Plantar Fasciitis 2.0: A Tale from Sarah

Strolling with Auggie on Mother's Day in my beloved cushy Oofos.

In the spring of 2011, after running three half-marathons in quick succession, including the Ogden Half-Marathon, I was hobbled by plantar fasciitis. Like drop-to-my-knees-in-agony PF.

After nearly three decades in the sport, it was my first sidelining injury from running (yeah, yeah, hate me)—and it scared the stuffing out of me. I vividly remember how the pain would build up the more time I spent on my feet: After hours of standing and coaching my Girls on the Run protégés at their culmination 5K—a popular evening race in downtown Portland—I nearly cried on the bus ride home. My right heel throbbed and hurt so badly, I winced with every gimpy step I took. After taking several months off running, then easing back into it, I was finally pain free about eight months later. At its peak, my 2011 PF pain was an 8 on a scale of 1-to-10; I was running regularly on it by the time it got to about a 3.

Seven years older, and I’ve grown more cautious. Thus when a PF-ish twinge hit my left heel in late March, I only ran on it for a few days before sidelining myself. My last run was on March 31. I told my BRF, Molly,—and myself—I was taking off the month of April from running. But after diligent, daily foam rolling, twice-a-day Aleve, and basically living in Oofos sandals and shoes, the discomfort (I can’t even call it “pain”—more on that in a moment) remained the same, so I’m now nearing the end of Month 2 of No Running.

I’m still plenty active: I’ve just had to remind myself there are other athletic endeavors than our beloved running. I’m now a Cyclebar devotee, sweating through at least two classes per week, and taking a variety of strength classes. I’ve snuck in swims on many of my travels (including 2x at our Ogden Retreat!), and I recently started cycling outdoors. It’s a rough time of year to not be running—early sunrise, vivid flowers, trees flush with lush new leaves, cool morning temps—but I’ve got a new routine, and I’m holding steady. Most importantly: I’m not in limp-everywhere-while-gritting-my-teeth pain.

Back to the more-cautious thing: As I said, my 2011 PF pain was a strong 8, and I resumed running when it ducked below a 3. This time around, my discomfort has never even approached a 3, hovering around a 1. Sometimes spiking at 2, but often times dropping to 0. So I ask myself why I’m still not running.

Fear. Plain + simple.

I keep coming back to the fear that gripped me during my original battle with plantar fasciitis. I’ve met enough of you lovely ladies at expos, parties, and Retreats who tell horror stories of years-long bouts of PF to know this bugger-ailment can linger longer than a wart on a preschooler’s hand. I’m not willing to do-si-do with the pain/discomfort: I want it gone, and I want it gone for good. (Or at least another seven years—PF can be to this runner what cicadas are to the eastern U.S.!)

I toyed with the idea of resuming running—well, walk-running—today. But even though my foot can’t decipher a calendar, my current plan is to wait until Saturday. It feels right to take off a full two months.

Here’s hoping that’s not the only thing that feels right when I run.

How about you: Have you suffered through plantar fasciitis?
If so, how’d you approach it?

32 responses to “Plantar Fasciitis 2.0: A Tale from Sarah

  1. Oofos fan here too! I just wish the slides weren’t so ugly (gray or black). Got out of the cycle in February only to have another week link in my chain cause issues with my right knee. I just WALKED a 20K last weekend because the knee wouldn’t allow me to run. I feel good… other than the chafing – Ouch!!

  2. I had PF a few years ago an took a month off from running and wore shoes all the time and did roller exercises and tried to wear a boot at night. It got better over time. But now it’s back and I really don’t want to stop running and hoped that the rollering my foot would be enough … might need to look into those sandals.

  3. Ooooph – I’m just coming back after 18 months of not running. My story is no different than the above. My only additional comment is that I had to STOP yoga for a while. I love hot yoga – and I believe that the extra stretching wasn’t helping my calves / hamstrings and they weren’t allowing my foot to heal. I don’t have science behind this, but when I stopped – it started to heal. I took 3 full months off. Wore my shoes, did PT, I was still spinning – but only 3 times a week. I gained weight. It was pretty hard. @SBS – SO glad you are on your way out. I completely understand the fear! I’m wondering if you are considering going back for acupuncture? Have you considered switching to trails because of the foot? I’m doing the HR101 program and then moving into another one for a November half (with all my fingers and toes crossed) SO FAR SO GOOD – the verrrrrry slow return has been humbling and hard, but I’m with you – I never want to do that again!

  4. The Rossiter System saved my feet, and it’s totally different from basic stretching you’d do in PT. I stumbled upon the Rossiter System and I felt immediate relief from my PF recently after years of struggling. It’s a deep myofascial release stretching system that gets in deep into the connective tissue that’s causing the pain releasing deep into the calf. It can relieve the PF pain for weeks after one coaching session. I believe in it so much I became a coach myself, so I could have even more techniques to help the people I work with. Think Rolfing where the client has control of how much pain to take on in order to release instead of the Rolfer.

    I am a Pilates and yoga instructor and teach a lot of people who live with chronic and acute pain and was referring out a lot of people. It’s been a great tool as an active marathon and IM triathlete because now my training friends want help from me.

  5. Hey Sarah. So incredibly sad to hear you are dealing with this. I had PF back in 2009 and got better. Then again 2016 for NINE MONTHS. It was awful. I tried everything. I think different things work for different people and not running was right for me. I also went in the boot for a month and got custom orthotics. If you haven’t looked into custom orthotics, I definitely would. You’re trying lots of the usual stuff: icing, stretching, rest. I think the Straussburg sock works if you can tolerate it. Check out my blog for a few posts from fall 2017 with other ideas of what to try. I bought an e-book for about $20 and even though that seemed crazy, it was totally worth it because it really laid out all the options for treatment. You should try one of those knobby balls for rolling if you haven’t yet. Also the foot wheel – I will post a link. Finally, in addition to the custom orthtotics, look into “Positional Release Therapy”. I mean – you should be in regular PT for this by now, if you aren’t. But I would also google positional release therapy and see if you can find someone who does that in particular. If you have trouble finding someone, email me or look online for Dr. Tim Speicher. I know this is all going to sound like hooey – it’s not. By the way – I beat the PF. I ran a marathon in February – slow time because i got caught in the heat, but excellent fun. I’m training for another 26.2 now and hoping to BQ. Most of us can get PF to go away as long as we are patient and persistent. And – I’m sure it can’t have been easy to be dealing with this while also losing your father. Huge condolences and many many hugs.

  6. Can you have PF pain on the “outside” of your foot? I’ve been fighting some serious pain for nearly two months now, and it sounds exactly like what you are describing – but all the websites say PF pain is on the inside of the bottom of the heel and toward the arch, where mine hurts along the outside bottom of the heel. Is it still PF in that location…?

  7. I have been battling PF for 3 years now. This is my second go at it as well. I had it first when I was 19. Tried everything. Nothing work, eventually had Shockwave therapy. It last 7 years. This time I had the Tenex surgery which was unsuccessful. I’m lucky if I’m only an 8 on the pain scale. Most days, I’m in so much pain, I do cry. A lot. I plan to see a massage therapist and see if I can get some good calf massages as well as stretching at home as much as possible.
    I’ve signed up for 10 5ks this year and surprisingly, when I’m running and in motion, I’m not in pain. But once I stop? It’s hell. I’m trying a pair of Hoka One Ones my orthopedic surgeon recommended. If anyone has any lasting remedies-please send them my way. It’s unbearable.

  8. It doesn’t seem like just resting your foot has helped it heal enough. I’ve been through this- it’s not fun! I would highly recommend getting treatment from a good PT. The acute treatment and recommended home-remedies (exercises, massage, etc) are so valuable once you get the right person. Also don’t forget MK’s foot-defense video!!

  9. When I was dealing with a fairly mild case of PF years back, I had a big bowl that I would fill with ice water, and after every run, I would diligently soak my feet in the icy cold water. It was kind of torture, but I do think it helped as it never got bad enough to sideline me and eventually went away. And I also kept a golf ball at my desk, that I would roll my foot on while I sat and worked. Good luck!!

  10. For over a year I had numb upper leg when driving and on and off foot/calf pain in same leg. During PT for that, my foot started to scream at me and I had what I called PF for 8+ months (had to wear shoes in the house, slept sometimes in a special sock, tried not running at all, running less, etc, etc.). Finally, I switched to a new PT (who came highly recommended in the running world, but offices in a very not convenient location for me). Life changing! She basically ignored my foot. But dealt with all sorts of other things. In short, I have twisty hips and most of my PT exercises are now about dealing with that and opening up my back extension (and not crossing my bad leg over my good leg, doing 5 squats when I gert out of a car, balancing my running with biking/skiing, etc.). I thought I was already doing “all the things” – and then this new PT actually got to the bottom of it all. So may be worth shopping around for a new PT . . .

    1. Thanks for advice and insight, Alli. All good to know. (And, have to say: Strasbourg sock is a load of bologna! Just made me have horrible calf cramps in middle of night!)

  11. Try those velcro straps that fasten at the ankle then under the heel. This prevents the tendon from over stretching. I wear it all the time when I have a flair up then only when I run otherwise. Wearing this treats my flair ups in about 3 weeks.

  12. I tried many things – the first key to recovery was NEVER being barefoot. I always wear birkenstocks around the house and always step right into them from bed. Stepping barefoot flat stresses the fascia causing huge pain. 2nd I went to a holistic chiro who kneaded in the back of my calf until I thought I’d die!

    1. Only time I’m barefoot is in the shower…and I’ve seriously considered taking shower wearing my OOFOS sandals!

  13. I suffered from a 6+ month about of plantar fascitis two years ago and live in fear of it returning. I tried lots of things to get it under control including wearing a booth, new orthotics, switching to Hokas, special flip flops, stretching, taping. The final thing I did was EPAT radial shockwave therapy and that finally seemed to do the trick. Hope you can get yours under control soon!

  14. I had PF for 18 months and it still rears it ugly head once in a while. Unlike Sarah, I can’t wear Oofos or any shoes with a lot of cushioning. I tried everything to get rid of PF. Graston, acupuncture, rolling for hours and hours, yoga, loads of pain meds and nothing worked. I started HR 101 and watched MK’s video on rolling the shins and calves and wow, what a difference. I had to do a shot of whiskey (literally) before I could roll on those areas due to the intense pain but MK told me, if I needed to get wasted to do it, then so be it. Now, I roll on my shins and calves like a champ sans whiskey!

  15. Thanks for this ladies!! I have been going through this for the past three months. I am already in PT –some days it feel better and some days worse.. Right now is a worse day and I feel like giving in the towel and never running again but I dont want to do that. Need to get on something else because sitting around the house feeling sorry for myself obviously isnt cutting it

  16. My only running injury in 8 years. 3 years ago in the right foot, and this year in the left foot after several half and full marathons together. I went to Airrost for tissue work and it’s what helped after months of trying to fix it on my own. My culprits: worn out shoes and calves that need stretched better.

  17. Clinical evidence linking calf weakness and PF. Tight calves usually mean weak calves. Single leg weighted eccentric heel raises (so including a dip off a step) cured me. I did 3 sets of 15 reps a day, 2x a day, 3 days a week. On the affected side I wasn’t strong enough to get to 15 (more like 13, 10, 7-8). After 4 months of PF treatment with stretching, dry needling, wearing shoes with high ramp, massage, and night time splint, doing just 3 days of weighted eccentric cured me in one week. Been clear for a year and ran 2 half marathons a triathlon and did 130km mileage week hiking Costa Rica mountains. Never came back.

    1. THANK YOU, Lara, for reminding me of that exercise!! Podiatrist recommended it in 2011, and I’d completely forgotten about it. I’ll add it into repertoire!! Glad it’s been so successful for you.

  18. I tried everything until I finally had PRP injection twice—I would say I was at a 9 on the pain scale. I slowly returned to run/walk. It still flares up so I know I needed to do extra stretching exercises and it is ok. But I do understand the fear—we are military and while overseas I was able to get the PRP therapy free. That doesn’t happen stateside so that won’t be an option anymore. So I must baby it and take baby steps. I NEVER want to feel that pain level ever again! I’ve used Fitflops but now I need to try the OOFOS—they sound great! I also pull out my night boot as needed. It’s better to go slow like the Turtle than burn out like the Hare.

  19. Foam rolling my calves and doing the foot therapy that Coach MK has on the TLAM videos has kept it at bay. I saw a PT for heel pain that was not PF and he helped me to strengthen my Achilles. I think that the calves are the key- also stretching the hamstrings. I feel your pain and I think that more time off is best- good decision and best wishes getting back to it!

  20. I think I will always have PF, the ey for me is to keep up with stretches, icing after a long run, and rolling on a lacrosse ball if it’s twingy at all. I feel like I have it under control, but always monitoring. I’ve had it in both feet.

  21. The keys for me to beat plantar fasciitis: (1) wear proper cycling shoes to clip in for spinning class and road biking; (2) stretch my calves (no negative heel stretches though – those make it worse); and (3) wear a Strassburg sock (or socks if both feet hurt) at night (or my DIY homemade equivalent — you can find my post about that on my blog). I truly believe that tight calves are the culprit and stretching the calf muscles is the most important. Love my OOFOS sandals too! I hope you’re back to running pain-free soon SBS!

    1. Thanks, Angela. Glad the sock works for you–it was torture device for rest of my foot (arch + toes). Here’s to our shared love of OOFOS!

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