Battling Plantar Fasciitis

Some people say that, as a runner, the best injury to get is a stress reaction or fracture to a metatarsal.  With those injuries, it’s basically guaranteed that after 4 weeks of rest, your bone will be healed and you can begin training again. 

I completely agree.

The only over-use injuries I’ve ever dealt with have always been connected to a tendon.  In 2005, I was out for 12 weeks due to hundreds of micro-tears in my left Achilles.  I didn’t know how long I would have to take off, and I basically just waited until the swelling went down to attempt my first run. 

After that, I enjoyed practically a decade of relatively injury-free running, barring a brief two-week run-in with IT Band Syndrome in 2011. 

2015 brought my injury-free good luck to a screeching halt.  In October 2015, my right Achilles put me out 7 weeks, causing me to plan a premeditated drop out of the 2016 Trials race. 

Now, in 2017, I’ve already dealt with a sore left Achilles that morphed into an annoying case of Plantar Fasciitis.

The reason why I hate tendon injuries is that there isn’t a guaranteed end date to the time off.  There’s never a moment that you can say “Well, in 6 weeks, I’ll definitely be able to run again.”  The rest period is a total crapshoot.  Who knows if the injury will last 4 weeks?  8 weeks?  12 weeks?  Who knows if taking time off will actually even help the tendon heal?  Fortunately, there are movement specialists popping up all over the country who have a better understanding of ways practitioners can look at the body holistically to determine areas that might be causing the initial issue in the first place.  For example, my 2015 Achilles issue was caused by my ridiculously tight lower back.  Who would have guessed?  Thanks to an SFMA and FMS screening, I had the knowledge necessary to perform the right exercises to help begin the road to recovery and greater strength. 

But, back to what I came here to originally write about:  I have plantar fasciitis.  Here’s the short of how it came about.  I had a great long run on June 30th, but during the run I could tell that my form was different.  My heel felt tight, and Max asked me if I was injured.  Crap, I thought to myself, my form must really be off if he’s noticing something.

Every day I'm rolling...

Every day I'm rolling...

I’m a big believer in taking time off, especially if it’s affecting your stride.  So I did. I took two weeks off.  In the meantime, I lifted.  I got massages.  I did drills.  I ran barefoot.  After the two weeks, guess what? My heel didn’t feel better;  my heel didn’t feel worse.  Perturbed by the lack of progress,  I decided to do a quick poll amongst my runner friends who have dealt with PF in the past. 

I called Katie, a former All-American from UVA, and explained that I have plantar fasciitis.  I could hear her physically cringe over the Verizon Wireless network:  “Sh!t.  That’s the worst. I dealt with that in college and it never really went away.”  Or, even better, the reaction from my friend Amanda, chiropractor in NC: “Caitlin, I REALLY hate to hear that you’re dealing with plantar fasciitis.  I literally did EVERYTHING…I slept with the night splint, did all the drills and took 6 weeks off, and nothing made it get better…I struggled with it for a year!”   

Needless to say, my initial pulse check of how bad is plantar fasciitis seemed to be a resounding – it’s pretty terrible and leaves you feeling completely powerless. 

Everyone I talked to also agreed on something else – that it’s worth it to try to run through.  I was a little weary of this at first, but after a couple of days of running without altered form, I believed them.    

To make up for taking off from running the first two weeks of July, I spent the last two weeks of July testing my plantar, willing it to let me train for Chicago Marathon. 

During the week of July 17th, I ran two days on, one day off, 4 days on, keeping the max run to 50 minutes.  I continued doing my drills, lifting and climbing.  Somehow, during this time, the foot started to feel better only while wearing my running shoes.  However, I could still feel the stabbing pain shoot through my heel while walking barefoot. 

Continuing into the week of July 24th, I ran 4 days in a row and took 2 days off so I could go camping at Lassen National Park.  By this time, I could walk around barefoot without substantial pain in my heel.  I knew then that things were beginning to turn the corner. yet, I was still skeptical of my body’s ability to handle the more sustained impact from 14 miles of a marathon workout.  Would my heel be able to handle the repetition of motion, or the increase in speed?  I realized that all I could do was try it out and hope for the best. 

We’ll see how it goes next week, when I begin my very much shortened Chicago Marathon training cycle.   

I’m confident my body will heal itself up….and if it doesn’t…#firstworldproblems.