On Plantar Fasciitis Recovery – Running

I trained for my first marathon last year and I developed Plantar Fasciitis in my right foot.  I trained through it and was able to finish the marathon. Foolish as it might have been, I had come too far in my training to quit running so I treated it as well as I could and continued training. I decided that I would take time to recover from the PF after the marathon.

It seems that the hardest thing for a runner to do is to stop running while injured.  It also seemed that PF could become a serious chronic condition.  I decided to take at least a month off from running, or until I felt that I had healed sufficiently.  The month turned into almost 3 months.  The forced rest was difficult, but I was determined to heal properly.

In the meantime I researched PF online.  What I found was that there is no straightforward cure for PF.  One site suggested never walking without shoes with good support, another site suggested walking barefoot whenever possible to strengthen the foot.  One site suggested complete rest, another suggested that continuing exercise (even running) would strengthen the foot.  So the consensus seems to be that there is no one PF cure and that different things work for different people. Exactly what I wanted to hear. 😉

I would characterize my PF as moderate.  It had been “simmering” over several months (controlled by icing and rolling with a Foot Rubz ball), but worsened during the last month of my marathon training as the miles piled up.  The pain was not constant.  I should also say that I never “officially” saw a doctor for my condition.  I took my daughter for her yearly check-up and mentioned my symptoms to the doctor since he is our family physician.  He agreed with my self diagnosis of PF, showed me some stretches that I could do, and recommended coming back for an X-ray to rule out a bone spur if my foot still bothered me in a month.  He also recommended using Superfeet insoles in my shoes.

In retrospect, I should probably have had my foot checked out immediately after the marathon to rule out any other issues that might have prolonged my recovery.  So I recommend that you don’t do what I did. 🙂

I have learned to listen to my body so I felt somewhat confident that I could figure out a solution based on my research. This is what worked for me, with the caveat that it may not work for everyone.  These are the steps I followed:

  • I stopped running.  I had intended on continuing with elliptical training for cardio exercise but that also caused the pain to flare up.  Biking might have been possible but winter in Wisconsin is not conducive to bicycling.
  • I iced my foot with an ice pack if it was particularly sore.
  • I frequently stretched and massaged my foot and calf.
  • I did minimal plantar strengthening while the pain was at it’s worst.
  • I wore a Strassburg sock at night when my foot bothered me at bedtime.
  • I started plantar flexibility/strengthening when the pain lessened.
  • I wore Birkenstock sandals or other supportive shoes/inserts when the pain was at it’s worst, then went barefoot as the pain lessened.
  • I stretched/massaged my foot before getting out of bed in the morning and before getting up after sitting for a long period.

I define “pain at it’s worst” as the stage where there is pain while driving, pain when you are on your feet for relatively short periods, pain when walking after long periods of sitting, and pain when taking your first steps in the morning.  If you feel pain in your foot while sleeping I recommend trying the Strassburg sock.  I ordered one from Amazon.  For me the sock did get uncomfortable when it was on all night so I usually ended up waking up and taking it off. But it did relieve the pain and it also helped to keep the heel area stretched during the night.

I also tried using a Castor Oil wrap/pack on my foot (in the interests of trying everything).  I can’t say that I felt this improved my condition.

After about 3 months I felt that the pain had stabilized.  It wasn’t getting worse and it wasn’t getting better. There was minimal pain when getting up in the morning or after sitting.  The only pain I felt was when I was on my feet a lot. At this point I decided to try to run.  My first run was one slow mile on the treadmill.  I did not know that running one mile could feel so difficult!

For the first time I felt no pain in my foot for an entire day. In January I ran very few miles (a total of 31 for the month), and they were very slow.  It is strange to come back to running after a long break.  It was definitely not easy.  My heart rate was high and 3 mile runs that were once easy were now my long run.  I read about muscle memory and that returning to running is easier than starting from scratch.  It sure took a while!  I had a breakthrough run in February, where everything just seemed to click.  It was like my body said, “Oh yeah, I remember this.”  And all of a sudden running became fun again.  I ran an 8 miler this past weekend on hills.  It was glorious!

Based on my recovery, I mapped out a race plan for 2015; a 5K in May, a 10K in July, and a half marathon in September.  I mapped out a plan to prepare me for 5K training and then to continue with half marathon training for these goal races.  This is much less racing than I have done in the past but I am OK with that.  This gives me a lot of flexibility to adjust my plan as I go. The goal this year will be to build a strong base for the future in order to become a stronger runner and to run injury free.

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