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.

Hoping for some plantar relief in the Futuro

The futuro is now

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.3 miles
Yesterday’s run (treadmill): 3.3 miles

Earlier this week I was complaining to anyone in my office that would listen about my foot soreness due to plantar fasciitis. I am fortunate to work in a place that has many experts on health (along with other subjects) and one of them told me she got great results from something called the Futuro Night Plantar Fasciitis Sleep Support brace. The next day she brought it in so I could use it. Some people are really nice.

The brace seems designed to hold the foot in a way that prevents you from pointing your toes when you sleep. Apparently we all do that. Pointing toes aggravates the plantar fascia. That explains why every morning my heel feels like someone hammered a nail into it overnight. Unlike my “night sock” that yanks back my toes, the Futuro brace does its thing gently. I wore the brace extensively on Thursday night and on Friday (because I worked from home) and started feeling some relief.

I was encouraged by the improvement but felt concern that I’d undo my progress if I went for a run. I decided that it was worth chancing a relapse and did a treadmill workout on Friday morning. While I did feel a few pangs of soreness at different stages in the run, I experienced no residual pain. I’ve continued to wear the brace while in the house and it seems to be helping.

This morning I decided that 20° weather plus wind chill are not an appealing combination. Once again, I did my running on the treadmill. My current routine is to put on a music station and set my speed to a brisk but sustainable pace. No treadmill hating these days as I’ve learned to appreciate the more forgiving surface compared to pavement. Plus, did I mention the 20° plus wind chill outside?

I’ve often said that treadmill minutes seem twice as long as regular minutes. Today the time went by quickly. Instead of watching my time or mileage, I now run by songs. Roughly three per mile. Psychologically, it’s a much better approach and probably why every runner but me listens to music when they run outdoors. I’m still not doing that.

My buddies SIOR and KWL have been tuning up for the Boston Marathon in April by running NYRR races the past two weekends. This weekend they’re running the Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5K up in Washington Heights and will be adding another 13 miles on top of that. With all those hills and a real feel temperature of 13°, it’s going to be interesting. That is so beyond anything I’m prepared to do right now. I’ll stick with the treadmill, a temperature controlled room and my borrowed brace.

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.

Embracing the Mindful and rejecting the Beast

I’m giving my Plantar my full support

Today’s workout (upper body hand weights): 45 minutes

Happy President’s Day.  This morning my daughter and I celebrated with a cup of coffee at Runsketeer Starbucks. She didn’t have classes today because of the holiday. I’m off from work for the same reason. I always did like George and Abe.

After Starbucks, I coerced my daughter into swinging by CVS so I could purchase a couple of items that will supposedly help reduce the pain of Plantar Fasciitis. I bought a Plantar Flex Support Sleeve and Plantar Flex Orthotics. When I looked them up on the CVS site I saw that “related items” included Crest white strips, contact lens cleaner and razor blade refills. This Fasciitis thing is pretty complex. Now I understand why my heel pain hasn’t gone away quickly.

White strips and support sleeves – a natural combination!

I’m not sure if any of the stuff I got at CVS will help. Another great president, Teddy Roosevelt, said, “The best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” Action is better than inaction. Otherwise the Plantar Fasciitis wins.

I dutifully placed the flex sleeve on my foot and put the supports in my shoes. I decided to forgo a run in favor of an upper body workout. Specifically, the Body Beast workout that TPP gave me last month. I put one of the DVDs into my laptop and as soon as I saw the Lou Ferrigno lookalike, I thought I might be out of my league. The warm-up was fine, but then they started doing push ups (push ups!) before the workout had even started. That did it for me.

Instead of giving up on a workout, I went online and found a video of a woman trainer with less muscles than Lou Ferrigno. Her routine, using hand weights, took 10 minutes and felt more like a warm up than a real workout. I decided to look at a few other websites and found a set of exercises on “The Mindful Body” that looked reasonable. Since every person I talk to uses the term “mindful” these days, I figured I’d try it out.

This routine was tougher than the ten minute warm up and took about 35 minutes to finish. I didn’t work up a big sweat, but I know I hit every muscle group in my arms and shoulders. I’m curious to see how I feel tomorrow, as I haven’t done a formal upper body workout since the London Olympics. While my arms will inevitably ache, I’m hoping my heel will feel a little better. If so, I’ll take that trade-off.

There’s nothing acute about Plantar Fasciitis

This heel pain is making me nutty

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.3 miles
Yesterday’s run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

If you’re ever looking for ways to ruin your appetite, I suggest looking up foot pain on Google Images. I did that, and I’m now confident in saying that the foot is our ugliest external body part. The reason why I was looking at feety things was because I’ve been experiencing acute foot pain in my heel that the Internet thinks is Plantar Fasciitis. I usually associate the word Plantar with mixed nuts, but this seems to be something different. I learned, in terms of pain, that acute means short term and chronic is long term. At least that’s what the trainer person said in an infomercial that I couldn’t switch off because the remote was out of reach.

Whether my pain is here to stay or just visiting, I can tell you it’s very annoying. I first started experiencing discomfort at the bottom of my left heel about three weeks ago. Interestingly enough, that’s when one of my co-workers generously donated his standing pad to me because he decided that using a standing desk was dumb. Prior to using that pad, I had no pain in my heel. It seems counter intuitive that a pad made specifically to reduce leg fatigue for people who stand for long periods would create this problem. But when it comes to feet, all bets are off.

Plantar Fasciitis is a strange affliction. I’m not really sure what it is. As a matter of fact, I don’t think anyone actually knows what it is. If you look it up, it’s blamed for just about anything having to do with foot pain. My particular problem is when I put pressure on my heel it hurts. The pain is fairly sharp (one might even say “acute”), but it minimizes once I walk around on it. So far it hasn’t interfered with my running, although it is noticeable at the start.

I did treadmill runs yesterday and today. They were fairly identical except that Saturday’s music had more Sheila E while today’s had more Prince. I think Price wrote some of Sheila E’s songs so technically they were identical. But I digress. My treadmill experiences have been good of late, mostly because I limit my distance to 3.25 miles. My friends SIOR and KWL and a few work colleagues often spend well over an hour on the treadmill. I can’t do that anymore but I can psych myself up to cover about 5K.

Despite this heel pain, I seem to be covering a lot of ground. According to my Garmin 35, I’ve taken about 14K steps today. A chunk of that was my morning run and another chunk was when I walked to the library to return a DVD. In both cases my heel pain was minimal. How it felt afterwards was a different story. I’m going to look up things you’re supposed to do to address heel based Plantar Fasciitis. I’m also going to take a break from my standing mat to see if that makes it better or worse. If going mat-less makes it better, I’m going to give it to someone in the office whom I dislike. Maybe that’s how I got it in the first place.