Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My feet hurt - and I'm sick and tired of it

[Edited and updated 12/4/14] The title pretty much says it all - I've been fighting plantar fasciitis in my left foot and the achilles tendonitis in my right. I had been able to get through a run but then paid for it afterwards, hobbling and limping around.

In my battles to help my feet I have/had established a regular routine which now (November 2014) includes some foot strengthening exercises - I will post something about this once I get a better feel as to what, how, and if anything works.

For the plantar fasciitis:
I think that I can pretty much say that I for me (PF is different for everybody) the magic key to relief of my PF simply involves stretching. Not just my feet themselves, but my calves, hams, and quads. My PF was symptomatic of other issues further up my leg.
  • Heal drops and calf raises. Using a couple/three 1x4 boards I do very careful heal drops and calf raises - not to extremes, just enough to loosen up and warm up.
  • Modified toe-touch. Standing with legs apart (roughly hip wide), bend knees slightly and touch the ground in front of my toes and then squeeze hams and butt cheeks out. Keep head down and breath easy for about 30 seconds. Release, and do it again a couple more times.
  • Kneel on the ground (rug preferably) with the tops of my feet flat on the ground (toes pointing behind me). Breath easy and slowly and gently lean back so that my weight is supported on my feet (my butt is on my heals).
  • From that previous position, now curl my toes so that they are under me and holding my weight (still on my knees though).  Hold that position for a little bit, breathing easy.
  • Then roll back so that I am literally squatting but holding my weight on my toes.  Hold for a few.... and then stand up.
  • Finally, some foam rolling - calves, hams, quads, IT bands.
What kind of helped, but was only temporary, were these:
  • Lots of stretching and manipulation of the foot throughout the day, rolling a golf ball under my foot, or a frozen bottle (felt good because it basically numbed everything, but didn't solve the problem),
  • Massaging the foot several times a day.
  • I discovered a method of taping that has seemed to help some.  I simply did an internet search and watched 2 or 3 youtube videos, went out and bought some rolls of sports tape, and then taped myself up every day (but not for a run).  I wore the tape for 8-10 hours a day but did not sleep with it. A link that was forwarded to me is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jKGDhxcdtzE
  • After a run, I iced for 10-15 minutes.
  • I did not taking any anti-inflamatories or pain killers (they didn't seem to help and I'd rather not).

For the achilles tendonitis:
  • Modest stretching, but no toe lifts, just enough to loosen it up some.
  • Wearing shoes (I tend to like to walk barefoot when ever possible).  Shoes raise my heel up just enough to take some of the tension off the tendon.
  • After a run, I ice for 10-15 minutes.

The good news is that I believe that I have the plantar fasciitis under control.  I no longer hobble as I get out of bed in the morning.  The incredible pain that I used to get as I try to make my first steps of the day is no longer there - so I see that as progress.

The bad news is that I'm realizing that I'm not going to fix the achilles tendonitis as long as I continue to run - So last Sunday, after aborting a run half mile into it, I made the decision to not run for a full week.  Then I'll ease my way back into it.  If it still feels tight, I'll back off again.  I have to get it healthy.  I read some scary things about popping the tendon and I don't want that to be me.

My feet have hurt so much that I had dialed back my mileage substantially - and the immediate effect that I've notice is that my weight has been going up.  I didn't realize just how much of a calorie burning action running was on me. My understanding was that, as a runner, I might burn 100 or so calories per mile, which isn't that much.  But apparently it makes a bigger difference than I imagined. So now I'm going to try to burn those C's on a bike or walking or doing upper body workouts.

Someone suggested that I stop drinking beer, but are they nuts?  C'mon man....

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  1. Hi - I'm dealing with PF - what tape did you use and what youTube video did you watch? Was it specific to PF? (assuming so). I've been seeing a PT that has been taping my foot, it provides some relief. I've tried just about everything, but there is just enough pain where I don't want to push it so my next step (ha!) is to take a couple weeks off of running. Which is even more painful! Any other PF advise would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

    1. I did not keep the urls for the youtube videos... sorry! Interestingly enough though, while the taping did seem to help, it was not the ultimate solution. In my case, I found that the root cause of my PF was somewhere further up my leg where something was not right. A yoga-fanatic friend of mine showed me some very simple stretches for my hams, quads, calves, and feet, which I did repeatedly throughout the day for about a week - and miraculously, I got better and the discomfort of the PF totally disappeared. I still do those stretches now for good luck. Perhaps your situation is similar and your PF might be due to a muscle or ligament that is too tight or not properly lining up to do it's job... I definitely did not want to go the route of a cortisone shot, since I was pretty well convinced that it would only solve a local symptom and not the root cause. Also, I found that running did not affect my PF - didn't make it worse, didn't make it better. But it did feel good to ice it afterwards.
      Best of luck!

    2. A good taping guide can be found here:
      Personally I have found foot strength exercises to be very useful as a part of my PF treatment. Somehow the stretching part of treatment is being emphasized - I think that too much stretching can hurt the plantar fascia. Stronger foot muscles give the foot the support it needs until the PF is healed.

    3. EZDavid: Thanks for your comment and the link to a taping guide. I will update my post to include it. I agree with you regarding foot strength, but I have to stand by my stretching routine. It won't solve everyone's PF issue, but it certainly helped mine.
      With regards to foot strength exercises, I totally agree that having adequate foot strength is critical for maintaining our feet and is something that I have also been working on. Heel drops, toe-towel exercises, and some seemingly odd isometric exercises are some of what I'm working with now. I'll post about how it's worked (or not worked) for me shortly. Thanks again for your thoughts.

  2. Thanks for the response, Bill. I think you are on to something since it's all connected all the way up the chain. Plus, I SIT all day, not great. I did try the cortisone shot and it lasted exactly a month and I wasn't any further down the road of recovery. I must take a tip from the Yoga fanatics and stretch, stretch, stretch! With some ice and rest and.... :-) Thanks again for taking the time to reply.