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.
What is the most effective treatment for plantar fasciitis?
Here’s what’s worked really well for me. I don’t think any ONE thing fixed it, but rather the combination of treatments.
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!)
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.
add 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!
How can I treat plantar fasciitis at home?
massage arnica gel into your 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.
always wear 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.
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.
What are the best running shoes for plantar fasciitis?
I don’t know if there is any one best shoe since everyone is different. But, 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.
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!