|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.