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Running with Plantar Fasciitis – how I’ve treated it at home and with professionals’ help

I’ve been running with plantar fasciitis for about 6 weeks and while it’s obviously super frustrating, things have starting improving since I’ve been very diligent about treating it. There hasn’t been one magic bullet and it’s taken consistency with many things for a few weeks to see improvement – but it’s finally getting better.

Here’s what I’ve been doing to keep running with plantar fasciitis:

  • massage

I have an amazing massage therapist who works to identify and treat the root cause of problems which I really appreciate. I have had a lot of problems on my left side for the last couple of years, include glute problems, hamstring problems, hip problems, and now this plantar fasciitis. All on my left side. He thinks this stems from my mild scoliosis and an uneven pelvis resulting in one leg being slightly longer than another – and a major lack of mobility in my hips. He has been working to address all of that for a few months, but when I came to him with my plantar fasciitis problem, he’s been working specifically to loosen my calf and massaging bottom of my foot. And by massaging I mean, nearly putting me in tears by working the crossgrain. It SUCKS but it works.

  • needling and scraping

In addition to regular massage, I’ve been going to my physical therapist 1-2x a week for needling and scraping. Thankfully, she is a runner herself so she gets how frustrating it is to be running with plantar fasciitis. (Or, uh, not running.) And also thankfully, she hasn’t needled my foot, only my calf, hamstring and glute (again, all on that dang left side!). She does, however, scrape the bottom of my foot with the astym tool, which is unbelievably painful, but effective. (I have a post all about needling and scraping coming soon!)

  • reducing mileage

Alas, this was probably the hardest part! For the first few weeks, I cut my mileage back a LOT – like down to 5 miles a week. I was still cross-training, but only with things that didn’t hurt, which was mostly upper body lifting, rowing and yoga. The elliptical felt horrible (almost worse than running) so I completely avoided that.

  • adding mileage back in

I gradually increased my mileage, and if things started to hurt worse, I backed it back off. For a couple weeks, I kept my runs around 3-5 miles, which was tough coming off marathon training. I went from running nearly every day and over 50 miles per week while training for Boston to running once a week for a while, and then a couple times a week. But pain was my guiding star. If things felt like they were getting worse, I took an extra day off. If things felt about the same or slightly better, I let myself run again, maybe increasing mileage a little.

Once things were gradually improving, I found that running actually seemed to help – just as my PT said it might. She suggested since my plantar fasciitis wasn’t super severe that I not take too much time off since my body needed to learn to run with the looser muscles we were creating from needling and scraping. I was so happy I was able to run in San Francisco and Utah!

san-francisco-running-routes

  • massing arnica gel into my sole

Maybe it’s in my head, but massaging arnica gel into the sole of my foot each night (and really digging in and trying to break up scar tissue) seemed to help! I added this in while traveling, and I really noticed a big improvement. And when I stopped after getting back home from Utah, I swear things got a little worse. So, I’ve started this back up once again!

  • lacrosse ball rolling

I keep my lacrosse ball in my bathroom and roll my foot on it while I’m blowdrying and curling my hair, doing my makeup and brushing my teeth. Sometimes I roll it along my sole and other times I just apply pressure to my foot on tight spots.

  • wearing shoes with support

I really like going barefoot around the house. Buuuutttt that’s really bad for plantar fasciitis. So, I’ve been wearing my Birkenstocks (I have these and these) or my New Balance Cruz around the house (and whenever I walk Maizey). It’s a bummer that I can’t wear cute sandals but hey, my favorite sandals are pretty beat up anyway and I haven’t replaced them yet. Maybe a new pair will be a nice reward when I’m plantar-fasciitis-pain-free! When I was in San Francisco for work, I couldn’t exactly wear Birkenstocks to the office so I wore sneakers walking from the hotel and then changed into comfortable block booties when I got to the office. I did the same thing when I had work dinners, changing shoes before going into the restaurant.

running with plantar fasciitis

  • going back to my usual running shoes

I think part of the reason I got plantar fasciitis is that I completely changed up my shoes post-Boston. After the race, I was all excited to be done with serious training, wanted to try some new shoes and ordered the Nike Pegasus and Adidas Aerobounce. I honestly loved both shoes when I got them so I started running in those and pretty much abandoned my previous shoes, the Adidas Bostons and Nike Zoom Elite.

I don’t necessarily think the Pegs or Aerobounce were bad, but I think the change was too dramatic and too fast. In retrospect, I feel a little dumb that I was so careless since I should know better. And I should have gradually switched to them (like I’ve always done with new models) rather than switching so abruptly. So, I’ve been running only in my Adidas Bostons or Zoom Elites, which my body seems to be happy with for now.

  • avoiding speed work

I really love tempo runs, intervals and any speed work but I’ve been staying away from those workouts since they can tighten calves by putting me up on my forefoot more than easy runs. I’m hoping I can start to add these workouts back in a few weeks!

  • stretching, especially my calves

Part of what’s causing my plantar fasciitis is that my calves are insanely tight. My PT describeD them as “complete rocks” and it was hard, even for her, to get them to release with needling and scraping. My hamstrings are also very tight, so I’m stretching (even for 5 minutes) after every run, focusing on my hamstrings and calves and trying to do yoga 1-2x a week.

SO NOW WHAT?

I’m not totally pain-free so I plan to continue with this approach until all pain is gone. It feels like a lot but at least I am still able to run and have been able to work back up to about 30 miles per week!

Have you struggled with plantar fasciitis? If so, how did you treat it?

Lots of people suggested rolling my foot on a frozen water bottle, but it didn’t seem to help me! It didn’t seem hard enough to break up the scar tissue and apparently there is conflicting research on whether cold or heat is more helpful. I got a ton of helpful tips in the comments of this post too so check that out if you struggle with plantar fasciitis!

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  • Liz
    at

    I’ve struggled with plantar fasciitis as well!! Also during running and crossfit, though more from running.
    A few things no one mentioned that I think help: when mine was really bad I got in the habit of giving my foot an ice bath (in a big Tupperware) for 10-15 mins after every run, especially long ones. I also got a little foot rest for under my desk at work- I’m short, and didn’t realize how much I was pointing my toes all day to reach the ground! There’s also a ton of night splints, though I can’t tell if they make any difference or not…..

    • Teri [a foodie stays fit]
      at

      Oh a foot bath is a great idea! And I NEVER thought about how my foot points all day under my desk – I just stacked some books. HA!

  • Brittany V
    at

    My chiropractor, who also was in sports medicine, told me to try taping my foot – there’s tons of videos on YouTube! I did it during the day when the foot pain was really bad-it supports and mimics the fascia in your foot while the tears are healing. I didn’t do it often while I was running bc it felt really unnatural and changed my gait

    • Teri [a foodie stays fit]
      at

      I just got some QuickTape today!! I swear it feels better! I need to figure out how to get it tighter though – I want more pressure!

  • Kristen S
    at

    This is going to sound weird but pay attention to how you sleep. If you sleep on your stomach, your toes are often forced into pointing. This has caused tight calves and PF flare ups for me. Hope that makes sense…best wishes for your recovery!

    • Teri [a foodie stays fit]
      at

      I read that somewhere online and JUST got a strassburg sock to help with it because I DO sleep on my stomach!! Thanks!! <3