Monday, September 14, 2009

Plantar Fascitis: In the Beginning...

Had an interesting experience observing the beginnings of a potential case of plantar fascitis. Since it happened to Linda I know all the details and she doesn't mind if relay the story.

When we first started training for our upcoming 50K, she was coming off of a left hip injury that essentially boiled down to having had three kids in five years with resultant pelvic instability. Hard work on her part in getting her core strong had for the most part put that issue to rest.

The one residual issue from that injury was some remaining weakness of her left foot (specifically tibialis posterior, one of the main arch supporters.) She had been working on strengthening the foot, and even listened to her wacky husband and done some barefoot running. Unfortunately not enough to get the foot where it needed to be relative to the miles she was logging. Consequently she developed some shin splints on that left side (irritation of the flexor digitorum muscle, which in my mind compensates for the weak tibialis posterior.) Fortunately this seemed to settle down fairly quickly with some aggressive treatments (anyone receiving an elbow massage to their shin splints can thank Linda for being the guinea pig on that one... she said if she were a patient of mine she would have kicked me and never have come back... but hey what can I say- it worked.)

The next thing to happen a week later was pain on the bottom of her (you guessed it: left) heel. She described it to me as this sequence: after doing a longer run while we were on vacation, she hopped in the car for a several hour drive home. She could feel things locking up (see the last post, 'Everything is Connected.') Subsequently some of her old pelvic issues resurfaced, and she could feel her entire left side down through the hip, hamstring, and calf tighten up. Some of this feeling remained on her next run, and then bingo: the next morning she had heel pain in the classic plantar fascitis location.

At that point we decided that now wasn't the time for her to be transitioning to minimal, less supportive shoes, that she just needed to do what she had to do to get through to the race. So she found some Saucony trail shoes that were more supportive. These couple with getting things rebalanced and the calf opened up seem to be doing the trick.

For me it was interesting seeing all this play out. Usually seeing someone once a week I wouldn't quite get every....single.....teeny.....weeny....itty.....bitty.... last detail of an injury like this, on a moment by moment basis. But hey, if we can all learn from this, then its all good.

So what did we learn?

1. Everything is connected.
2. Address your imbalances before training for distance (or speed.)
3. Watch out for long drives in the car, especially right before or after a long run.
4. Make sure that if you are making changes to your gait and/ or level of support from your shoes, you did it over a long, gradual period. (Just because your husband may have freakishly strong feet doesn't mean yours necessarily are.)
5. A marriage apparently can survive both training for a 50K at the same time, so long as that foot gets fixed!