-foot before rolling off. For more information about improving one’s efficiency through running mechanics check out RunningTimes.com for a mid-foot running article that covers the many current philosophies with good source citations for further reading such as Chi Running, Evolution Running, Dr. Ramanov’s Pose Technique, barefoot running, etc. I got this from Clynton at Running Quest.net who posts informative articles on running and diet with cited sources, too. Nice.
8. Continue using the night splint; stretch the calf muscles before getting out of bed each morning
9. Cross-train (continue swimming, weight training & riding my bike to keep up my cardio)
10. Gentle self-massage of heal and facia of arch on the foot every day followed by ice for pain (“Ice doesn’t help this injury.”)
I guess when I was re-injuring the left plantar facia–even though I wasn’t running–earlier this summer while doing my six-week Born to Run– and Advice-from-Friends- inspired “Everything But the Kitchen Sink” and two-week “Kitchen Sink” Plantar Faciitis Treatment Program . It must have been the 3x/week calf raises, and dips, lunges and walking barefoot around the house that culminated with two desperate (but beautiful) barefoot jogs on the beach. Severe pain was the result of the final beach runs. It was only nagging pain before.
If this new treatment plan doesn’t help then the doctor will consider putting my injured foot in a cast for 4 weeks to take the pressure off my Achilles/heal or plantar facia. That means I can’t do my dawn open water swims, though. And the thought of riding a stationary bike to keep up my cardio really isn’t appealing. I hope it doesn’t come to that.
The good doctor didn’t talk about the barefoot running nor of the forefoot running discourse in the running community. That may be because either he was unfamiliar with the trend of training this way with barefoot-in-the-grass running drills and strength training. Or, it may have been because he ran out of time for my appointment. He emphasized only that the calf muscles of one’s leg drives and supports one’s foot. This is a paradigm shift for me: my calves are a part of of my feet. To fix my feet I must first fix my calves by frequent (at least 2x/day) stretching of my soleus muscles done with correct form.
For now I’m wearing my $8 foam heal lifts from Ventura Orthopedic in my lightweight and flexible Brooks T5 running shoes, $70-ish (it was last year’s model on sale), I bought at Inside Track with my $35 Superfeet insoles (green ones for high arches) that I also picked up at Inside Track. My left foot aches a bit today. But is probably from yesterday’s painful one mile forefoot running experiment on the treadmill. And, playing with the kids in the water at the beach yesterday–barefoot of course.
Thank you so much to those who have left me informative comments & encouragement!