How I’ve Managed my Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis. Two words that send a shiver up the spine of any runner. As dirty a pair of words as shin splints. And exactly what I’ve been dealing with for the last few months.

I’m not going to lie. It’s been miserable, and painful, and I don’t have a quick-fix, miracle cure for you. And just because it worked for me, doesn’t mean it will work for you. But I thought I would share with you what I’ve done to try and get over this miserable affliction effectively, because if just one of these helps with your recovery, that’s got to be a good thing, right?

REST

First and foremost I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to lay off the running. But you knew that didn’t you? You just didn’t want to hear it. I feel you.

If there is pain, don’t run on it.

It doesn’t matter what races you’ve got planned or how long you’ve been training for them- I had to miss out on 6 different events from 5ks to half marathons whilst dealing with this injury – it’s better to take 3 months off now, then run on it and end up having to take double that off (or worse). There are other sports you can do instead. For me, that’s been spinning and swimming.

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GET DIAGNOSED

If you’ve got pain that is mostly in the heel, and it’s at its worst first thing in the morning when you get out of bed, chances are it’s plantar fasciitis. But the root cause of the PF could be due to tight calf muscles or any number of things, and it’s best to get a professional to take a look at you so that they can help with the best course of action. I worked with Megan from the FAST Clinic, and one of the best things she did for me – other than be endlessly patient and tell me that yes, I will get out running again – was tell me that it’s not enough to just rest tendons – they need to be strengthened as well.

STRENGTHENING

Once Megan and I had established that mobility and flexibility weren’t the issue for me, she gave me a few strengthening exercises to do at home. One was standing back from a wall and falling towards it with my hands out to catch myself whilst keeping my legs straight and my feet flat. But the ones that I feel made the greatest difference for me were adapted heel raises. Rather than just standing on a stair and going up and down on my toes (dropping the heel below the height of the step as far as I’m able), I was going up on both toes, but only down on the bad foot. I also had the toes of the bad foot stretched upwards on a rolled up towel as I did this. After a while, I started adding weights, first with a few plates (around 4kg worth) in a rucksack on my back before moving to kettlebells up to 10kg (you’ll need a hand free to hold on to a rail, otherwise you WILL stack it). Once my foot had become used to being loaded up again (when you run the force through your foot is considerably more than your body weight) it was time to think about running again.

REHAB

Most people who have had PF will tell you that you should roll out the fascia (essentially the mid foot area) on a tennis/golf/cricket ball, and I’ve found this to be great advice. My ball of choice is a lacrosse ball as it’s a good size but smooth on the skin, and I got mine off Amazon. You can also roll your foot on a small bottle of frozen water as ice can help with the inflammation.

I also went to see a sports massage therapist in Ely called Becky Case-Upton. I know Becky from my gym, and she has this infectious energy for life, and a serious appetite for learning about the human body, and after Justin from “You’re Running What” had raved about her I knew I had to see her, and I am so, so glad I did. Becky is a phenomenal therapist, and I feel like seeing her was the final missing puzzle piece in my recovery. I’ve been recommending her to everyone, which I may live to regret further down the line when I next need to see her and find she has a waiting list from hell, but if you’re struggling with an injury she should definitely be someone to consider seeing.

ADDITIONAL SUPPORT

I tried a few different other things to help with my PF including a boot to wear at night which I ditched after 3 attempts as I decided that even if it did help my PF, I still wouldn’t be able to run as I’d be too exhausted from waking up every time I rolled over when I wore the horrible thing. Others have found these to be useful though. Instead I’ve just been going to bed wearing a support sock on my foot. I’m not sure how much difference this has made to be honest, but it certainly hasn’t hurt.

I put innersoles or heel inserts into all of my shoes, and I was lucky enough to be gifted a pair of OOFOS recovery sandals that I have been wearing around my house non stop since they arrived around 5 weeks ago. Usually I potter around my house in flat slippers, but the general consensus with PF is to avoid being flat footed wherever possible. Although flip flops are generally frowned upon if you want to look after your feet, OOFOS are flip flops in looks only. They are so, so comfortable, and as their website says better than I can,  “their patented biomechanically engineered footbed helps to increase circulation and provides superior arch support”. I’m planning to get a pair of the rose gold ones to take on future travels.

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PATIENCE

I’m sorry, but with PF, you’re going to have to be patient. It’s not an easy injury to recover from, especially if you want to recover from it well, not just manage it enough so that you can keep running. I first started struggling with this in June, and now in mid September I’m finally getting out there again, starting with just a mile at a time.

I’l be honest – I’ve had some really down moments, none more than when I had to pass up my place in the Round Norfolk Relay – that was the one that caused tears. But I had more time to blog, I visited my local lido more, I supported my friends by acting as bike support on their long steady runs or cheering them on at races and I kept busy by trying new things. There are positives that can be found from being injured, including getting into good habits and being more aware of your body. And those last little runs I’ve done have been absolutely amazing.

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If you’re currently struggling with PF I really hope you find this post useful, and I hope my recovery will make you feel a bit more optimistic that you’ll get through it too. Let me know how you get on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Cope when you’re a Running Blogger who can’t Run

You know all those times when I’ve complained about how hideous running is and how much it hurts and how it sometimes makes me feel like I might die as I throw a tantrum face down in the mud? You know, the subtle stuff?

I take it all back. I’m a running blogger who can’t run, and it’s awful.

So this foot niggle that flared up 3 months ago is still going strong, and the current thinking is that it’s posterior tibial tendonitis. Trips off the tongue doesn’t it? These two fun chaps can explain it for me because I think typing the symptoms out in a blog post might tip me over the edge. Upshot is that tendonitis is an absolute bugger, and so far mine is proving to be incredibly stubborn (I wonder where it gets that from)?

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Despite my best efforts to stretch, ice, strengthen, offer up my first born to the local witch… it feels better, I run a bit, and then it feels bad again. There seems to be so little progress and it’s driving me nuts. I will admit that maybe I’ve been trying too much too soon, but in my mind 3 miles with the juniors is not a lot of running. However, when my fabulously patient physio Megan saw me last, she explained that to go from nothing to 3 miles is a lot on a bad foot, and that I need to raise up my rehab efforts and bring down my running so that they can meet somewhere in the middle. In other words, I need to dig deep and find some patience. So my foot and leg exercises are now being done with a 7kg kettlebell, and this week I’ve run for 5 x 30 seconds twice. So in a week, I’ve done 5 whole minutes of running. Insert massive hurrumphy sigh here.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know that in the grand scheme of things I’m extremely lucky. I’ve met runners who have battled back from strokes and blood clots, and people who rock up to parkrun week in/week out and have to run/walk it in 50 minutes because they have an illness that prevents them from doing anything more. But running is a huge part of my identity, and after three months of this, I’ll admit that I’m struggling. On a Sunday I find being on Facebook and Twitter really difficult as I see friends celebrate great races, flash their medal bling and record PBs. I’ve had to miss out on two club runs already this season, as well as some of my favourite races like the Town and Gown 10k.

BUT. As difficult as I’m finding it, I’m not going to shut myself off from the world of running. I’ve been volunteering at parkrun, cycling whilst friends run, getting involved in ukrunchat on Twitter, organising my running club’s Christmas parties and congratulating friends on their achievements. I know I’ll be back there soon. I know I will. I just wish it could be sooner rather than later.

In the meantime I’m climbing more, doing yoga, and finding cardio alternatives to keep myself sane. Against my better judgement I’ve even promised my husband that I’ll try a spin class despite claiming that hell would have to freeze over before I would even consider it. He said “even if you hate it and least you’ll get a blog post out of it.”

How well he knows me.

 

 

What I wish I knew when I started running

So this weekend I went to Germany for 24 hours to surprise one of my best friends for her Hen Party. It was an insane whistle-stop tour taking in Frankfurt, Viernheim and Mainz, and for anyone who knows me, this is a big deal, because I hate to fly. I mean REALLY hate to fly. And I hate to fly with a certain Irish airline most of all. I’m only a little bit ashamed to admit that there were tears during take off on the way out. They may have been exacerbated by the glass of champagne I had at the airport to “calm my nerves”.

Now I’m sure you’re all wondering “what’s this got to do with running? Are you going all travel blog on me?” No, wait – hear me out. It was the Mainz marathon this weekend…..

But that’s got nothing to do with it either. That was just a coincidence. Are you crazy? I don’t do marathons (yet).

No, the inspiration for this blog post comes from a fellow-passenger on the flight home, aka THE WORLD’S MOST CHATTY SLASH SOCIALLY INEPT MAN.

Bless his heart. There’s a possibility he was trying to distract me from my fear of flying, but after he told me how he’d “graffiti-ed the toilet” when he took a mid-flight comfort break (better core strength might have prevented that), I think he was just severely lacking in “social barriers”.

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Core strength is a runner’s friend

I mean at one point I turned my back to him and held my magazine right up to my face and he still kept on chatting. And I take after my dad – I’ll generally chat to everyone rather than offend them in any way, but I was seriously at the end of my tether when he asked me how I had found the pound versus the euro and then proceeded to complain about his onset of manboobs (his words, not mine).

And here’s the point of this blog post – we somehow got on to he subject of running and he started to ask my advice, which made me think I should share the three things I wish I’d known when I started running.

1. Breathing is EVERYTHING

When I first started running my breathing was all over the place. I would do anything just to get breath into my lungs, taking great erratic gulps until I got a stitch in my stomach that felt like it would split me in half and force me to stop. Then I got my hands on The Complete Book of Running for Women by Claire Kowalchik, and it changed everything. Even though the book was published in 1999, everything it says (with the exception of tape players – keep up kids – and the lack of fitness/tracking gadgets) is still completely relevant.

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Awesome shorts optional

The section on “rhythmic breathing” is what did it for me. This is where you coordinate your breathing with your stride in a 3:2 ratio (or 2:1 for faster runs), so this means you inhale for 3 steps and exhale for 2. The thinking behind this is that you hit the ground with the greatest force at the beginning of the exhalation, so by making sure this happens on alternate legs each time means the stress on your body is spread out, rather than only happening on one side, which is what is going to give you a stitch. It takes a little while to get used to it but I guarantee that in a couple of weeks it’ll be second nature, and you’ll never look back. Plus I know from my own experience that during long races, when I start “hitting the wall”, I simply forget about the pain I’m feeling and focus on my breathing. That soon gets me back on track.

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Order this immediately

2. Get Your Gait Analysed

This is one of the things “socially awkward man” asked me on the plane. Is getting your “feet looked at” worth it? My answer to this is always YES. For a long time I wore Asics as they had always been my preferred trainers mainly due to my liking the way they looked (vacuous, moi?). However they tend to be pretty narrow in the mid-section, and I found that on longer runs my feet were obviously swelling and had no room to fully expand. Then after I did my IT band in (more on that another time), I was advised to get my gait analysed. This involves running on a treadmill and watching the footage back in slow motion to see how you land on your foot, and whether you’re a neutral runner of whether you under or over-pronate and therefore need trainers that will correct this.

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Not my legs. Someone else’s legs

If I’m honest I thought it was just a way for shops to sell you the most expensive pair of trainers on the shelf, but I figured I had nothing to lose so I gave it a go, and I’ve been a Brooks Adrenaline GTS girl ever since. And guess what? No more IT band issues (and they helpfully look AWESOME too). Plus you’re spoilt for choice in Cambridge with Hobbs Sports, Up & Running and Advance Performance all offering Gait Analysis (although when you go you should be intending to buy your trainers from them rather than just exploiting their service)! Just be prepared for the fact that you may catch a glimpse of your bum in slow motion. Rarely flattering.

3. Make the Foam Roller Your Best Friend

Ever since I did my IT band in, I’ve foam rolled it regularly to prevent it from getting too tight. However, I neglected the rest of my legs and when I strained a tendon and ligament in my foot after the Cambridge Half Marathon, my screamingly tight calves suggested that I needed to step up my foam rolling game, sharpish. So now I foam roll all of the muscles in each leg for 10-15 minutes every day, usually whilst watching cat videos on my tablet (don’t judge me).

Foam rolling is much like a sports massage, and every time you hit a sore spot you just have to toughen up and keep your weight on it for 30-60 seconds until you feel it easing up. There are loads of online tutorials for foam rolling specific muscles, and it’s a fairly inexpensive bit of kit, but trust me – it’s one of the best habits you could possibly get in to. I cannot recommend it enough.

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Awesome leggings optional

So there you go – my list of must-dos for those new to running. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my time but hopefully with this blog post I can stop one or two other newbies from making the same ones.