Back in July I started to experience heel pain in my left foot after running. The diagnosis? Inflammation of the fascia running along the bottom of my foot, from my toes to the heel. Otherwise known as plantar fasciitis.
My doctor showed me some exercises to do and sent me home with a warning that this thing could take up to a year to recover from. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I also knew the exercises wouldn’t help me if I didn’t figure out and address the underlying cause of the inflammation.
Healing the inflammation
So I stopped my running plan immediately, increased my intake of anti-inflammatory turmeric & ginger supplements, and started twice-daily foot mobility sessions with a lacrosse ball (this protocol + the mobility squat + foot stretch kneeling, all for 10-12 mins total). Most importantly, I would do this stretch (with the band closer to my toes than mid-foot to help deepen the stretch) before getting out of bed every morning.
Soon enough my acute pain was gone, but I knew that if I went back to running, the pain would come back. And when I ran two Spartan Races in September it did come back.
Rooting out the cause
I suspect the cause of the inflammation was that my running volume had been increasing while my running form was stagnating. My ankles were quite inflexible and my feet weren’t always landing right. Add to this that I was only 6 months into running in low-drop shoes; after years of cushioned Asics and of course I was just waiting to board the injury train.
So to fully recover, I’d need to work on my running form alongside the feet-strengthening and mobility exercises.
The recovery action plan
Today, I’m ready to get back to business. You’ll even see some activity on my Strava – finally! And although I’m talking about a specific foot injury here, you can apply this recovery system to coming back from any injury.
Here’s how I’m getting back into running post plantar fasciitis:
- Ankle and foot mobility. I use the lacrosse ball on my feet every day, same protocol as above. I also gave up my daytime shoes that were a bit too narrow in favour of wider (read: clown-y) ones to help me use my big toe better and walk correctly when I’m not training.
- Ankle and foot stability work. Alongside my usual leg strengthening exercise, I’ve added additional ones targeting specifically my feet and ankle mobility. I’m also more conscious of how I use my feet when I’m lifting. Previously, my knee would sometimes cave in slightly during single leg lifts and deadlifts, but focussing on how I push from my feet has helped with that. I’ve also gotten back to doing slant board exercises before every run.
- More squats. What used to be my least favourite lift is now crucial for helping me improve ankle mobility. I especially like split bulgarian squats because they’re easier to get the form right whilst still using ankles.
- Practicing my running form. V’s making me read the book Chi Running, which is surprisingly helpful in improving my form given how woo-woo the title makes it sound. I’m easing myself in with the runs – most being easy at <75% HR – so I can focus on keeping proper form. By proper form I mean:
1. Leaning forward with the core engaged so the gravity can do its work and pull my body forward.
2. Focusing on fore-foot / mid-foot strike at all times. I’m doing specific drills with V’s help, which we’ll cover in more detail in upcoming posts.
3. Practising correct arm swings. Just like the majority of runners – I suffer from years of incorrect running, where my arms tend to swing across my body rather than on the sides. If you do this, your legs will cross over too. This is because your legs follow your arm swings directly, both in speed and the angle. When running you want to swing your arms straight at the sides, as if you’re holding two ski poles.
- Cross-training to supplement volume. Until I’m ready to dial up my running volume, I’m adding in cross training to supplement HR-based training. I’ll do a combination of cycling and rowing, similar to what V suggested here.
- Rolling calves and mobility in general. I’ve always been good at skipping mobility sessions. Oops. Seeing how much foot mobility work has helped my recovery has stirred me from that and I know I need to stick with rolling my calves regularly. Check out this post for a full lower body mobility routine.
Ever had an injury you had to recover from? Share your best tips below!