Plantar fasciitis is every runner’s worst nightmare. It’s one of the most debilitating injuries, and recovery requires more than just rest. Fortunately, in more than 40 years of running, I’ve never been afflicted with plantar fasciitis. Until last week.
Before I post my 2-week training update, I wanted to share what happened and why, and what I’m doing about it.
Can the Chassis Support the Aerobic Engine
Coming off 56 miles over the past 2 weeks (on 11 days), I ran a challenging workout on Tuesday, June 18. The workout comprised a 2-mile tempo in 15:00 (1st mile: 8:00 and 2nd mile: 7:00) on the Waveny trails, 1 minute rest, 1 mile to the track, followed by 6x 200 meters (with 200 meter jog between reps) from 39 seconds down to 37 seconds, and a 1/2 mile cooldown. My workout felt awesome! Running 200’s at 5 minute mile pace after a tempo run was crazy! The next morning I felt pain in my left heel when I woke up. The pain subsided throughout the day, but was still present.
The Wheels Come Off
The next four days, I slowed things down a little and ran 3 miles each day on trails. Although my left heel was still painful, I was able to run, and decided to go long on Sunday with a 9-mile run. It was my longest run since fall 2018, and a huge boost for my confidence. On Monday, I decided to shut it down. The heel pain increased again, and I came to terms with the fact that I am suffering from plantar fasciitis. Very simply, plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the fascia (tissue) that runs across the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the toes.
Why did this happen? The fascia provides support to the arch, but is unable to absorb significant stress during propulsion because of poor mechanics up the kinetic chain. The cause could be stemming from unstable ankles, tight calves, weak glute medius, and limited thoracic extension and rotation. The amount of propulsive force during my workout on Tuesday, June 18 (tempo run and 200’s) put too much stress on my fascia, and probably caused the inflammation. It’s possible (likely?) that workouts leading up to Tuesday had already stressed my fascia (plantar fasciitis is considered a repetitive stress or overuse injury).
Treat the Causes, Not the Symptoms
Recovery from plantar fasciitis requires both rest and addressing the causes that led to the injury. But above all, it requires patience and accepting that rushing back may actually delay full recovery. This is not an injury to run through, and there are no accurate estimated recovery timetables. I am dealing with the downtime two ways: 1) consolidating my fitness gains (244 miles over past 10 weeks on 54 days of running), and 2) identifying and strengthening kinetic chain weaknesses (most likely calves and glutes).
Realize the Opportunity!
I’ll be resting 7 days, Monday is a planned day off, and then re-evaluate on Tuesday. Rather than worry about losing fitness gains, I consider this an opportunity to give my body (and mind) a well-deserved break, and spend the time to work on my weaknesses. It’s important when injury interrupts training, to keep a “glass half full” mentality, and to stay positive.
Photo: ProStretch stretching tool from Medi-Dyne. Made in USA. Retail $33.
Important Note: Nothing in this blog post is intended or should be considered as medical advice. I am not a physician or medical expert. I am sharing my own experience as a runner with overuse injuries. Please consult a physician with any medical issues.