This is my long winded sob story of how I got plantar fasciitis and what it took to get me back on the road to recovery. Did I mention it’s a long story?
On May 21, 2016, I caught the PF. I had a few friends that had it and knew it was something I did not want. A la Murphy’s Law, I kinda half expected I would get it someday.
About seven months prior to the PF prognosis in October 2015, my dad had a stroke. On top of that, there was a major adjustment at the company I was working for. Both occurred within days of each other.
Due to poor training during this transition, I suddenly found myself with a knee pain issue stemming from a torn PCL from high school soccer. This forced me to stop running and limited my CrossFit. I had been tackling this with physical therapy with not much progress.
Two months later, I found myself with a new job. My dream job actually. I transitioned from my previous job where I could wear sneakers to work to one that required work shoes or my favorite, flip flops. I also found myself walking more. I had to park my car further away, was more active walking in general and carried more bags to work. Yes, I am the bag lady: purse, laptop, lunch cooler, workout bag, coffee and water bottle. I’m sure my neighbors get a good chuckle watching me try to get out the front door in the morning.
My dad passed away seven months later in May. Suddenly I noticed my knee issue was magically gone. It was good timing as I mentally needed to run. I started running, though nothing extreme. I also started back at CrossFit, again, nothing crazy. Unfortunately since I was already off strength wise due to my bad knee, I unknowingly set myself up for a nice long extended stay with PF.
Leading up to a local fitness competition I was helping organize, I started noticing pain in my foot. Assuming it was tendinitis (another injury I tend to get), I visited the onsite physical therapist sponsor during a break in the competition for free ASTYM. I explained the annoying pain and the therapist exclaimed “oh. That’s plantar fasciitis, not tendinitis.” I cringed. When it comes to Plantar Fasciitis, as long as it hadn’t been officially diagnosed, it isn’t really real, right?
I swear he cursed me. Immediately, getting up in the morning was painful. My foot would throb at night when I went to bed. I stopped running. I stopped crossfit. It was like some form of jail sentence. I lived from home, went to work, but every step was painful. All normal activities were a big deal. If I wanted to go to the grocery store, I had to plan out what I was getting and in what order to make the most efficient route so I wasn’t walking that far or standing that long. I had just bought a house. I had to mow the yard. Packing was unbearable. I was miserable.
I bought a boot that looks like a walking cast to sleep in at night. I did nothing for two months. That helped but didn’t fix the issue. Two months later, I was in the same place just fatter. I tried deep tissue massage. No change.
I went to a podiatrist who gave me a cortisone shot. Holy **** that hurt. I felt amazing! The week after, I had a relaxing romwod session and was just amazed at how fantastic I felt. I decided to go on a test run. Now a test run for me is nothing crazy. I take a very conservative run/walk 0.25 mile run (aka 400 meters) around the block. I didn’t even make it a full quarter mile. I limped my way back to the house defeated.
A friend who had recovered from PF previously recommended active release therapy at Dr. Iselborn Chiropractic. There I started receiving Dry Needling. For this, they put tiny needles in the bottom of my foot and calf. Then it’s connected to a machine that emits a low electric current. You then lay there for 15-20 minutes while this is happening. The goal is to reduce pain and muscle tension. This was really painful. The first day I had this, I burst into tears out of frustration. I did this 2 times a week for three months and saw improvement, but no resolution.
In addition to what I’ve mention, I’ve also tried several other things:
- Icing including rolling with a frozen water bottle
- Heating pad
- Voltarin Gel
- New shoes – both new Saucony running shoes and a pair of Altras
- Shoe inserts
- Ultrasound (sound not imaging)
- TENS machine
- Epsom Salt Bath
- Mobility exercises from Kelley Starrett, Mobility WOD
- rolling with a lacrosse ball
All of which didn’t really help.
I also added daily supplements to my diet including Krill Oil, Turmeric and Bromelain, Curcumin, Vitamin K-2, Magnesium, C-1000, Pantothenic Acid, Ginger Root, B12 and probiotics. If you were to join me for breakfast at my house, I looked like a freak.
I got new “Plantar Fasciitis” friendly shoes, Altras. These have a super cushiony heel with a weird rounded sole. These seems to help as there was less impact directly onto my heel.
I also bought a heel stretcher. I continue to use it today. It feels amazing. There are two stretches with this. Stand upright to stretch your heel which is the traditional way to use it. Next, while doing that, bend over at your hip and try to touch your toes. This drives the stretch up the back of your leg targeting your higher calf and hamstring. Wowszas!
In January, 8 months after my initial diagnosis, I started physical therapy at Cora Rehab in Riverside. They were the fourth doctor I’d seen for this issue. They were amazing! I loved that everything I did, I did with not just the bad leg, but the good leg. They had me focus on balance and strength exercises coupled with ASTYM. When I got ASTYM, it was on my right leg (bad foot) and the left leg (good foot). The balance exercises surprisingly made a huge improvement. When I started, I had major pain in the arch of my foot. These exercises made the muscles of my foot stronger easing the pressure on the plantar. This eliminated the pain in the arch leaving me with just pain in the heel. This was still plantar fasciitis, but definitely progress.
Another odd surprise happened that I have to share. I went to a 20s, 60s, 80s party called Party of the Decades at the Budweiser Brewery. To perfect my 80s outfit, I borrowed some roller skates from Skate Station Mandarin (who ROCK by the way. They were so awesome about my borrowing these skates.) I managed to skate around that entire brewery while drinking for 3 hours without falling. (Don’t worry, we ubered that evening.) My foot was tired and the whole night felt like one long physical therapy session. The next day, my foot felt great! To this day, I continue to roller skate about every other month or so. It’s pretty fun!
After doing physical therapy for a while, I realized the rounded sole of the Altras was actually making it harder for me to maintain balance doing exercises. I had better luck if I just went barefoot at physical therapy. I headed out and bought a brand new pair of shoes at 1st Place Sports. This time, New Balance. Huge fan. I used to wear Saucony brand before, but the most recent version of the shoe I had been buying was completely different. In talking with the team at 1st Place Sports, they fitted me with a New Balance shoe that I swore was exactly like my old Saucony. They seriously know their stuff over there.
After a few months, my insurance ran out, so we switched to just doing ASTYM 2-3x a week. I love ASTYM. ASTYM is a form of soft tissue therapy where they rub hard pieces of plastic along the back of your calf, knee, ankle and foot. It’s done with lotion but can still really hurt. Afterwards, the relief is amazing. I further saw improvement doing this consistently, but still would have issues if I started doing any physical activity. I still wasn’t able to run. If I did any crossfit moves with hops or jumps like cleans or snatch, it would flare up again. Just deadlifting was an issue.
I seemed to be almost healed but still a nagging pain remained keeping me from doing the things I enjoyed: running and crossfit. I met with Dr. Esser at Southeast Orthopedic to learn about PRP, platelet rich plasma, which is a type of stem cell procedure. It’s quite painful. It’s also not covered by insurance. Out of pocket, it would cost me around $600 a session. Most likely I would need 3 sessions. So I hadn’t done this yet.
There’s also the option for surgery to cut the fascia releasing the tension. This is a last resort option in my mind.
In talking with Dr. Esser, he also highlighted diet including a low inflammation, low sugar diet. The diet he wanted to put me on was quite restrictive which I wasn’t mentally ready for yet. After I finished freaking out, I did think that maybe he was onto something. So I made friends with the crew at SuperFit Foods. I started their meal delivery service. This would give me a reason to restrict my dining out to true nights out with friends and avoid laziness eating like Jimmy Johns delivery. (Pretty sure local sales at Jimmy Johns has dropped sharply.)
Then a few weeks ago my allergies flared up. I’ve never had much success with allergy medications, and I’m also allergic to all sorts of ingredients in medications like dyes. As a result, the doctor put me on prednisone. Previously I’ve received a Kenalog cortisone shot, but since I hadn’t been there in just over three years, he wanted me to try prednisone first. Prednisone was serious stuff. I had no idea! I felt awful almost immediately. My heart rate was running which was a typical side effect. My face flushed bright red like a suntan. This was embarrassing. This was all manageable though. It was after I was off the prednisone I saw the most immediate impact, prednisone withdrawal is no joke. I was irritable and cranky. I snapped at a coworker. I got weird acne.
…my foot was better. It was almost too good to be true. After having Plantar Fasciitis for over a year, as well as fighting injuries for over a year and a half, I didn’t trust it. It seemed just like the cortisone shot I’d had previously. So I ignored it. I pretended I still had an issue. And kept doing what I’d been doing.
[SIDE NOTE – before y’all run out and ask your doc for a prednisone prescription, this did not cure me. I really do believe physical therapy with Cora helped fix some of the underlying issues I was having. The prednisode seems to have reduced the lingering inflammation I was having. Knowing the side affects of prednisone, I do NOT recommend anyone just ask for this. If my plantar fasciitis came back, I’m not even sure I would take prednisone again.]
I also dealt with a weird guilt. I felt like I cheated by taking the prednisone and having my foot get better. Isn’t that strange? Like taking a diet pill instead of doing the workout.
After a few weeks, it was still feeling great, so Cora let me try out the Alter-G. I’d tried this before and had a blast when the machines first came to Jacksonville. It was fun to try it out again. It was amazing to run again! It felt so good to go fast! I did intervals on the Alter-G, running for a minute and then walking for 30-seconds.
Since this was successful, I decided to start integrating new old things into my life. I went back to CrossFit still highly restricted no running or jumping. When this went well, I decided to slowing start adding things. I call it “test retest.” One day, I added step up and step downs. Stepping down only on my good foot. Then I would wait two days to see how I did. That was fine. Then I tried step back, step up burpees with no jump. That went fine as well.
So I’m happy to say I appear to be progressing! I’ve since graduated to a real treadmill at the Y. I walk 0.25 mile, then run 0.25 mile and repeat. I’m now up to a total 1 mile of running. I’m continuing with the CrossFit. I also purchased resistance bands to use at home. I’m still terrified it will return, but hopeful I may return to better than where I was before this mess all happened. Fingers crossed!