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B.A. Blackwood is the author of the Siren Song trilogy, a trial lawyer, a marathon runner, and indentured servant to her two couch potato pugs, Waldo and Jonesy.

How I Got Rid of My Plantar Fascitis Forever

It finally happened. I joined the two million other Americans who battle plantar fasciitis. It crept up on me, and by the time I plantar fasciitisacknowledged to myself what it was, I’d developed a good case of Achilles tendonitis to go with it. I iron-manned it through my next marathon, left foot and ankle killing me, holding off calf cramps brought on by the change in gait caused by my pain. It took me half an hour after I crossed the finish line to pick up enough steam to crawl back to my hotel room.

I’m stubborn but not stupid. I sucked it up and went to a sports doc. When I saw him I figured I’d picked the right guy. Dr. X is young, fit and competes regularly in triathlons. In other words, I assumed he got it. He wouldn’t do anything silly like tell me not to run.

Then he opened his mouth and called me “ma’am”.

Uh oh.

He gave me a gel to rub into my tendon, prescribed an anti-inflammatory and a torture device splint/sock to wear at night and told me to take 3 weeks off.  He then counseled me on the benefits of cross-training and told me my 5 to 7 days a week running life was over.

He implied that people my age should consider something less active, like knitting.

I followed his directions to the tee and started running every other day 3 weeks later. I cross-trained on the non-running days, rubbed in the gel, pulled on the torture sock every night and took my anti-inflammatory meds as directed. Although I’m religious about weight training, I added extra reps for my calves because I’d read that plantar fasciitis could be caused by weak calf muscles.

The treatment and additional weight training worked up to a point.  The minute I attempted an increased mileage week, or even two running days in a row, I’d feel the familiar tightening in my left foot and tendon. I cross-trained and did just enough running to make it through my next marathon without too much pain, but the plantar fasciitis and its accompanying Achilles tendonitis were always lurking in the background.

I knew I couldn’t keep this up. Although I could hold off serious pain with my regimen, my poor foot and tendon never really settled down completely. I didn’t know what that meant exactly, but I figured it couldn’t be good, kind of like picking at a scab and never letting it heal completely. And staying on anti-inflammatories indefinitely was a no go unless I decided that having healthy kidneys in my future was purely optional.

calf stretchThen a friend told me her doctor had advised stretching her calves constantly to treat her plantar fasciitis and that it had helped. I stretch, but only like a normal person; i.e. once a day, usually after a workout.

Hmmm. It couldn’t hurt.

So I started stretching my calves fifteen or twenty times a day. I stretched until the two minute timer on my electric toothbrush went off; while I waiting for my pugs to finish sniffing the bush and go on and pee already; while talking to frazzled clients on the phone; while watching re-runs of Law and Order; while thinking through book ideas; while peeling vegetables; and even in public while chatting with my neighbors or waiting in line at the store.

People got used to seeing me bend my front knee, plant my other leg behind me with my heel firmly on the ground, and stretch. I’m sure they thought it was a little quirky, but were too polite to say anything.

It worked! The pain and even the tightness in my foot and tendon totally went away. I threw away the torture sock, dumped the meds, got off the Elliptical trainer, upped my mileage, and felt not one single twinge of discomfort.

It’s now been two years and four marathons since my breakthrough, and I run 5 to 7 days a week.  I still stretch multiple times a day and do extra calf weights. I think both are essential.

As for Dr. X? I figure I’ll let about 10 years pass so he’ll be the same age I was when I saw him. Then I’ll drop by his office give him some gift-wrapped knitting needles.

 

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this information and your perspective. Plantar fasciitis affects many people and conservative options should be considered and made available.

    Dr. Michael Horowitz

    • B.A. Blackwood says:

      Thanks for your advice! I’ll have to check out Vancouver Orthotics next time I’m up there – love your website and fun facts.

  2. Howdy! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after reading through some of the post I realized it’s
    new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be book-marking and
    checking back often!

  3. I really used to enjoy running on the beach barefooted. Unfortunately I stepped into a small whole dug by some kids that were building sand castles and this lead to a sharp pain in my foot. I was later told that this is as a result of the stretching of the plantar fascia. I was told to take a couple of weeks rest before I start running again. There is some really good information on your site about dealing with this condition. Thanks

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  5. Just read your post and wanted to say thank you for sharing. I’ve had PF for quite a few months and tried everything else with no good results to the point of having to go to overnights at the nursing home I work at. Gives me hope seeing someone that said they aren’t dealing with it for their 8th or 9th year straight!

  6. Thanks for writing about this. I have had PF for about 18 months now. I am (was) an avid hiker and started feeling pain after I wore my hiking boots longer than I should have (the soles were so thin I could feel each rock). I tried cortisone shots and orthotics – The Dr. also prescribed stretching in the morning and icing at night. Nothing has worked. However, after reading your post, I’ve decided to start stretching again much MUCH more often to see if that helps me. I’ve always had tight calve muscles and now wonder if this is the root of the problem.
    Question: How long did it take you once you started stretching before you started feeling a difference?

    Thank you,
    Scott

    • B.A. Blackwood says:

      Thanks for reading! I started feeling a difference within two weeks, and as the article suggests, I stretched constantly while doing my everyday activities. Let me know how it goes – I hope this helps!

      Beth Ann

  7. Beth Ann – Thank you so much for this help. I’m also feeling super frustrated with my pf and especially the doctor’s non-helpful “help”. I will start that extra stretching TODAY. I’m also curious to hear more about the calf weights – what exercises do you do? I’m willing to do whatever I need to do to put this behind me.

    • B.A. Blackwood says:

      I’m so glad you found this helpful – please let me know how it goes. I do calf lifts with weights at the gym, either on a calf weight machine made especially for that or on the leg press by just putting my toes on the edge of the sled and lifting up and down. You get the same effect without weights by just standing with your toes on a curb or a stair with your heels hanging off and lift up and done. I do 6 sets of 3 two to three times a week. Good luck and I hope to hear how you’re doing! Beth Ann

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