Progress on plantar pain

Whatever gets you through the run

Today’s run (street): 3.25 miles
Yesterday’s workout (elliptical): 30 minutes

I just realized that it’s been 20 days since I’ve last posted. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped running. But if you’re counting the past six days, I hadn’t. My layoff has been a combination of busy days and avoiding aggravating my plantar faciitis. I’ve substituted running with lots of walking and ellipticaling, but that doesn’t really raise the bar in terms of fitness. The last time I ran before this morning was last Saturday. I was concerned I’d struggle a little today.

 My plantar soreness peaked last Sunday and it wasn’t fun. I’d run with a lot of pain the prior day and toughed out a 3.5 mile run. I thought icing my foot on and off the rest of the day would help, but when I went outside on Sunday morning I didn’t get very far. Every footfall radiated pain and I turned back before covering less than a quarter of a mile. I considered my options and headed upstairs to try my foot on the elliptical. The lack of impact and different motion made that a better choice.

I returned to work last Monday after a week’s vacation and decided to wait until Friday for a run. My foot pain continued to improve, but I chose to give it one more day. Instead, I did an elliptical session which got my heart rate up, but not close to 80% of max. My foot felt okay after the workout and I decided I’d go for a test run today if the soreness didn’t return

This morning’s schedule was tight but I was determined to cover at least three miles.. I wore my Brooks Launches with Sof Sole plantar orthotics. I did feel some soreness at the start but it wasn’t unbearable. I hoped that would go away once the tendon warmed up. I kept my speed moderate to avoid straining anything.

The easy pace and orthotics allowed me to keep pain to a minimum.That I could get through 3.25 miles without regret was a victory after two weeks of extreme discomfort. I’m not sure what type of workout I should do tomorrow but I’ll probably do another easy run. I’m far away from the speed and distances I was achieving a year ago but I did feel stronger at the end than I expected. I hope  my right foot soreness leaves as quickly as it came. And when it does, I really hope it doesn’t return to my left.

Born to Run with Plantar Faciitis

I wish it felt that good

Image from painscience.com

Today’s run (street): 3.75 miles
Yesterday’s run: (street): 3.4 miles
Friday’s workout (treadmill): 35 minutes
Last Sunday’s run (street): 3.3 miles
Last Saturday’s run (street): 3.4 miles
Last Friday’s workout (elliptical): 30 minutes

“One injury that I have always had that never seems to go away is plantar fasciitis..”

– Christopher McDougall July 20, 2010

I’m not really sure why our bodies punish us for doing things to keep it healthy, but it’s something all runners experience at some point. The ER family hosted some neighborhood friends on Saturday and, at one point, the discussion moved to running. It turned out that my neighbor used to run, but he stopped due to knee problems and spinal stenosis. Prior to that, he was a pretty active runner who’d completed a number of marathons, including two NYCs. I asked the question, if humans are designed to run, why do we get plantar faciitis?

If you are a fan of Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run, you might recognize that question because it turned out to be why he wrote that book. Plantar faciitis is a puzzling affliction. I went through a protracted bout with it in my left foot some months ago. Soon after that problem cleared up, I started experiencing similar pain in my right foot. The severity of this new pain is greater than with my left. That is no doubt related to recently doing nine runs in ten days while on vacation.

 I’d tried all the suggested approaches to minimizing plantar soreness, including using the CVS version of the Strassburg Sock along with another contraption that held my foot in place at the optimal position while I slept. Neither were pleasant experiences and I don’t think they helped very much. I switched to just using orthotics in my shoes and eventually the problem went away, only to resurface weeks later with my right foot.

 I resumed running on Friday on the treadmill after being chased indoors by a thunderstorm. It was probably for the best, because my foot pain had discouraged me from running very fast. After a while, I just gave in and moved to walking at a 1.5% grade.

I was concerned that Saturday would be a repeat of Friday. I was glad when I hit the pavement and saw that the pain was less pronounced. The plantar soreness was there, but manifested as a dull burning feeling rather than a sharp pain. I didn’t love the experience, but I did get through my run.

This morning I wore my most cushioned running shoes and set out hoping for a less painful start. The pain was tolerable and I hoped it would decrease once my tendon warmed up. Ultimately it did, although the pain did not completely disappear. While running has been slightly painful, walking can be difficult. If I’m off my foot for more than five minutes, the next time I take a step I’ll feel an intensely sharp pain in my heel. Fortunately, this measurably decreases after taking a dozen or so steps. It’s good that the pain lessens, but it’s unnerving that every time I get up from the couch I know will go through that experience again.

I expect that this problem will leave as mysteriously as it came. I’m unsure what I can do to help speed my recovery, since trying every Internet cure didn’t really pay off the first time. I spent a little less time at my standing desk and more time working at my office table over the past month. That roughly coincided with the improvement that happened with my original foot. In the meantime I’ll continue to put ice on the tendon when I can, and wear my recovery flats around the house.

I still don’t understand why runners end up with these problems if we are truly born to run. The thesis of McDougall’s book was that we are meant to run barefoot or, if we must, in minimal footwear. That craze has come and gone and I’ll admit I drank the Kool Aid on the idea. I still prefer a lighter, less structured shoe and wear my NB Zante 2’s most of the time. Yet this has been a year for plantar faciitis for me. The only positive is that, despite the affliction, even with the pain, I’ve managed to get through almost every run.

Night socked and soda blasted

This won’t hurt a bit

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.5 miles
Yesterday’s run (street): 1.5 miles

Before you judge me for for my abysmally low mileage this week, please know that I had plenty of excuses why that was the case. And by plenty, I mean two. First was my work schedule that required me to come into the office on Friday. I normally work from home on Fridays, but I had my buddy KWL come for a visit. It was great having him at the office, but I didn’t get a chance to do my usual Friday run.

Plantar fasciitis is the other excuse for my five mile week. Despite my purchase of a compression sleeve and plantar orthotics, the pain in my heel hasn’t gone away. This discourages longer runs because I’m concerned that I’m doing damage with every step. I don’t know if that’s true. Even though the Internet has plenty to say about the condition, I’ve found very little useful information about it.

Saturday morning I followed my usual routine of waking up and limping downstairs to make coffee. The limping hasn’t always been usual, but this has been my experience over the past month or so. After I took a few hundred steps, the pain reduced from pointedly sharp to mildly uncomfortable. I started thinking about my morning run and considered driving over to the track where the surface is more forgiving. Then I remembered that I had my six month dental checkup in a couple of hours and went back to drinking coffee.

My dentist recently left the office that we’ve been using for the last 15 years but we’ve followed her to her new practice. I met her hygienist who turned out to be one of those judgy types who assume that no one flosses or brushes correctly. There aren’t too many things I do well, but one of them is take good care of my teeth. I enjoyed listening to her compliment my excellent “home care” and prepared for an easy cleaning. I wasn’t prepared for her.

My foot issue had made me a little grouchy and my annoyance increased when this woman started aggressively going through her routine. I thought about how running has made me patient about situations like this, where you have no choice but to ride out the discomfort. Then things got a little weird. The hygienist used what I can only describe as a miniature sand blaster to power wash the inside of my mouth using baking soda. Ouch and yuck. My tongue felt like it was being hit with shotgun pellets. I was really hating this woman by the time I heard the machine winding down to a stop.

I left the office feeling sorer than when I’d limped in. I headed over to a nearby CVS to buy their equivalent of a Strassburg Sock. The sock pulls back your foot and stretches out the plantar fascia. This is supposed to relieve the pain caused by tightened and inflamed tissue. I put it on when I got home. It was hard to tell if it helped, but I kept it on for about an hour.

Socks of the night: (left, CVS, right, the Strassburg Sock) 

Later in the day I decided I was ready to try a neighborhood run. The outside temperature was in the mid 50’s and overcast. Pretty good running conditions. I geared up and headed outside, not sure how I’d feel once I got going. The answer was not very good. My plantar pain was influencing the way my foot was landing and my stride felt awkward. My legs were heavy and my energy level was low. I did my best to put the discomfort out of my head, but I eventually reached the point where I felt I was doing more harm than good.

I decided to cut the run short and hobbled home, discouraged by my poor performance and feeling concern that this pain would prevent me from running for a while. I figured I’d take it a day at a time and hoped for the best the next day.

This morning brought improvement, possibly due to sleeping with my stretchy thing. My energy level was better and I again debated running at the high school track. We had plans to get out mid morning so I elected to use the treadmill and see how it felt. I thought that running with a decline might take some pressure off my heel but that actually made it worse. I switched to a 2% incline and noticed that my landing shifted me closer to mid-foot. After ten minutes, the pain was barely noticeable.

Less pain is not the same as no pain so I kept it fairly short to minimize possible damage. I was happy with my stride and glad I could bounce back from the really bad run I had the day before. I ended up running only five miles this weekend. All things considered, I did what I could.

Paging Dr. Bronner, stat!

 

Today’s workout (elliptical): 40 minutes

I spent yesterday in NYC and ended up covering a number of miles on foot. I traveled crosstown for meetings and then WAY downtown for a lunch with friends. I’d bought some gel insoles over the weekend, because I knew I had some city walking planned this week. The bottom of my left foot was still raw from the previous week’s high volume walks and I was hoping the gel liners would provide some protection.

Considering that my foot was sore from the start, I came through the day with far less damage then I’d feared. Still, I hadn’t helped it in any way. By the time I got home I was walking with a limp to keep pressure off the bottom. I immediately pulled our “foot spa” out of the closet and filled it with warm water. This was a lifesaver the last time I did half marathon training. My feet would be sore from 90 minutes of pounding the Bethpage trail every weekend.

A foot bath is certainly beneficial, but the most therapeutic part comes with the addition of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Peppermint Liquid Soap. My old running partner, Adventure Girl, gifted me a bottle a few years ago and I always add a half ounce of it to the water. The peppermint oil did an amazing job of calming the pain and, even hours after I finished, the cooling effect remained.

I soaked for about 20 minutes last night and that allowed me to walk without limping. My foot still hurt a bit this morning, so I opted to do an elliptical session, which put less pressure on the sore area of my foot. Even with resistance set to medium-high, I feel like an elliptical workout is far easier than a typical run. But by the time I finished my 40 minutes, my heart rate was at target and my clothes were satisfactorily sweat-soaked.

They are predicting a 30% chance of rain for tomorrow morning. I hope the odds are in my favor because I really want to get outside for a run. I want to do some intervals so I can support the Runsketeers in a few weeks during our trail race. If I do get rained out, I’ll look to the treadmill to do some speed work, provided my foot can take it.

A streak of sorts

Helpful

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

My plan to get out on the road this morning was derailed by a combination of ice and rain that rendered the streets as slick as a skating rink. That was disappointing, but there’s no way I was going to risk a fall or a confrontation with a wayward car. After two days without a run, I had to do something. So for the fifth workout in a row, I did my run on the treadmill. Not exactly the type of streak I aspire to maintain.

Not running on pavement might have worked in my favor today, as the bottom of my feet are still in recovery mode. I put a 2nd Skin blister bandage on my left foot to help reduce friction, but it was still a little painful with direct contact. Despite their 630 miles, my Kinvaras did a decent job protecting my feet while on the treadmill.

The cold dry air helped keep my sweating to a minimum until I was halfway through the run. I ran at my usual speed through the 2.75 mile point and then increased my speed by 10ths until I reached my targeted time. It wasn’t the bracing outdoor run I’d been hoping for, but it was a solid workout. I was glad to be back to it after a two day absence. Weather.com says there’s a 100% chance of rain tomorrow morning, so I guess my treadmill streak will continue on Saturday. Oh well, at least my feet will be happy.

Headlamp failure saved by the treadmill

Light’s out

Today’s run (treadmill): 4 miles

I spent the day in the city, so I’d planned an early morning run. It’s been nine months since the last time I ran in the pre-dawn darkness and, not unexpectedly, my Black Diamond headlamp wasn’t working. I put in new batteries but the lamp kept going off, just like my old Petzl unit. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to make a headlamp with a stable battery housing.

While I wasted time trying to get the lamp to stay on, my daughter told me it was raining outside. Running in the dark, in a mix of rain and snow, was not going to happen. Instead, I got on the treadmill and hammered out 4 miles at a fairly good pace. I worried that I’d pushed too hard, considering all the NYC foot travel I was facing later in the day. I ended up doing fine.

I ended up walking pretty far today and the result was a substantial blister on the bottom of my left foot. I’m hoping it will miraculously heal overnight so I can get out on the road tomorrow (weather permitting).

Getting to the bottom of my foot pain

Bottom Lateral Ouchiitis

I wore my new recovery slides yesterday in the hope that they’d help alleviate the persistent soreness I’ve had at the bottom of my feet. This is not plantar fasciitis, because the pain is specific to the inside lateral part of my feet, just below the toes. I’m pretty sure the cause relates to all the long pounding runs I did at Bethpage to train for the half marathon earlier this month. I’ve reduced my weekly mileage by 10% since completing that race and have only done one run longer than 8 miles since that day.

The pain is not terrible and it hasn’t prevented me from running. But this pain, like the mild soreness that I’ve had with my Achilles tendon, is persistent and it can be uncomfortable at times. I’ve looked up my symptoms for lateral foot pain and, for runners, it seems to be a form of tendinitis. I’ll continue using the recovery shoes and will also try to be more disciplined about soaking my feet with peppermint oil soap this week. I’m scheduled for a fast race on Sunday and I’m hoping to reduce the negative variables as much as I can.