I have wanted to write this post for a long time now - a post about the history of my heel and all I have done for it over the past...well, essentially two years; and how I am - thankfully - now on the mend. Crazy, busy, amazing summer got in the way and I wanted to share that with you, too (and heaven forbid I write more than once a week :)): Mt. Whitney, the Wild West Relay, numerous mountain runs, and of course my Pikes Peak Ascent race - which, btw, thanks for all the thoughtfully wonderful comments on my last post. That race truly tested every ounce of mental and physical strength I had - a highly emotional day - and it meant a lot to me for your very kind words. I'm kinda needy like that.
Additionally for my heel writing absence, though, is this whole ordeal is a rather complex concoction of so many crazy factors and truthfully, most of it is beyond the scope of my pea-sized brain; it's been hard to articulate the words logically (like that's ever been a problem before, eh?). But one thing I have learned throughout this mega month foot nightmare, Plantar Fasciitis in runners is NOT a problem with the foot and no amount of icing, rolling, orthotics, stretching - and especially taking time off from running - is going to fix it. It may slap a temporary Band-aid on it, but it is absolutely not going to fix it long term.
Let's be realistic....if one is injured, there's a reason behind it. Duh. But the vast majority of injuries runners endure are not because we didn't stretch enough, ran too far, or over-trained - contrary to popular belief. The body is pretty adaptive to the stress we put it though but if there is an imbalance in our body somewhere, and you repeatedly stress it with this imbalance, our bodies scream with an injury. My foot problem wasn't because I ran too much....if so, why isn't my other foot angry? I mean, I do try to run with both feet.
What I have learned - and not the easy way either...remember the failed cortisone shots, the boot, the time off running, the dry needling in my calf - is this: My PF and AT issues stemmed from:
- A prolonged running history of over-striding and thus heel-striking.
- A prior strained calf muscle in my "bad" foot.
- Weak hip rotators - especially on the side of the "bad" foot.
- Weak glute muscles - again, especially on the side of the "bad" foot.
- Weak core muscles
- Improper footwear (aka: traditional beefed-up, cushioned heeled shoes)
Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendinitis in runners is fairly common, I can't even tell you how many people I have met with this problem through the blog, out for a run (the last mile of Pikes Peak Ascent a couple weeks ago even), people at work, people who know runners with it ....it's endless. And it makes me angry when I hear all the things they are trying to do, because they are getting the same crappy advice I got from my podiatrist early on in this game. I could go on and on about that yet I won't, but suffice it to say, I copied a few pages out of the book Born to Run and handed them to my podiatrist and told him I wouldn't be back. I'm sure he didn't care, he lives in a house 30x the cost of mine because people buy into needing surgery or an orthotic to "fix" this mess, but at least I felt better. I was fortunate enough last spring to find someone who heard my plea to find a solution to the cause, not a quick fix Band-aid. I have always believed that the reason I had this was due to something I was doing incorrectly with my mechanics and I begged the world to listen to me. I showed my old shoes to my podiatrist, asked him to notice the abnormal wear patterns on the right shoe, to which he replied, "Jill, I fix Olympic Marathon runners with this, surely I can fix you." F-you, Dr. Farrett!! Oh yeah, I wasn't going to get into that, I momentarily forgot ... the guy gets my blood stirring with his arrogance. But back to the "other guy", Ron, a physical therapist, who found my blog and heard my cries. Ron has been instrumental in getting this fiasco over a few humps, around many corners, and returned running back into my life. He instantly identified what was wrong with my foot, he has fixed many runners like me in his clinic and told me my problem was easily fixable - with time and hard work. Here's a few words Ron wanted to share with you:
Jill represents a funny population of people. Not funny ha ha but funny as in multiple factors influence finding herself in severe heel pain. She ran herself into pain using sound running plans and history of running. She developed weakness that led to poor running biomechanics, poor biomechanics led to using her anatomy the wrong way.
Our bodies are resilient. Our bodies will find a way. We as a society continue to find easier more convenient ways of doing things. In order to run better you have to run – but run properly. Run, but use good running mechanics. Strengthen the right muscle groups, use the muscles the way they are designed and teach the foot to work appropriately.
Jill is beginning to turn this ship around and to her credit she has a huge heart. I love it when people love running as much as she does and that is why I reached out to her. It breaks my heart to see someone want to run so bad, get such crappy advice, and continue to look for answers. I do not know she if is doing the exercises I’ve given her correctly or with the right resistance and I have not been able to do a gait analysis, and I have not done any education on why she is running with less efficiency then she should. The ground reaction force is still too high and her body is not able to handle the force. Although I have not tested her, my guess is that her calves are extremely weak and her hip external rotators/extensors cannot control her hip/femur. When this happens her knee does something silly. A silly knee makes the foot do something even sillier and her heel is fed up. Despite that she is feeling her way back to marathon training.
When Jill looked for help to find a solution to the pain rather than a quick-fix it did not come. I cannot stress enough to find health practitioners who are experienced with running. Everyone will say they are, but ask for proof. “How many continuing education courses in running have you attended? How much do you run? How many runners do you see a day?” I have been to 6 running courses, including 3 times to the University of Virginia Running medicine (top researchers in running in the country) series of super relevant information to running health care providers. I run 4-6 days a week, so I can train properly myself so I can relate to what you are going through. I see 3-6 runners with this problem a day; beginners to BQers, and I am able to turn this foot pain around for them. The informed consumers get what they are looking for.
Ron writes for a professional health blog HERE, please read his articles (and please hit "like" if you could), they are filled with a lot of information every runner can benefit from.
So, what does all this mean exactly? Well, I'm running - and not just running, I've been given the green light to start marathon training!!!! Two years of heel pain, 13-months of which was so excruciating I could barely walk, and finally I am running virtually pain-free. It hasn't been easy, when I first started the mid-foot strike, I thought I was going to poke my eyeballs out, it was so slow going and I really struggled with my bad foot. But I was persistent, and after I finally decided to let the impatience go, things started to turn around. My foot's not 100% but I'll take 90% and manageable any day over what I endured the past two years.
Monday was day 1 of a 21-week marathon plan I worked up over the past weekend. I have never had to start from scratch on all levels: pace, strength, speed and endurance; this will be the biggest obstacle I will have to overcome since I started running over 35 years ago.
I'll be honest, this is going to be one of my toughest battles I've ever had to face. But don't we often love the things we have to fight for and sacrifice and claw our way to the top? My talent for marathon running is minimal at best. I don't love swimming as much as I love endurance running and I actually have a talent at swimming - it comes easily which makes it often feel cheap (well, it did, back in the day anyway). But I love the conflict and grit that comes with marathon training; I appreciate the reward so much more if I give something up and put in the work.
I encourage anyone with a running related injury to keep knocking on doors until you find the solution to your problem. Most running injuries are a direct cause of a biomechanical issue caused by a muscle imbalance. Every runner can benefit from a muscle test from a physical therapist - I promise you, you will learn so much about your weaknesses and more than likely, it's an easy fix that with patience, you can turn around and run injury-free.
I'm living proof.
I got the green light, let's get this show on the road!!!!
In other (quick) news:
- My son, Ryan, is a sophomore on the cross country team which I help coach. He has worked so incredibly hard over the summer at training camp and on Saturday, he knocked out a 19:15 5K on a very tough course in 95 degree weather .... and landed the last spot on the varsity team!! I was crying with joy - literally - it is very difficult as a sophomore to earn a varsity position and though he may not keep it the entire season, I am thrilled he gutted it out and landed it for that race. Is this a look of total determination or what?
- And lastly, I'm dealing with a pretty difficult time with my daughter which has taken me away from a lot blog reading. This, too, will pass in time, but my heart aches for her and I sincerely apologize for not being around more. I will catch up soon.
Run Strong, my friends!! :)