plantar fasciitis

A little over a month ago I had an amazing run. It was one of those perfect mornings where everything clicked – a rarity for me in the thick of this Carolina summer. My friends and I ran 10 miles and did a bunch of 1:00 pick ups (with 2:00 recovery jogs between each), feeling strong and alive and finally sensing a glimmer of how the hard work we’d been putting in all summer might actually be making us fitter, despite the sticky humidity and blazing heat we face each day.

When I got home I remember just floating on that run for quite a while. I was busy with the kids getting them ready for their first trip to summer camp, my home a bit more of a hustle and bustle than usual. I noticed what I would describe as a little bit of tightness in the arch of my left foot later that afternoon. It wasn’t totally unfamiliar and it wasn’t all that painful, but it was there. The next morning it was gone and I had another fantastic run.

The following week we traveled to the Pacific NW for a family wedding and a marvelous adventure in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. I ran and hiked all week and reveled in the amazing temperatures, the cool clean air, the gorgeous sceneries. My foot didn’t bug me one bit and I felt better than I had in a while, which I attributed to the fact that we were on vacation and the weather was a million times better out there.

me and Gus at Deception Pass, San Juan Islands

Another week later I was back in North Carolina. I went for a sunrise easy paced long run with my friends on a Friday morning and noticed that my foot was feeling tight again maybe 2 or 3 miles into the run. I hoped it would loosen up as we went.

It didn’t.

I took the next day off and rested it – as best you can rest a foot as a mom of three on a busy Saturday. The following day I went out for a solo run to test it out. I ran for about an hour. A miserable hour. Longer than I should have. Once again I hoped it would loosen up.

Once again, it didn’t.

Later that afternoon and all through the next day, it was tight and painful. No swelling, no discoloration, but tight as all get out. I knew something wasn’t right and wanted to rest it and have it checked out.

I sought out the advice of my trusty chiropractor and dear friend from Virginia, Dr. Aleck Wong. He said it sounded like classic plantar fasciitis and recommended some intrinsic foot exercises, heat in the morning and ice towards the end of the day. He also suggested finding someone here to do active release therapy (ART). So that week I saw someone three times. She did ART and some slight chiropractic adjustments. After a week of that in addition to rest and at home therapies, I tested my foot with a 30 minute run because it felt so much better. But when I ran – it didn’t feel better.

That week I saw a physical therapist who evaluated me and confirmed plantar fasciitis. He did some manual therapy and soft tissue work that included more ART and Graston, as well as dry needling to the calves and the foot.

dry needling

Another week went by with no running and I tested it with a 20 minute run. I felt strong and fit, and so happy to be out there doing what I love! But my foot still hurt.

So I rested again. I went to see a different chiropractor and got a massage. I went back to physical therapy two more times. My PT watched me run, looked at my old shoes, recommended arch support inserts and trying new shoes (I bought the inserts and went to the local running store and got evaluated and fitted for new shoes), showed me more exercises to do, did more therapies on me including cupping (something I had never experienced before) and sent me on my way with tape on my foot.

I joined the Y and began biking and taking some yoga and Pilates classes.

It still, honestly, wasn’t better.

So yesterday – after nearly 4 weeks of no running (with the exception of the 30 and 20 minute runs I tested it on), 8 appointments with 4 different practitioners for therapies including ART, Graston, massage, manual therapy, chiropractic adjustments, dry needling and cupping, regular epsom salt baths, stretching, heating, icing, rolling and pretty much trying everything I could think of doing, including NOTHING – I went to see a podiatrist.

And guess what he said?

I have plantar fasciitis.

He did x-rays and examined my foot. Nothing is broken or torn in half, he assures me. He said my calves are “beyond tight” and told me that loosening them up is really the key to finding my way out of this completely frustrating mess. So now I have homework to do for the next two weeks: stretch my calves 3-4 times every day for 5 minutes at a time, wear a night splint that keeps my foot in dorsi flexion to lengthen out the muscles in my calf and foot, stay off of it as much as possible and don’t do any exercise that puts stress on the lower leg (including biking, the elliptical, and yoga), take NSAIDS to reduce inflammation (Advil, Aleve). He also fitted me for custom orthotics which I was wary about, but since my insurance covers them fully I will give it a shot. I will do my homework and come back in 2 weeks hopefully feeling a lot better.

Throughout this whole ordeal I have had regular conversations with my coach who has dealt with this injury personally. It took him 4 and a half months to get through it. He could not be more supportive or encouraging and is going to give me swim workouts to do while my foot heals. Reminding me how important it is to keep things in perspective and have a positive attitude, it has been great to have him in my corner.

I know that there is a lot to learn here, and a lot to be grateful for. My current goals with running and health actually had me deciding a couple of months ago that I would NOT be racing anything this season in order to strengthen my gut and give my body a break from the stresses and rigors of hard training while my family and I settle into our new home and life here.

Maybe this setback is in a way protecting me from myself, ensuring that I DO indeed take things easy for these next few months. Thinking of it that way really helps me, actually. It’s a silver lining, a light amidst the murkiness of this situation. I have always been one to believe that things happen for a reason, that even when we feel like we are stuck – we are actually right where we are meant to be. I am being tested right now and it is hard. But I will hold onto my faith. It could be far worse than it is and there are lessons and bright spots here to embrace.

Earlier this week I signed up for what will be my 20th marathon and 4th Boston Marathon. I have goals in my heart for that training cycle and race, and want to arrive at that starting line so jazzed and excited about it! And healthy! I think taking these next few months to really heal and build strength and balance in my body and in my life is essential. I know it is. So I will do what it takes to heal, and I will hold my head up and heart open to the lessons to be learned. To the beauties in the breakdown, so to speak.

Have you ever dealt with plantar fasciitis before? Are you grappling with it now? I would love to hear your experiences with how you were able to overcome it and what you learned about your body and your heart through the comeback journey.

7 thoughts on “plantar fasciitis

  1. So sorry to hear this news. I had PF in college while playing soccer. The best thing was wearing the boots when I slept and ice cupping my feet. The boots made sleeping crappy, but it did the trick. Glad you are back to blogging again!

  2. Jessica, I am so, so sorry you are dealing with this. One thing led to another which led me to your blog and I found myself reading about your bout with PF. Your words… wow – I can relate in every way. I am dealing with PF right now and I have been for 4 long, painful months. My injury started almost the same way. One day I felt a twinge in my foot, not pain, just a twinge and I didn't think too much of it. Anyway, it led to PF in pretty short order and I was thrown for a loop. Immediately went to a sports podiatrist, got a cortisone shot, ordered custom orthothics right away and started PT. I was in the beginning stages of training for a marathon and was feeling desperate to quickly put it behind me. I ended up taking 4 weeks off completely from running, canceled the marathon and kept trying to figure out how to cure it. I can't even tell you how I relate to your words! Anyway, my doctor also did an MRI to make sure nothing was torn (thank goodness not!) and then he recommended PRP or shockwave therapy as two options to think about. Both are expensive, neither covered by insurance and neither are guaranteed to work. My friend had PRP for another type of injury and she said it works, but it is a very long recovery process. Next, I tried dry needling. I have been going to great guy and I feel like it is working, but still not 100%. Tendons don't get much blood flow and take a super long time to heal. I also took wheat out of my diet to help with inflammation. Every time I felt like my foot was better, I would run a little bit and then later that night it would begin to hurt again. Badly. Terrible spasms at night (I wear a night splint) that would keep me from sleeping. Here is what I am doing and I finally feel like I am on the tail end of it:
    1. Wear a night splint
    2. Perform ice/heat/ice contrast therapy (my foot in ice water, then hot water, then ice water)
    3. Heel raises every day (3 sets of 10 several times a day)
    4. Exercise where I move my toes with a towel
    5. Calf stretching
    6. Deep tissue massage on my calves
    7. Pull my toe back + massage my heel (several times a day)
    8. Dry needling/accupuncture
    9. Rolling my foot with a special frozen ball (larger than a golf ball)
    10. custom orthotics
    11. New shoes with a 12mm heel to toe drop (Brooks Ghost 9)
    12. PT
    13. Rest from running – swim, swim, swim
    14. Taping my foot when running

    I am finally back to somewhat regular running after 4 months. I realized just this week that TAPING my foot while running really, really helps give it more support and comfort even though I have the orthotics. I am so happy! I think taping is key, at least for me.
    I also signed up for Boston, so just taking everything super, super slow and letting my body heal. Sorry for this long comment, but I know how frustrating this injury can be. I have talked to so many people and done so much research trying to find an answer. I am sending you healing wishes and I know you will get through this!! You have such a great attitude!! 🙂
    Oh! PS: My husband is friends with a guy who is a chiropractor (he works pretty exclusively on Meb and Deena) and he recommended getting a TENS machine – you can guy on Amazon for like $30 for a good one and says it will help. So, I will be trying that also.
    Good luck!!! 🙂

  3. I've been dealing with PF for about a year, and this is my second bout with it. I have tried just about everything (except Graston, ART, and acupuncture) and nothing helped. As a medical person (I'm a nurse practitioner), I did my research and found that the only thing that consistently worked for PF was time. It has to go away on it's own. I saw a sport medicine specialist who put me in soft orthotics (Spenco). The custom orthotics I had from the podiatrist were too firm and didn't help at all. The Spenco orthotics have helped me a lot. In fact, I think that is the only thing that is helping. I'm finally getting my miles back up again. I can still feel the tightness in my arch, tho. Ugh.

    BTW, I did a lot of pool running, in the dive well, last spring while I trained for Big Sur. No way was I DNFing that one!

  4. Oh I hear you on this. I had PF for like 6 months. Ok, that's kind of a lie…I had it for about 2 months, ignored it, and then had to take 9 weeks off. Then there was the 6 months of active recovery…ugh. I have to say it's almost resolved, and I wouldn't say it's too horrific, but every once in a while i get twinges and I have to take it easy. Your list of homework has definitely given me a kick in the butt to take care of my very very tight calves!

    But one thing i will say is good job for seeing someone and not being in denial like I was. That will make such a world of difference to your recoery time!

  5. I had PF right when I was coming back from pregnancy and it was so bad in both of my feet! Gah. I focused on my calves like you're doing, plus also rolled my feet (and used a foot massager while watching tv haha), and a majority of it really did clear up in a few weeks.

    I'm coming back from another injury and everybody who I had talked to who had also experienced it (high hamstring tendon) said they were out anywhere 3-6 MONTHS, which was hard to hear. I was only out 6 weeks and it was a good reminder that because somebody else dealt with it for a long time, you might not!

    Good luck! Injuries are the pits. Hoping for quick healing.

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