Plantar Fasciitis! Way Worse than Winter Running

plantarSusan guest posted the other day about her dilemma surrounding winter running.  See her post Running in Winter (Outdoor or Indoor…Ice or Monotony). I actually enjoy winter running, except in snowstorms.

But there’s something even worse than running in a snowstorm. And that’s having to forgo a snowy winter run because of plantar fasciitis. And that’s what I had to do last Thursday on the first night of my marathon training clinic with the Running Room.

I must not have  touched wood fast enough after expressing good fortune to a friend back in September for not having suffered any injuries that took me out of running.  Soon after (or maybe even before but I ignored it?) the Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Half Marathon I felt the dreaded heel pain in my right foot.

I had serious plantar fasciitis in both feet back in the nineties right after my thirtieth birthday. It felt downright debilitating. For that year, I wore nothing but athletic shoes with custom orthotics in them all the time. My doctor told me to stay off of my feet as much as possible.  I taught a large class of 350 people that winter and I gave every lecture sitting on the table at the front of the room. No pacing back and forth for me!

So the prospect of another bout of plantar fasciitis scared me more than ice, blizzards, and the Farmers’ Almanac‘s prediction that we are about to settle into a winter worse than last year’s.  I’d just committed to a marathon clinic aimed at prepping for the Around the Bay 30K (okay, not quite a marathon, but the clinic follows the same curriculum as the marathon group) in Hamilton, Ontario on Sunday, March 29th, 2015.

Here’s what plantar fasciitis is, from the Mayo Clinic website:

Plantar fasciitis (PLAN-tur fas-e-I-tis) is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It involves pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes.

Plantar fasciitis commonly causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your very first steps in the morning. Once your foot limbers up, the pain of plantar fasciitis normally decreases, but it may return after long periods of standing or after getting up from a seated position.

Plantar fasciitis is particularly common in runners.

I’m grateful for the circles I move in today, so that when I put it out there on FB I know enough athlete/runner types to get all sorts of input. Best input was a referral from Gabbi, my swim coach, to a physiotherapist here in London who does shockwave therapy and does his best to support people in continuing their activities.

I took over a week off of running while I waited for my appointment, worried that, like the last time, I would be told to stay off my feet.  But Gabbi was right.  When I went to Synergy Physiotherapy to see John Smallwood, one of the first things he said to me was, “You can keep running.”

He didn’t blink when I said I’d started marathon training. He didn’t tell me I had to reduce my mileage.  None of that. Instead, he checked out my foot, pushed and pulled on it in different ways and asked me some questions. Then he had me walk up and down the hall a few times while he watched.

And he zeroed in on the issue. It doesn’t start in my foot at all. It originates in my hip.  This was interesting news to me because my yoga teacher always says I’ve got hip issues. And when I gave up on running the first time around, when I was a graduate student, it was hip trouble that took me out.

John gave me four exercises to do daily to strengthen my hips, glutes, and feet. And then, as we chatted about Burning Man (he’s never been but he was interested, and I’ll talk about it to anyone who wants to listen), he zapped my foot a few times with the shockwave therapy machine.

The website says, “A shockwave is an intense, but very short energy wave travelling faster than the speed of sound.” It doesn’t feel good at all. Though not an actual electric shock, it does feel like you’re being shocked. But it makes a huge difference.

That was on Monday afternoon, and by this afternoon my foot was feeling pretty good. John taped it up before I left and suggested I leave the tape on for as long as I could.  At first I didn’t like the tape either. I felt like my toes would go numb or something because it was so tight.

When he said some people actually end up loving it, I was skeptical.  But the next morning when I was about to jump in the shower, I considered ways of keeping it dry so I could leave it on longer.  I’m looking forward to the next shockwave therapy treatment and if John doesn’t offer a tape job I’ll ask for one.

This is all to say that I am feeling really grateful right now that I don’t have to give up winter running. I’ll take whatever winter throws at me this year because it’s such a relief just to be able to train at all.  For now we’ll call it cautious optimism.

Between the exercises, which I am totally committed to doing daily as prescribed, and the shockwave therapy each week, and the taping, and also paying attention to how I feel during and after a run, I’m excited!




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