Back in 2010 I developed plantar fasciitis and it sucked in multiple ways on various levels over many months. I searched high and low for cures and tried quite a few of them. I finally kicked it, but had to try quite a few remedies along the way, each of which had somewhere between little and great success. The last 2 things I tried did the trick, but different things work for different people, so here’s the sum total of my intrepid internet explorations into this topic.
1. I wore a boot at night (something like this). I think it helped, but I always woke up during the night to take it off because it was bothersome. Unlike my other boots, it was utterly lacking in style.
2. I rubbed castor oil on the bottom of my foot, wore two socks over it, and wrapped it in a plastic bag. The internet told me that castor oil is super sticky and will mess up anything it touches, thus the layers and wrapping. It actually helped mightily the first couple times I used it, but became an exercise in gratuitous stickiness all too soon.
3. K-tape! This stuff was great during the period when I insisted on running anyway. One strip went sideways on the bottom of the foot and extended up, and one strip went lengthwise along the bottom of my foot and up my calf. I wore it all the time, not just when I was running, which made for a dramatic look at the office. This stuff was awesome, and they provide videos showing you how to apply it for whatever ailment you have.
4. I tried an elastic arch support (something like this), but it just made my foot sad.
5. I stopped running for months at a time, but it didn’t make a difference. My foot was mad and it was staying mad.
6. I subjected my foot to deep-tissue massage and active release technique. If you’ve ever given birth, you have an idea of the pain level involved in someone digging their thumbs into the fury-filled knots of an enraged plantar fascia. My foot did feel somewhat better for a few days after, though.
7. Some folks advise that you never, for one moment, go barefoot while suffering from PF. Keep a pair of Birkenstocks next to your bed and slide them on even if you’re just getting up in the middle of the night to pee, they say. I wasn’t quite that rigorous, but I did live in Crocs flipflops.
8. Another approach is to strengthen the foot. I did the funny walking drills daily: pacing up and down my living room on the insides of my feet, the outsides, on tippy toes, on heels, duckfooted, pigeon-toed. I still do these, actually, as these exercises are part of the Rogue Running regimen. I don’t know that they helped with this problem, though—I suspect they keep the foot strong and supple to prevent problems rather than cure them.
9. The greatest pain arose about an hour after a run. If I got a compression sock on that foot in time (something like this), it made a massive difference—the difference between being able to walk and being able to walk without yowling in pain.
10. Icing and Advil: temporary fixes, not useful long-term.
11. I found by accident that giving up grains, dairy, and sugar made a HUGE difference. I started eating Paleo to combat carb addiction and didn’t really put much stock in the diet’s claim to reduce systemic inflammation (among other claims). I’d tried taking of fish oil to decrease systemic inflammation, but eating Paleo really did reduce the inflammation in a consistent, lasting way.
12. And now for the thing that really did the trick: the foot stretch. I first read about this stretch in Runner’s World (“Build Stronger Feet and Ankles“) but didn’t realize that the one plantar stretch listed was the KEY to fixing plantar fuckcitis. Then I was browsing through Amazon and found this title: The 5-Minute Plantar Fasciitis Solution. Intriguing title with good reviews, but also $29.95 for 96 pages. I noticed the negative reviews were griping about how short it was and figured someone might just spill the secret in their review. Sure enough, one worthy commenter pointed out that the 5-minute secret was the plantar stretch I’d already read about, suggesting that we all just try the stretch 30x a day and, if it worked, donate $30 to our favorite charity instead of buying this glorified pamphlet. The stretch goes like this: sitting up, cross your ankle over one knee, and pull your toes back, feeling the stretch along the bottom of your foot. The key, it turns out, is to do the stretch 10 times in a row for 10 seconds each, 3 times a day, for as long as it takes till you feel better. It becomes a lifestyle, after a while, this toe bending, and after just a couple weeks the pain had decreased significantly. If I neglected the 30x daily routine, it would return (until I started eating Paleo, at which point everything felt better and I didn’t have to live the PF lifestyle any longer). Just as that anonymous Amazon commenter suggested, I donated $30 to a worthy local charity, the Green Corn Project. If this stretching routine helps you, I suggest you donate another $30 to your favorite charity too.
- Well: No Consensus on Plantar Fasciitis (well.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Logan Forsythe out at least six weeks with plantar fasciitis (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)