The agony of de-feet: how to deal with plantar fasciitis
You’re feeling good, in your exercise groove, running or doing your boot camp class, when after a few months, it starts: that throbbing, aching in your heel, the first painful step out of bed in the morning…. Whaaat?! This CAN’T be happening! Then it gets worse. The doctor tells you, “Stop running and high-impact activities.” But you love working out! What are you supposed to do?
I’m a doctor, so the last thing I expected was that I would have to heed my own advice. But that’s exactly what happened. At my exit physical from the military, the pain in my left heel was killing me. I had the same symptoms as patients I had once treated. I remember giving out the “No running” orders. “I can’t stop running,” my patients often replied. Now I had plantar fasciitis, myself, that inflammation of the tissue on the bottom of the foot. And suddenly I was in the patient’s shoes. Now I had to listen to my own recommendations.
Here are five steps to dealing with the agony of de-feet:
- Healing = “tincture of time” (This is the most important element for body repair.)
- Proper supportive footwear to avoid over-pronatio
- Ice massage after exercis and at the end of the day
- Achilles/calf stretching (both before and after exercise)
- Rehabilitation orthotic
Number 5, rehabilitation orthotics, is a novel approach to treating plantar fasciitis that I heard about from a marathon-running colleague. The hypothesis is that these types of orthotics strengthen the intrinsic foot muscles, thus changing arch height and foot length, which, in theory, reduces tension on the plantar fascia tissue. A higher arch and less pronation of the foot alleviates tension on the plantar fascia and lowers the tendency to cause micro-tears in the attachment of the fascia to the heel bone. Evidence is suggestive, but not definitive, showing trends toward benefit.
Personally, I’ve found benefit with these types of orthotics. And, anecdotally, I’ve seen patients do well with them, too. Placebo effect? Maybe. But I was pain-free after 2 months of using them. However, please note that I took all of the other conservative measures (steps 1-4) as well.
Finally, I must point out that I didn’t completely stop exercising. Rather, I changed my activity. You can switch out high-intensity exercises with low-impact options. (If you’re not sure how to do this, ask your Body & Soul instructor about it. They will be happy to show you how to go about it!)
In closing, follow the above measures and you should be able to recover from the agony of de-feet. And keep this one truth before you, which I now live by: support your feet and they will support you!