Monday, March 28, 2011

Chapter 2 page 268 - Healing my heel

Everyone who has read this blog for any length of time, who knows me in real life, or has run with me even once . . . knows my plantar fasciitis is a REAL HEEL DEAL!!!!!

A quick history -
I first developed PF in my right foot following the last long foot march (in combat boots) at basic combat training back in September of 2000.  I thought my foot was broken - I had never experienced such pain first thing in the morning - wowzers!!!  Basic training ended shortly thereafter and I spent the next 3 years visiting a wide array of doctors and ended up seeing an orthopaedic surgeon every 6 weeks (for 3 years).  I had EVERY conservative treatment known to man (PT, cortisone injections, viox, celebrex, casts, boots, night splints, accupuncture, and massage- nothing really helped).  I was unable to run or even walk to maintain basic fitness.  This was really the thing that contributed to my 180 degree life change . .  . I gained an enormous amount of weight (completely unable to do any cardio - this was before elipticals were really "in" and swimming was out because pushing off the pool floor or walls was a killer, and walking/running was definitely way.too.painful!  After 3 years of unsuccessful treatment, a team of physicians said the only option left was to shave the top of my heel bone  . . . . UMMMM, NO THANK YOU!!!!!!! I just lived with the pain - every single first step (first thing in the morning, first thing after getting up from the couch, every single first step) was painful.  I eventually returned to low impact aerobics, but the "damage" (weight gain) was already done.  

In 2004, I seriously couldn't stand the pain any more.  I had relocated to Indiana and decided to see a podiatrist who works in the same building as I do.  HE.CHANGED.MY.LIFE.  He made me some $60 orthotics and I walked out of his office completely pain free for the first time in 4 years. 

In September 2009 I participated in a 10K training program and really got into "running".  The local running store put me in Brooks and said I was a neutral runner.  I had no heel issues - it was wonderful!!! Until . . . I got shin splints.  The running store re-evaluated my gait and changed my shoes to Pearl Izumi and said they were FAB because they were the only shoes to do what they do (I supinate a little) - and indeed, my shin splints were cured almost immediately!!!!  But the trade off - my heel returned with a vengence!!!!!!  KILLED ME!!!!!  I spent this past Christmas break with "C" trying on 15 different pairs of running shoes at the running store desperately trying to find "the perfect pair".  I settled on Sauconys which are much more comfy than the Pearl's, but haven't helped my heel.  

Now to present day - 
After being a 10 out of 10 on a pain scale for the 48 hours after EVERY SINGLE RUN (seriously, you should see me try to get up after sitting down . . . even if it was just a 5 minute pop-a-squat, horrific tearing producing pain).  It really has made me dread EVERY run because I know the level of pain that will follow for at least 2 days.  Well - last week I had ENOUGH!  I scheduled an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon and met with him today.  I knew exactly what I wanted.  First, I wanted an xray to make sure it hadn't developed into a bone spur - GREAT NEWS - still just plain ol' PF!  Second, I wanted a referral to PT so that my PT friends could scrape it which they SOOO think will cure it - WALKED OUT OF THEIR WITH A PT REFERRAL.  Third, I wanted confirmation that it's JUST PAIN and no matter how badly it hurts that running through the pain is okay (you know, sometimes pain is a sign you should stop because more serious damage is occurring) - GREAT NEWS - suck it up, Nancy - this pain is just a royal pain!!!  Keep on steppin!  I got a very unsexy night splint (since mine from 11 years ago is pretty dusty and old), had my PT eval already today, and going to be stretching it for 20 minutes a day (doc says that 1 out of 4 people can be cured by doing 20 min/day of heel cord stretching and nothing more).  He wasn't a fan of cortisone injections nor surgery (that's great news), though he did say a NWB cast would be in my future if things don't shape up (fingers crossed - I've got halfs to train for).  Stay tuned - 6 weeks of PT pain, countless sleepless nights of night splinting, and hours each week of heel cord stretching . . . hopefully resulting in a much more manageable level of pain (fingers crossed!!!!)

Some interesting things the doc said - 
1.  He, himself, has had a pair of shoes cause PF on him. . . . I knew the yellow Pearls were to blame despite what the running store said.

2.  He said there used to be a popular rehab technique that was extremely painful but used fine pointed ultrasonic beams directed at the exact insertion point that broke up the scar tissue.  It used the same technology that is used to break up kidney stones.  I found that interesting, but kind of relieved it's not readily available around "these parts".

3.  Run through the pain  - just keep running!!!

4.  Stretch before running because the books out today that say stretching before activity isn't necessary are WRONG!

and lastly . . . 

5.  Even though I'm a neutral runner, consider trying Asics Keyano (that's what "C" wears) - he says they hug the heel like nothing else he has ever worn.  He says they take a LONG time to break in!!!!!

Now for you - 
Have you ever had PF?  What did you do to get over it?  What's been the most painful running related injury you've experienced?  What did you learn about yourself, your running, or your character as a result?  Can't wait to learn from all of you so let the comments flow freely!


  1. Wow... I didn't realize your PF was so severe! I hope that you find a treatment that works for you.

    I (knock on wood) have never had PF. My running injuries ALWAYS have to do with my knees. I've learned that sometimes, I want more from my body than it's willing to give me, and that I have to listen to my body more. This is hard for me to do because I want to be able to do races year-round, especially travel around the country to do them.

  2. Wow, I really hope this works out for you. I know that I would have given up on running if I was in that much pain so good for you for sticking with it.
    The worst running injury that I've had was when I messed up my ankle when I tried a new pair of shoes, never again! I was out for weeks and got a DNF for the Route 66 half. That was definitely a low point for me. I'm sticking with my Hurricanes, lesson learned.

  3. Yuck-o! I hope you feel better soon. Even if you can run through it, it would not be fun. Take care of yourself!

  4. When did the PF re-start? Did you have it back in December when we ran? Or just since the newest pair of shoes? I feel SO BAD for you!!

    What causes PF? It sounds awful. I want to know if there is a prevention method... or if it just curses runners one by one.

  5. That is awesome that he really thinks PT & new shoes will fix it.

    I for one, am in favor if surgery if necessary after having my bunion fixed last spring. I was dying in pain throughout the day & especially on my runs. It took me finishing my 2nd half and thinking I broke my foot to seriously consider surgery & after my 3rd half I went for it. In my opinion, if a surgery will take away pain & improve your function and overall wellness, its worth it.

    Good luck with PT!! (and clearly since I am a PT Im pretty confident that they can help you out)

  6. @ Holly -
    My PF flared up again in May 2010 so yes, it was hurting when we ran in December. It doesn't so much hurt when I'm actually running as it does after I'm done especially if I sit for any length of time and then get up.

    PF is a tearing of the fibrous tendon on the bottom of your foot. Low arches, running/walking/standing on hard surfaces, being overweight, wearing crappy shoes are some of the most common reasons PF begins. There's tons of info - just google. It's definitely something you want to prevent if at all possible!

  7. I had no idea your PF was that severe, either!! Makes me feel a little bad, not gonna lie. There are TONS of massage techniques and stretches that we can do, and they're easy to learn, so you can use them on yourself at home. Try this, though, before I see ya next : Freeze a bottle of water. After your run, come home and stretch (first!), then get the bottle out of the freezer and roll it under your foot. This helps to break up the scar tissue and lactic acid crystals that form in patients w/ PF. The cold from it being frozen reduces inflamation. It's such a simple thing to do, I guess I forgot to tell you about it sooner!! Good luck, keep us posted!

  8. @ Ashley -
    No worries - when I come to see you, almost everything else hurts far worse :)
    I have done the ice bottle trick lots of times - it's excruciatingly painful. Instead of just a regular ice pick stabbing my heel - it feels like a frozen ice pick stabbing my heel. Don't feel bad, dear - you can only do so much in 60 minutes :) HA! We're doing 11 miles tomorrow - might be scheduling a little some hot rock goodness.

  9. Lisa, which dr did you see? I live in Bluffton, a runner, follow your blog and have PF also. It flared up this last weekend. I need to call a dr on Mon am because I can barely walk. Thanks. lynn