I was just cleaning my bedroom and while moving my “Stick” and “Trigger Point” kits from one side of the nightstand to, well, the other, I realized that I may have something of value to share.
You see, I have had bouts of plantar fasciitis off and on for four years. It always strikes when I increase distance or speed. I am an over pronator, and apparently we are prone to the injury. Over time, I have learned to detect its onset and how to heal my body. I can get past it in a couple weeks with no real impact to my training.
(Before we go any further, I must do the standard disclaimer. I have zero medical training. I take no responsibility for what you do to your legs, feet or any other part of your body. I realize people get this far worse than I do, and require much more rigorous treatment. You should absolutely see your doctor or PT if your heel is in pain. I learned all of this through following my PT’s orders.)
Plantar fasciitis is very painful. In the beginning, it just feels like a bruised heel. The first time I had it, I thought I had landed on a rock. A few days later, I couldn’t walk after first waking.
According to SportsInjuryClinic.net, “the most common cause of plantar fasciitis is very tight calf muscles which leads to prolonged and / or high velocity pronation of the foot. This in turn produces repetitive over stretching of the plantar fascia leading to inflammation and thickening of the tendon. As the fascia thickens it loses flexibility and strength.” What this means is that your calf muscle/lower calf muscle gets tight, which in turn pulls on your plantar fascia, which in turn hurts.
The first time I had it, I was off the road for six weeks and struggled with daily elliptical boredom. I was in physical therapy multiple times a week. I ordered my first pair of customized orthodics, which I now replace every two years.
What I learned during this phase was to stretch, stretch, stretch those lower calf muscles. Keep ’em loose, loose, loose.
To do this, I have found three pieces of very simple equipment that keep me disciplined — usually — and really have made an impact.
During my first bought, I purchased the Trigger Point technology total body package, which includes massage equipment specific to Platar Fasciitis (the TP Footballer).
It is an awkward little device. You basically put your calf on an oddly shaped ball and roll back and forth.
By golly, if it doesn’t work miracles! It really hits deeply at the calf and bottom leg muscles to loosen the tightness that is causing your heel to hurt. I believe it is the most important piece of equipment I have, after my shoes and water bottle.
While the TriggerPoint kit works miracles, my own stretching of the calf needed some help. I tried to stretch on the stairs and the wall, but I was kind of ineffective. During a visit to our local running store, I saw a wooden calf stretching block.
It seemed a bit pricey for a chunk of wood, but I figured I’d give it a go. It simply stretches your calf muscles. That’s about it, and what a wonderful job it does. I use it all the time. I placed it in my family room, which was genius because it combats “out of sight, out of mind.” Since it stays in the family room, I use it while watching TV or helping the kids do homework.
Eventually I got around to buying “The Stick”. I don’t like to use the Trigger Point system for my IT Band. It is too awkward. So I bought The Stick for my upper leg, but have ended up using it all around. It is a nice addition to my panel of devices, but the one I would give up first. I use it for a few minutes when I am going to bed.
While I have the equipment to ward off plantar fasciitis, my system only works if I actually use it. Where I get into trouble is when I get lazy and don’t stretch. This happens on an annual basis. I am only human.
However, I have learned to detect the onset of the cycle. If my heel feels the slightest hint of sore, I am Johnny-on-the-spot with preventing further injury. Practice makes perfect. I immediately go into action, whipping out my TP kit and religiously working my legs multiple times a day.
I typically get rid of the pain within two weeks, and all without sacrificing my running.
Reminds me, I should go stretch.