Plantar Fasciitis: How Pepper’s Trying to Cope with this Pain in the Foot

The observant will note that my left heel has a washcloth full of ice on it post Boston.

Hello Salty Readers, my name is Pepper, and I have been dealing with heel or arch pain for over a year now. I have admittedly spent time in denial, time healing, and most of the time managing the pain. Some weeks and some days are better than others but for over 365 days my left foot has just never been completely pain free.ย  Though I am not convinced I am only dealingย Plantar Fasciitis, It’s definitely the cause of the majority of my pain. Hello morning hobble!

After months and months of ART, regular deep-tissue massage and physical therapy I am still dealing with foot issues. I am beginning to wonder if my body is just at a point where the training load is overwhelming my foots natural ability to cope and I am going to have to look for some sort of orthotic or heel lift to help it out. Through trial and error I have found I can handle high mileage on it, and I can handle tempo efforts, and I can handle modified speed workouts where I run hard but not super fast on hills, and I thought perhaps I was going to finally be able to get back to track workouts again but alas it seems there is something around 5:45 pace that sets my calf’s to tightening and my heel to screaming.

While it is frustrating I am remaining upbeat (what other choice is there really!) and hopeful that eventually I will be the healthy runner I was in 2010! If you are dealing with foot pain like me I am sure you can feel my (literal) pain and I am sure you too have tried quite the list of things to get better. The following are all things I have tried in order to heal my heel in the past year!

English: Medical X-rays
I even got an x-ray to rule out a bone spur! My ART doc usually treats PF with no problem but this gals heel just won't let go! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1) Voltaren (Topical anti-inflammatory)

2) Rest

3) Night Boot

4) Ice

5) Massage

6) A.R.T.

7) Cold Laser Therapy

8) PT

9) Modified Training (No track)

10) X-ray to rule out bone spur

11) Arch support in everyday shoes

My Next Options:

1) See an Orthopedist about Orthotics? Heel Lifts?

Foot molds for orthotics
Is it time to consider a bit of artificial help? (Photo credit: .imelda)

2) More aggressive treatment, perhaps electro stim therapy, acupuncture, or cortisone

3) More PT/Strengthening

4) Modified training and/or some heavy cross training to supplement runs that the foot can’t handle. Can we all say pool running?

I’ve got to say that running a great race or workout followed by being able to barely walk certainly takes a bit of the fun out of it. At some point you start to wonder if what you are doing is healthy and if those fast times are worth it?

Heel pain is pretty common amongst runners. So common I like to joke that it’s the trendy injury to have!

How about you Salty readers? Are any of you also dealing with heel pain or plantar fasciitis? Have you overcome it? If so, please share your story to give those of us currently suffering some hope!

A gal on a mission to save Cuyahoga County streams one storm water facility at a time. An ex runner of many facets including marathons, pacing, ultras and more. Chronic left side issues have me cycling more than running these days but I'm attempting to get back to my running roots.

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14 comments

  1. I could have written this post myself Pepper. I have been dealing with the same problem now for about four, almost five months. I have the same ups and downs with pain and tolerance as you do. I was even worried that I could have a stress fracture in my heel, but pretty sure that isn’t the case. I thought it was going to ruin my BQ chances at Cleveland, but surprisingly, it was fine throughout the whole 26.2. I do know that speed/track work aggravates it the most. I wear a night boot, ice, see a chiropractor, etc., etc,. etc. Some days it bothers me more than others, but there is usually not one day that I don’t feel it, or know that the annoyance is there. I did get custom orthotics made (from both my chiropractor and my podiatrist who used to work for the Cleveland Indians) and they somewhat help, but they have not been my “magical” cure. I have always dealt with this problem. I over pronate and basically have flat feet, so my foot mechanics set me up for this problem. What has worked for me in the past is planned time off in the form of three pregnancies. Well, now that our family is complete and I am going full throttle with my training and racing plans, that solution is not on the horizon. I am not willing to take ANY time off. I do know my limits. I don’t do back to back hard training days (unless I want to have screaming foot pain all day). I ice all stinking day after a shorter race distance (as you mentioned, faster speeds definitely irritate the foot more). I think my heel pain is directly related to a tight calf and achilles, so I stretch and stretch and stretch. When you find a solution, please let me be the first to know, because this is such a frustrating problem!!!
    I am so glad you posted this topic…I am interested to see if their are others with the same issue and what has worked for them.

    1. Michelle, It is definitely frustrating! I don’t think I can get on the pregnancy plan for a bit more time at least so in the meantime I would love to find an answer that doesn’t involve months off! You’ll be the first to know when I have a week or more of consecutive pain free running ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I have no advice, really, and I know we’ve talked about this before, but just wanted to say I’m thinking about you! I had PF pretty bad in my lead-up to Columbus 2010 and took 6 weeks off after the race and didn’t feel like it really solved anything. The only thing that helped me was ART. Although maybe the time off and ART combo helped? Who knows?! I have faith you will find a solution and you are so TOUGH dealing with this injury (physically and emotionally tough) for so long! You’re amazing!

    1. Thanks Jen! Sometimes I wonder if being tough is not always the smartest thing ๐Ÿ™‚ But then my body does amazing things with the heal pain and I think, awwe who cares as long as I am not doing further damage and still running fast ๐Ÿ™‚ Crazy runner mentality for sure! But I am sure at some point I will bag this pain somehow!

  3. I have been dealing with the wretched PF for over a year. About 5-6 months ago it became really, really bad. I remained in denial for about a month, backing off slightly but still running 50mpw. Until it was debilitating. I had to seriously,seriously modify my training. The inflammation and constant pain took forever to subside. The most frustrating thing for me has been the flare ups due to everyday activities like cooking, cleaning and working but in the WRONG footwear. Or barefoot!

    I’m still fighting this battle, but the things that have worked for me include:
    1. Rest- non weight bearing cross training.
    2. Swimming- I notice a substantial improvement in my baseline foot pain when I swim in the morning.
    3. Arch taping. I tried three varieties of over the counter orthotics and had mild to moderate reduction in symptoms. I was very, very skeptical, but arch taping was a magic bullet and provided instant relief.
    4. Night splint, applied loosely. If its too tight, it just ovetstretcges the fascia, and for me, pulled on my posterior tibialis muscle. If its looser, it will still block full foot drop and prevent that awful AM tightness, without over stretching and causing pain.

    I’ve heard from many runners, friends, and medical professionals that the longer one has PF, the longer it takes to resolve. So, the strong, fight-through- the- pain mentality that contributes to success on the road/track can be the very attitude that makes PF so hard to shake. I will send healing thoughts your way!!

    1. I may have to try the taping Liz! Thanks for your input and I hope we both bag the foot pain soon!

  4. I agree with everyone else. I had it all last year but something that helped it, while also hurting other areas (ha!) was really focusing on a mid-foot strike and also experimenting with more minimal shoe. I did just recently try a superfeet insert but I did not like it. I took it slow to adjust (about a year) for both mid-foot striking and less shoe. But I also combined these two things with golf ball rolls, massage, night splint, and just plain old rest ๐Ÿ™

    Good luck Pepper! You looked awesome last night on the track nonetheless!

  5. Thanks Jinger! Track was interesting Tuesday. I think I nailed hydration preventing that calf from getting so tight and was able to run with just the heel pain. It was a nice change to only have one piece of pain to manage ๐Ÿ™‚ That last 800 felt so smooth other than the foot!

  6. I’m feeling like I’m in a similar boat regarding Achilles tendinitis. After taking most of 12 weeks off from running, it just still felt like it wasn’t getting better, and now with ART (same practitioner as you, I suspect) it is manageable. But every morning I get up I wonder how I’m going to possibly run with the way it feels. After a mile, it feels better than it does at any other point in the day, and it’s getting no worse. But I’ve stuck to easy runs with just a few strides thus far, as I have the same fears about running faster that you’ve stated. With a 10 miler just over 2 weeks away, and the Towpath training cycle looming, it’s time to find out how much I can really do on it. Your story and Boston performance are encouraging in how you were able to manage that performance while coping with the injury.

    1. I find my foot feels decent while running easy most days, aggravated while running moderately, and really pissy after running hard ๐Ÿ™‚ Mine hurts the worst after the hard efforts, not during. Though I would say I may just be really good at masking the pain with focus on other areas. This Tuesday’s track workout my heel hurt the entire time, but it was what I deem “manageable” pain. Though the resulting pain after wasn’t very fun (notably better than last year before ART though when it was so bad I would limp after the workouts).

      Hope that achilles lets you train the way you want too! It’s frustrating for sure! Especially when everything else feels good.

  7. Pepper, I had it two years ago, and was trying just about everything you were – and same ART guy also. I ended up at a podiatrist who was recommended to me – and he helped. He’s a bit unconventional, I really think his methods work well with ART – hard to explain, but if you google myofascial release, he uses that along with traditional podiatry. He treats lots of runners, including the Ignatius boys – Dr. Stanley Beekman in Cleveland. He might be worth a try.

    Here’s an old blog post of mine about it:
    http://runsinthefamily.wordpress.com/2010/07/24/doctor-visit/

  8. I certainly hope you’ve found some relief since this time last year. I’ve been dealing with mild-moderate occasional heel pain for the last five months, and finally went to a sports medicine clinic today to have it dealt with, after hobbling around for two days following an easy long run last weekend. I’ve got a half- this coming weekend and wanted to make sure that I wasn’t dealing with a stress fracture. I have mixed feelings about the PF diagnosis, but he gave me a shot in the heel (unpleasant) and some P.T. to do on my own, so my fingers are crossed. No training restrictions, but since this is my first time dealing with this particular affliction I’m considering a slightly modified training schedule for at least a couple of weeks.

    Did you find any resolution?