AMR Traveling Ultimate 6 Kit, Episode 1: Plantar Fasciitis

Welcome to a new monthly feature: The AMR Traveling TriggerPoint™ Ultimate 6 Kit. We're so excited about it—and if you're injured, we're guessing you might be too.

Here’s the premise: Something on you—your Achilles Tendon, your lower back, your knee—is hurting significantly. You want and need to keep running, but you’re not sure that hurt-y part is going to let you.  So you tell us about it, and we send you the AMR Traveling Ultimate 6 Kit, excellent and effective self-massage tools for runners. We’ll also hook you up with a TriggerPoint expert for a lesson in self-care and a customized program for your situation. You’ll have about a month to focus on relieving your injury. And then—here’s the fun part!—we’ll help you document your journey back to running at full strength.

Our first injured runner is Cyndie Pelto, 40, mom of two in Beaverton, Oregon, who has plantar fasciitis.

What it is: plantar fasciitis (PF), a bring-you-to-your-knees painful condition under the heel of one or both feet. Caused when plantar fascia, the ligament that connects your toes and heel, gets inflamed or irritated. Pain is most humbling when you step out of bed in the morning or stand after sitting for a long time.

On a scale of 1 (a hangnail) to 10 (hospitalization required), I would rate this injury a: 7, like a knife or very large nail is being driven into my heel. It’s a shooting pain, but it stays fairly localized on the bottom and sides of my heel.

What causes PF: Excessive stress to the arch of the foot; folks with high arches or flat feet tend to get it more frequently. Being overweight, middle-aged, or a job that keeps you on your feet a lot doesn’t do your plantar fascia any favors. A tight Achilles tendon or calf muscle can add to the strain.

It also comes on with running too many miles too quickly or too intensely; I had a bout of PF about 11 years ago, then ran my first marathon last October, and a half-marathon a week after that. I knew around mile 6 of the half-marathon that I’d way overdone it.

What PF feels like physically: Whenever I put weight on my feet, there’s sharp pain—my left more than my right, but both let me know they’re not happy. My heels actually feel better when I’m running: It hurts for the first mile, but when my feet get warmed up, the pain drops to a 2 or 3.

You might have PF if: You feel an intense pain in your heel or arch when you step out of bed in the morning. The pain will come and go during the day (if you’re lucky!), but by evening, the heel(s) of a PF sufferer is usually throbbing. If you're like me, it will probably hurt for a little as you warm up into a run, then the pain is minimal—until the run is over.

What and how to roll to help with PF: Releasing the inside, middle, and outside of your calves and quads with a foam roller or other TriggerPoint tool every day is key. (Here's a helpful video to show a few more techinques.) Targeting the bottom of your foot, as this video demonstrates, is also a great call.

Keeping your muscles loose and the fascia lengthened helps alleviate the tight, pulling sensation with every step. Even if you only have pain in one foot, treat both legs and feet to keep things balanced. Rolling through injured tissue is painful, and it’s really hard to do something to yourself that hurts, so let the pain act as a guide to where you need to localize the pressure. (Read: no pressure that makes your face into a perma-wince.) For me, it helps to have a distraction: I use the Ultimate 6 Kit every night while watching DVR’d  episodes of the new “Tonight Show.” (Thank you, Jimmy Fallon!)

What else works physically for PF: Stretch your calf muscles frequently, like 4-5 times a day. Wear shoes with good arch support all day long; going barefoot or wearing flimsy flip flops is not giving your fascia the TLC they need to heal.

Acupuncture can also provide significant relief, especially if you find a practitioner who works with athletes. Slightly more pleasant than needles, deep-tissue massage, especially to glutes, hamstrings, calves, and feet, helps loosen tight, over-run muscles.

That said, the number one thing to do is this: Stop running and focus on healing the fascia. Sucks to read, but it’s what I came to realize. Give away any upcoming race numbers and step away from the road/trail/treadmill until the pain departs or at least drops to a 1 or 2.

How I coped mentally: While it’s been really (really!) tough to give up running cold turkey, the hardest part of PF has been losing my time with my BRFs (Best Running Friends). Running nowhere in the pool or riding nowhere on the bike trainer doesn’t give the same soul-affirming satisfaction or quality girlfriend-gab time. During my running hiatus, I am virtually cheering on my BRFs and watching their training. I want to join them, of course, but until then I will embrace a few new training regimens and be proud of my girlfriends’ accomplishments.  And plan a lot more girls’ nights out.

How I’ll avoid PF in the future: Once it’s (finally) gone, PF can be firmly in my rearview mirror if I continue to focus on keeping things loose and easy. Constant stretching and icing will be de rigeur for many years to come. So will TriggerPoint Performance Therapy products, like the FootBaller and TP Massage Ball, because they help me reach places a foam roller can’t. Finally, when I resume running, I will run slowly (promise!), with minimal miles and lots of walk breaks.  My third season of coaching Girls on the Run just kicked off, and I’m looking forward to “wogging” around the track as I get to know my new team.

Anything we missed? How did you cope, both mentally and physically, with a bout of PF that is (finger crossed) in your past?

And do you have an injury that could benefit from the AMR Traveling Ultimate 6 Kit? Email us at runmother [at] gmail [dot] com and we’ll see if the Kit can make a stop at your mother runner house. 


19 responses to “AMR Traveling Ultimate 6 Kit, Episode 1: Plantar Fasciitis

  1. A complete guideline about Plantar Fasciitis with video. I watched the video and this is quite impressive that you have showed us on details. Really thanks for sharing such kind of information about the foot pain.

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  3. Great information, thank you for sharing. Great material for people suffering foot pain. I’m also a runner and I often forget(well ignore) to stretch my calves as much as it needed. I also appreciate for sharing the video on how to use the Ultimate 6 kit.

  4. Great post (and replies) with lots of helpful info.

    Trust me when I say that PF is nothing to mess with. Get it treated, but DON’T do what I did. I wound up with a DVT (blood clot) that could have killed me. I am the poster child of what NOT to do. Bear with me…I’m going to share my PF adventure:

    I began a rigorous walking routine about 8 years ago and developed PF after the first few weeks. I ignored it for over a month until I literally collapsed to my knees upon getting out of bed in the morning. The next three months became a horrible nightmare.

    First I went to an orthopaedic doc who prescribed rest, PT and heel cups. (No help whatsoever.) Next came the expensive night splint prescribed by the PT…a Medieval looking contraption that I had to crank every night to increase the angle of my foot/toes. (Gave up on that in less than a week because it was impossible to sleep.) Then came a walking boot. It helped some, but there was still no permanent relief. I was determined to NOT have an injection and wanted this to heal on its own. As I neared my third month of unsuccessful treatment, I found the business card for a PT who specialized in PF, so I made an appointment. She was mortified to hear all I was going through and made me temporary orthotics on the spot. She couldn’t believe that 1) I hadn’t been to a podiatrist, and 2) that nobody recommended orthotics because of my flat feet. I began PT with her right away and finally found some minor relief. I also saw a podiatrist and had orthotics made that could be worn in most shoes.

    The pain was less, but still there, plus I was now developing hip and back pain from my permanent limp. It was time for the inevitable. I went back to the ortho doc and I reluctantly agreed to the cortisone shot — and just for good measure — he recommended a full hard cast for 2-3 weeks. Talk about killing a gnat with a bazooka! Well, the pain was gone almost instantly, but within 3 days of getting the cast off I had a DVT. (I should mention here that I was also taking oral contraceptives. That, combined with prolonged immobility, is apparently a deadly combination. Sure wish someone mentioned that around week 1.) I was on Coumadin for six months and am now on an aspirin regimen for life.

    Long story short, I survived. When PF developed in my other foot (which I’m told is very common), I began PT right away, along with stretching and ice. I also went to a running store and had my footwear custom fit by professionals who analyze my gait/stride first. Huge difference! I was PF free in about a month and it has never returned. I walk often, but have learned the importance of stretching, and also to vary my walking route and surface type.

    The long-term affects of the DVT have been a bummer though. I was in PT for my hip and back pain for several months, and also have permanent valve damage in my left leg. I have had one vein surgery already to try to improve blood flow and will likely need more.

    If you have PF, seek out a podiatrist or sports doc right away who knows the condition and how to treat it. Don’t wait. Also, spend the money on high quality running shoes and stretch throughout your day. One thing that also helped relieve my sore arch and heel: freeze a water bottle (pour a little out first), put it inside a sock, and roll your sore foot over it while you are sitting, watching TV or working at your desk. Also, my PT makes custom-fitted flip-flops with arch support so I didn’t have to give up my favorite summer footwear.

    Friends, be kind to your feet! They need to last a lifetime.

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