Friday, October 18, 2013

Healing My Heel


It has been a few weeks since I've written a Fitness Friday post. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a lot to tell. Over the month of September, I had rededicated myself to my running goals, and put little things aside to get my running game back on track.

I was doing SO well!!

I ran extra hill repeats and speed intervals in my RunKNOX practices. I was determined to give it my all and hopefully get faster. It seemed to be working for awhile.

And then my heel derailed everything.

You see, for months I've had pain in my left heel after running, likely due to plantar fasciitis. The mornings after running, it was painful to put weight on my heel. Overall, it was fairly minor. I could stretch and it would be fine.

I guarantee somewhere in this post I'll mix up "heal" and "heel". My apologies.

Then I got the bright idea that switching running shoes could eliminate the pain. My Asics were worn out, so I thought I'd try a different type of shoe this time. I was recommended a Brooks pair that had the same stability as the Asics, but with more padding. 

This was one of the factors that led to the pain spiraling out of control. I thought the shoes were helping at first, even though they hurt from not being broken in yet.

Of course, Brandon and my coach who recommended breaking them in before running in them, but I didn't listen.

The pain kept getting worse, despite the stretching and even ice I used to try to keep it at bay. It finally became unbearable one week. About three weeks ago, I spent an entire Sunday on my feet helping my sister move into her new home. Then I went to my boot camp workout Monday, did an intense hill workout with RunKNOX on Tuesday, and ran 3 miles on my own Wednesday. 

I may have overdone it.

That week, the heel pain got worse and worse. I'd catch myself walking on my tip-toes at home to avoid putting weight on my heel. By Thursday, the heel pain increased to a point where I could barely walk. What's worse - the pain spread to my arch, which was swollen and bluish.

Then I did something really smart.

Because I'm SOOO dedicated to my running schedule, I joined RunKNOX for a 5 mile run that Saturday (now almost two weeks ago). 

Real genius.

To avoid the pain, I changed my stride while running. This caused my ENTIRE shins and calves to hurt! I suffered through 3 miles with a friend (who was doing AWESOME!), then I let her go on and I had to resort to running/walking the other 2 miles.

I felt like a real winner, let me tell ya.

The next day, Sunday, I tried to buy groceries and go to Target, but I couldn't even walk.

When my Target experience is ruined, this has gone too far!!!

On that Sunday, almost two weeks ago, I knew I needed to really take my coaches', Brandon's, and my friends' advice to heart and deal with this issue. I couldn't continue down the path I was headed or I might REALLY injure myself. To the point I might not be running for MONTHS. Nobody wants that!

I know it's very common, and very frustrating, for runners to experience injuries. It's also VERY frustrating for runners to have their training put on hold for injuries. Here we are, working hard, excited about reaching our next goal, and BAM! Now some kind of pesky pain is holding us back. Who has time for that when there are goal races at stake?? 

I've been lucky so far to have not had a running related injury until now. In the grand scheme of things, my issue is VERY minor. I know other runners who have had ankle, knee, etc issues WAY worse than mine, so I can't complain.
The good news is, about two weeks later, I'm 98% pain free!! I've experimented with a lot of tactics over the last two weeks, and I've finally figured out something that works for me. Hopefully this will continue!

Before I share that information, please remember that I can only speak to what seems to be working for me. Every injury is different, so I can't speak for anyone else. I'm not a doctor or medical professional of any kind, so this can't be taken as medical advice. If you experience any pain, talk to someone qualified to help you.

Nonetheless, here are the various things I tried, which seemed to help in overcoming the heel pain I was experiencing from what I believe to be plantar fasciitis:

  1. Taking some recovery time. To heal from my particularly escalated situation, I took my workouts lightly last week. I skipped boot camp, jogged/walked my scheduled runs, did the elliptical instead of running one day, and did a yoga class. It was a little frustrating, but I think this was instrumental in jump-starting the healing process.
  2. Being consistent in my practices to prevent injuries. When I first started RunKNOX, I expected our coaches to recommend post-running stretches. While they do recommend stretching after running, their first and foremost priority was that we do "foot drills" immediately after running. What was that?? Our coach had us walking in our sock feet various ways - pigeon toed, tip-toed, on our heels, etc. It seemed bizarre at first, but I've noticed I have less problems the next day when I do this immediately after running. You can find them here.
  3. Ice, Ice, Baby! Sigh...I don't like the discomfort of ice. I'm not one of those hard core runners who soak in ice baths. What are you people, polar bears??? Nonetheless, I tried rolling a frozen water bottle under my heel and arch, and it did help in a couple of ways. First, the ice took down that crazy swelling in my arch. Second, it seemed to work out the tendon and help me get past some of the pain.
  4. Stretching and other techniques. In my desperation, I tried a lot of things. I noticed the three practices above seemed effective in reducing the pain, but I tried some other things that helped on a smaller level. I tried sleeping in one of those braces for plantar fasciitis. Since I tried so many things, it's hard to tell if that helped. It also interrupted my sleep. I dreamed that there were leeches on my foot. True story. I noticed immediate benefits from the other practices, but couldn't tell from this. I also tried these stretches before I got out of bed, which seemed to lessen the intense pain in the morning. While I couldn't tell if these techniques helped me overall, I know others who have benefited greatly from them.
While doing these, I started seeing progress over my down week. However....I didn't turn the corner until I...

Went back to my old shoes!!!

Seriously. About halfway into my down week, my coach recommended that I try going back to my old shoes. I thought that was odd, but he was SOOO right!!! Within a couple of days the pain was almost gone. I ran this Tuesday night and woke up Wednesday with no pain! If you're reading this, Darren, enjoy the fact that you were right, once again.

I guess I'll be going back and re-buying the Asics. Go figure. Anyone want to buy a gently used size 8 pair of Brooks shoes? :)

It may be too early to tell, but I seem to be overcoming it! I've lost a little of my speed from the break. However, as long as I'm pain-free, I'm happy to work to regain it!

Have you ever had to work through a running injury? How did you recover and get back on track?


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  1. My work through an injury is no running with as much cross training as I can safely do. That's exactly what I did during 6 weeks of no running and the cross training was key to my sanity and fitness. Hope the heel problem is an easy recovery.

    Thanks for linking up with Fitness Friday! It's nice to see you back :)

  2. ugh, i'm currently experiencing left knee pain which is a total bummer because it screws with my trail runs. joint/knee pain is something that i've always been scared of because i know how much it can impact your activity and until i started having this, i was so thankful that i didn't. so know i'm not sure what to do; luckily i can do other things but running trails is what seems to make it worse and I'M SO BUMMED because i look forward to my trail runs on sundays :(

    do i wait for a few weeks and not run and see where it is? do i run with a brace? do i get it checked out and if so, by whom?? these are things i think about every day so if you can shed some light or point me in the right direction, that would be fantabulous!

    like you said, you don't want to out for months so if that means that i have to stop running my beloved trails for a while then i will do that...just not sure where to go from here

    i'm so glad that you figured out what was going on with your heel and also, asics ARE THE BEST RUNNING SHOES!! i have the GT2000 and they're like running with angles caressing your feet :D

    Vodka and Soda

  3. My PF struggles seem to mirror yours pretty closely and the recovery techniques are very similar as well. One of the things I found helpful was custom orthotics. Another was using a towel before you get out of bed in the a.m. and looping it under the ball of your affected foot and gently extending your leg while pulling the top of your foot back towards you. I also managed to find a pair of slippers with gel insoles, to absorb some of the early-morning shock. Glad to hear you're pretty close to 100%, I know it's something where you feel as though you're NEVER going to heal when you first get it!.

  4. I am glad you are recovering so well! I have not had a serious injury yet...knock on wood. My running partner has been plagued though. I think what you said about recovery time is so important. Now if only I could get my running partner to listen!

    Miss Adventures in Running

  5. I'm sorry you're going through this pain! Hopefully you are on the road to recovery. I would suggest you see if the store will take back your Brooks. The running store here that I go to has a one month trial period and if you want to take them back within that month, they will. Good luck and happy HEALING.

  6. I am currently struggling with PF. It is such a frustrating thing for a runner to have :(

  7. I'm so bad about stretching, icing, and recovery. I wonder if that's one of the reasons I've been getting such pain in my feet during my long runs.

  8. Sorry to hear about the injury (I have certainly had my share and they are always so frustrating) but glad to see that you are blogging again!
    I am actually just now (fingers crossed after 5 good runs) basically completely over some plantar fasciitis. I know where I got it (from running in track spikes… never ever going to do that again) and what I found (and I hope this helps) that finally did the trick is seriously loosening my calves.
    Generally the plantar is tight because of a structure higher up that is tight and pulling on it.
    Stretching didn’t do the trick… I had to have it deep (painfully deep with a Graston tool) massaged to finally get them to free up.
    It made all the difference. I really wish I would have known that my calves were the issue sooner… but what are you going to do.
    You might consider making an appt with a massage therapist to really try and open up your calves and see if that doesn’t help.
    Best of luck and am looking forward to your being 100%!


  9. So glad the heel is healing :) Boy, do I know about injuries. I feel like I've been injured more than not for the past three years. I still haven't gotten very good at dealing with them, though. The one thing I do right now, though, is being more cautious and taking time off at the first sign of a potential injury.
    Sounds like you'll be back in no time!

  10. I'm sorry to hear about your heal! So scary that you couldn't put weight on it. Thats when I would have a panic attack and it sounds like you were more level headed than I would be :) Haha It is amazing what some time off for resting and a little TLC can do. I found that a lot of my soreness decreased dramatically when I started icing more regularly. And taking time off to heal my injuries is helping things feel faster, rather than just pushing an injury out even longer.

    I'm also in the same boat as you... I have at least one pair of gently used running shoes I don't know what to do with. If you find a good place to sell yours, do share, will you? :)

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  13. That week, the heel torment deteriorated and more awful. I'd discover myself strolling on my tip-toes at home to abstain from putting weight on my heel. By Thursday, the heel torment expanded to a point where I could scarcely walk. What's more terrible - the agony spread to my curve, which was swollen and somewhat blue.

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