Often times the side effects of running, especially for seasoned endurance athletes, are wear-and-tear injuries. These musculoskeletal injuries include damage to our tendons, ligaments, and muscles. A common injury resulting from running is plantar fasciitis.
What is it plantar fasciitis? It is pain associated with inflammation of the plantar fascia, a band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot connecting the heel bone to the toes. What does it feel like? Well from personal experience, it's shooting pain from the heel after your first step out of bed in the morning. It lessens and becomes tolerable as the day goes on. It never fully leaves though. It may affect one or both feet and is one of the most common causes of chronic heel pain.
Who is at risk for this condition? Runners and dancers are at-risk groups for plantar fasciitis as well as overweight individuals, pregnant women, and those who have jobs requiring a lot of standing (waiting tables, factory worker, custodian, and nurse to name a few). So all of you overweight, pregnant nurses who like to run and Zumba are SOL
I alluded in the previous paragraph that I suffer from plantar fasciitis. I personally believe that years of poor, ground-pounding running form coupled with lots of jump roping (I heart double-unders) and 12-hour shifts of floor nursing are the culprits. I really did not notice my morning heel pain until a couple weeks ago. I'm aware that if I do not change things up, the pain will worsen to the point of regular activities becoming more difficult let alone CrossFitting. Also, my walking form will change which could lead to other complications like chronic soreness in the synagogues and back.
What am I doing about this? First off, I'm cutting back on the amount I'm running from 4 to 5 times per week whether it be a leisurely jog or intense interval sprints to 1 to 2 times per week. This does not mean I'm cutting back on my cardio. In place of running, I'm substituting swimming at an olympic pool and rowing on a Concept2 machine into my CrossFit work-out-of-the-days (or WODs). If I had a bike, which I do not, I would be riding too. When I do run, I'm wearing high arch supports in my shoes as well as implementing the POSE method of running (approved by CrossFit Endurance founder Brian Mackenzie) to decrease the overall risk of orthopedic injuries. In the morning, I roll a bottle (like an empty soy sauce or Heineken bottle) under my affected foot for 1-2 minutes at a time. Also, I like to roll a golf ball under my foot for the same amount of time. Both of these activities stretch out and limber the plantar fascia. There's more pain and inflammatory relief if you keep these items in the freezer overnight. After doing each of these so far, the soreness in my heel is decreasing with each week.
Of course these are noninvasive interventions and tricks and would recommend seeing a doctor if your symptoms are unbearable. When you see the doc, likely treatments may have a prescription of pain pills (NSAIDs like Tylenol or Motrin or narcotics if it's really bad) and corticosteroids. They may also get x-rays done and have you go to a physical therapist who can fit you with night splints that stretch the fascia while you sleep and customized orthotics to wear. Surgery is the last frontier of treatment but is not as common anymore. Fortunately for me, I do not need the doctor at this point taking my prophylactic approach.
Anyways, I wanted to introduce plantar fasciitis and the available treatments out there. This article is in no way adequate in explaining the condition in depth. If you suffer from or at risk for plantar fasciitis, continue to educate yourself but cross check it with a licensed healthcare provider.