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.