Fighting Plantar Fasciitis

Perhaps there is such a thing as watching too many eps of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" as that's how I feel with my plantar fasciitis

When the orthopedic surgeon said, “There’s nothing you can do to make plantar fasciitis better,” the cheapskate in me said, “Sweet! Now I don’t have to spend money on anything. I can just wait it out until my foot is back to normal.”

Yeah, that line of thinking didn’t even last the drive home. Tightwad or not, I am a woman of action. Whatever the problem—from lost iTunes library to after-school activities--I ask pretty much everyone I can, in person and via social media, and then I start doing what sounds like the best been-there, done-that practices. Like when we had trouble conceiving a second time around, I wasn’t content to sit around (or, um,  lay around…): I turned to acupuncture (and later the needles associated with in vitro fertilization). Now I was dealing with a problem about three feet lower…. When a friend reminded me acupuncture had worked before, I figured why not stick with a good thing?

I’m fascinated by acupuncture—like how the energy pathways in the body are connected--and the treatment for PF didn’t disappoint. The main treatment is three fairly substantial (read: slight “ouch” factor) on the side of the base of my left thumb. After inserting them, the acupuncturist (Jennie at Blossom Clinic here in northeast Portland) had me rotate my owww-y right foot several times. The first time my afflicted heel hurt then—voila—the pain disappeared. Jennie had me lie (carefully, with my pincushion-thumb) face down on the table, and she inserted more slender needles into my lower leg.  A final needle in each ear for good measure, then she had me relax on the table for 35 minutes. (It supposedly takes about a half hour for chi to circulate throughout the entire body.) I had forgotten how utterly transporting acupuncture is. It’s different from the mellow-out effect of a good massage: With my body pinned to the table, my mind is free to wander in the most random, delightful ways.

The acupuncturist had many great, take-action suggestions for treating plantar fasciitis, including stretching my foot and lower leg before stepping out of bed each morning and eating a variety of foods that will enrich my “liver-poor” blood. (I don’t understand the nutritional component of acupuncture, but I’m enjoying drinking molasses in hot water.) Jennie also warned me to not run yet, no matter how long the vanished-pain feeling continued (which was a few hours).

In addition to taking action with acupuncture, I’ve cobbled together a variety of other “treatments.”

-I have been fastidiously rolling my foot on a frozen water bottle while I work.

These kicks are calling my name

-I’ve ditched the slippers I previously lived in as a work-at-home writer. (I’m no doctor, but they are at the top of my list for what invited the PF-vampire in.)
-I’ve started wearing Orthaheel adjustable slides around the house instead. (I know, I know: Many docs discourage flip-flops and sandals, but these got official thumbs up from the American Podiatric Medical Association.)
-I put new inserts into my athletic shoes. For now, it’s the cross-trainers I wear for boot camp, but I have one queued up for my running shoes.
-I work my calves with Trigger Point kit. (My overly tight calves seem to be in cahoots with the slippers to bring on my foot problems.) No more leisurely lounging while watch Netflix with the kids or hubby—I’m a rollin’ machine!
-I sleep in a Strassburg Sock (thanks for the loaner, Dim). Not quite as sexy as, say, fishnets, but even after just a few nights, I can notice a difference in how my foot feels.
-I wear my arch taped as a podiatrist (hello, second opinion) showed me how to do with waterproof athletic tape. It's not a look that'll hit the runways anytime soon (although the hot pink tape is sassy), but it feels phenomenal (reminiscent of putting on a good nursing bra when my twins were, oh, two months old).

My pain has diminished greatly: It mainly only flares up in the evening when I’ve been on my feet too long.  Despite that, I’m glad I didn’t take my PF diagnosis sitting down.

46 responses to “Fighting Plantar Fasciitis

  1. Thank you so much for this article. I have never tried acupuncture to treat my PF but foot stretches and ball massage are really easy to do every day. My foot actually feels better when they are done regularly.

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  5. SBS, I’ve been out of the loop and Megan told me about your PF and inability to run. My first thought, was ‘What?! SBS not running? The world is ending, for sure!!’ So sorry you are dealing with this but I so admire your mental tenacity to do what it takes to get back out there. Such a great example for all of us to not just accept what we are thrown at us. I know it will pay off for you and you will be back out there sooner than later. Injuries sure make us appreciate the run!! That is for sure. Enjoy your time back east!

  6. I’ve had PF and tried everything to make it go away…stretching, rolling, taping, heel inserts, etc.
    I actually ended up having surgery to correct it…what I had done is called a gastroc slide release. At 6 weeks post-op, I started riding an exercise bike. I slowly eased back into running and have not had any issues…that was almost 10 years ago.
    Ask your orthopedic surgeon if that’s an option if the PF doesn’t get better.

  7. I, too, had a bout with PF about 2 years ago. During that time I tried one of the horrible cortisone shots. It helped a little, but not enough to warrant the pain.

    It was then that I started reading everything I could find about PF. I decided to try Vibram Five Finger shoes. As my feet got stronger my PF began to vanish.

    I also had chiropractic care. And, as far as the water bottle….let me tell you what I used that worked so well. I bought a cheap one pound roll of sausage at the grocery. I used it every time I needed to roll my foot. It doesn’t soften like a water bottle does and it really maintains the shape and firmness for a long time. Try it! Just make sure to mark it so no one uses it for sausage. You can freeze and refreeze as often as you like…and throw it away when you are finished with PF.

    Hope you get some relief soon. I’ve been pain free in VFF shoes for over 1.5 years now 🙂

  8. Hey SBS – soooo sorry about the PF, I seriously hear your pain!! It is such a beast too, but you’re doing great things. I rotated from podiatrist, acupuncture, chiropractic and massage, which was all very good in healing, but the final thing that helped the most was my boot.

    It is horribly unsexy and your husband will be completely bummed (mine gave me no end in grief) but it seriously helped with the morning pain. Part of the problem is we tend to sleep with our feet pointed, then stand up in a flexed position and we re-tear the plantar fascia. The boot just helps the fascia to heal in the position that we hold our foot most often. It’s crazy, but it helps.

    p.s. taping is great, just be really careful not to leave tape on too long. The fungus monster loves to visit and is a real bugger to get rid of!!

  9. I cured my plantar fascitis with yoga. No kidding. Downward dogs, every day, 3 times a day. Stretching the hamstring allows more length and helps release that soft tissue under the foot. An ortho will not be helpful with this problem, as you have found. A podiatrist is more helpful, often recommending a Rx of Flector Patch, an anti inflammatory patch, to tape to the area. Wishing you speedy healing!

  10. Just want to say you rock, and I am very appreciative of all the tips as a fellow sufferer! I am going to add a few of them to my current repertoire! I am going to check out the acupuncture and also the taping!!!!

    Hope you are up and running SOON!

  11. Actually the acupuncture makes a lot of sense for PF, since research (real, NIH- funded research) has shown a muscular and connective tissue link

    Sorry, nothing for sale to help your PF, but still a pretty cool company that’s hoping to be able to better diagnose certain types of pain by using torque measurement via acupuncture needles and a device they designed to figure this all out (they can also use the device to train acupuncturists too!)

    OK – sorry for the geek out, but I just think this is so cool…..OK, I know, I’m really a geek….

  12. Roll your calf muscles with a foam roller! I don’t know what the trigger kit is, though, that may be as good or better. But if I have any hint of pain anywhere, I get out the roller. With my feet, the pain is almost always located in my calf muscles, and rolling out my calf muscles helps (though it hurts so bad it makes me cry lol!)

    Hope you feel better soon!

    1. The website for the trigger point therapy is I went to my local runner’s store, and one of the employees demonstrated it on me…OMG! It hurt so bad, but felt better after. Too bad the starter kit costs $110! I bought some KT tape to re-tape my foot. So far so good.

    2. The website for the trigger point therapy is I went to my local runner’s store, and one of the employees demonstrated it on me…OMG! It hurt so bad, but felt better after. Too bad the starter kit costs $110! I bought some KT tape to re-tape my foot. So far so good.

    3. The website for the trigger point therapy is I went to my local runner’s store, and one of the employees demonstrated it on me…OMG! It hurt so bad, but felt better after. Too bad the starter kit costs $110! I bought some KT tape to re-tape my foot. So far so good.

  13. I am in love with my frozen water bottle, it’s cheap and… yeah, cheap. I mean, really, if I’m spending money, it’s going to be on something good like a runningskirt.

    What really struck me in this post though was your comment on the “overly tight calves”. Lately my calves have been, um, not happy with me. Not sure what I’ve changed. My left one was strained a bit when I raced the tri last month, and then the right one got jealous. Now they’re both achey and angry a bit more often than I like. I mean, “never” is how often I LIKE to have angry calf muscles… so, several times a week is definitely “more” than I prefer. Going to check out this “trigger point” product ASAP.

  14. I am in the middle of a PF phase too – hate it! I have been wearing the sock (the “Silly Sock” as my kids call it – cue the Monty Python “Minister of Silly Walks”). I might have to check out that stick and get the frozen water bottle going. I have thrown out all of my cute, but nonsupportive flip flops, and am eagerly awaiting my new “Sole” flip flops – “podiatrist recommended”. Not as cute, but my feet will thank me – I hope.

  15. Hi, I have too been following your frustration with PF. Mine was so bad last fall, that after walking to chase my husband ( a 2:45 marathoner) at the NYC marathon, I could barely walk to the subway to go to dinner to celebrate his finish. I was so embarrassed and humiliated that I had only walked that day (and even though it was a lot of traversing Upper East Side and Central Park) and could barely limp across Broadway…yet my husband looked as if he just got back from a vacation that night! That was the end of that, and upon my return to Seattle, I headed straight to the doctor who did all the normal, xrays, etc., to rule out a stress fracture. She gave me more practical advice as a runner who had had it 5 times!~ She said it was aggravated by my running (obviously) but probably originated from my street shoes. I was wearing a lot of ballet flats and flats with only minimal arch support and stupid me never thought that could be the cause, but running was always the trigger to send it in to outer space of pain. I refused to wear Danskos–I don’t care if I live in the Northwest they are still not fashion! However, I did get some heels with arch support and started carefully choosing my every day shoe selection and ditched the flat shoes unless seriously warranted.

    I also had my running shoe selection evaluated and I really should not have been running with anything other than a neutral shoe. Fastforward 5 months later, and rolling, icing, Vitamin I, it is way better and almost nonexistent.

    So, take a hard look at your everyday shoes. It definitely was a longer fix than I thought it would require, but I think making the changes everyday over the long course was the permanent fixer, not the short term solution.


  16. I battle on an off with PF–new inserts always help, as well as stretching. But when I get a really bad flare up I head for my Physical Therapist who is certified in a technique called ASTYM. The best part about it for me was that he didn’t tell me I had to stop running. I did cut back a bit, but within about 3-4 treatments I was back up to 10-12 miles.

  17. Sheesh, you do everything hardcore! I hope the healing goes well and you are back out there running soon… but not TOO soon!
    other sarah

  18. I’m back to having the horrible PF pain. At least I hope that’s it. I have an ortho appt on Thursday. Did you do the Graston Technique as well?

  19. I just clicked on your link for that sock, and I’ve got to say that looks like a serious instrument of torture!!!

  20. When I first started training, I felt like my foot was going to break every time I stepped on it first thing in the morning. Now, I use the footroller all the time and it feels great! I’m a big believer in rolling, for sure! Happy (and speedy) healing!

  21. Thank you!!! I’m on my way back to the PT today to see how my custom orthotics are working. Not sure they are. A frozen water bottle can really be a girls best friend. 🙂

  22. All great ideas, thanks for sharing.
    My PF has been demoted back to a twinge (knock on wood.) Hopefully it will stay that way for a while!

  23. My husband and I have both suffered from PF pain. The water bottle, Strassburg sock and inserts worked for me too (oh and time off!). It’s a pain in the foot for reals. Good luck healing and getting back to hitting the pavement!

    1. Thanks for posting. I’m thinking about making a video as well. I just want to wear the podiatrist-tape-job for as long as possible!

  24. Thanks for all of the suggestions! I also have problems with PF in my left foot. I mentioned this to a local high school running coach, and he gave me several foot stretches to do before every run. I actually do them each morning, as well as during my warm up. Haven’t had a problem since!

  25. This is so timely as I have been suffering with PF since completing Philadelphia’s Broad Street Run in May. Good know to know I am doing some of the right things to help heal my PF but will definitely add some of your suggestions. Thank you!!!

  26. I went to a chiropracter and had deep tissue massage. The treatment required three visits. It hurt like H-E-L-L! He worked on getting rid of the scar tissue. He also recommended the stretching which I’ve been doing since the treatment. And wha-la! It’s gone!

    p.s. my chiro is blind!

    1. That’s AMAZING about the magic the chiro could work. I had a REALLY bad experience with a chiropractor when I had rowing-related back pain, but this morning a dad was telling me what PF relief he’d found in the hands of a chiropractor, so I think I might have to give it a go. Thanks for the encouragement.

  27. I have been waiting for this post to read all about how you are tackling your PF beast; way to go SBS!

    Add me to the list of PF battlers and may we all gain something from your post. Very few of what I have been doing is different other than my athletic tape is purple and I am substituting ultrasound efforts for the acupuncture. I am not opposed any different techniques and am anxious to know how things work out for you. Through your ups & downs, you give so much of yourself to your readership – thank you!

    1. Terri–Thank you for the kind words. I’m very touched by them.

      I’ve heard great things about ultrasound. I gotta say: I’m amazed at how great the taping feels already. Until today, I seriously debated whether it was *really* necessary to make a trip to the basement or garage. Now I’m up and at it without a thought. I realize I’m not cured, but it gives me hope.

      Thanks again. xo

  28. thanks for all the great ideas; I too am dealing with the PF beast at the moment, but not sitting down on the job (I’m taking action)

  29. I almost missed running my first marathon due to PF. I still feel the tinge every now and then but I know what to do. I did everything on your list with the exception on acupuncture. The stretching in the morning and frozen waterbottle still are my friends! But my best pal is the Stick. After every run and most training nights you will find me face down on the floor while one of my children delights is causing Mommy “good owies”. They roll the backs of my legs while I cringe. But when they are done the relief is awesome! Try it. Just another thing to add to your list.

    1. I was just talking to a dad who also SWEARS by The Stick. Good to know: I’ll pack it for my trip to Connecticut. Thanks!

  30. Wow, you’re not kidding when you say you’re a woman of action! 😉
    I’m glad you’re feeling better, and I hope you’re able to get back to your normal level of training very soon!

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