Plantar Fasciitis

Dec 5th 2012

Yeah, I’ve got it, alright? Plantar fasciitis. I’m not happy about it, and I’m even less happy about admitting it, but I can no longer pretend like I don’t have a running injury. This year cleared up two firsts for me: I lost my first toenail and I got my first running injury. But the toenail has grown back without issue, while the plantar fasciitis continues to vex me. The issue has become a lingering problem, lasting over a span of two months so far, never quite bad enough to stop doing anything, but always too much to do anything of note. So, naturally, I have been looking for a cure.

Plantar fasciitis, for the unaware, is problem with the “fascia” in the “plantar” area of the foot. The fascia is what’s called “connecting tissue” and brings together muscles and bones not just in the foot but all over the body, like Facebook for your body. Sometimes, as in the case of plantar fasciitis, the section of fascia running from the heel through the arch becomes inflamed, and this causes tightness and pain. I should make a note here that this is based on no research whatsoever beside my own experience with the problem. However, before you huff and puff and blow my argument away, I’d like to point out that the medical world doesn’t exactly have its stories straight on the issue either. This has become clear to me after several weeks of researching the issue both online and in conversation with other victims at our weekly, made-up “PF Sufferers Anonymous.”

Take, for example, the most common treatment: heat and ice. I’m not going to say these don’t work, but… I still have Plantar Fasciitis. Another common suggestion is flexibility, presumably based on the logic that if the fascia is tight, limbering up my body all over will reduce the tension. I’m very inflexible, so this could definitely be one of the problems, but couldn’t science give me a pill or something? I don’t want to work hard. In fact, that attitude is the reason I have done exactly three things to help my foot: ice, stretch and buy arch support to wear all the time. My enthusiasm for injuries is not very high.

From here the treatments descend from the reasonable to the wacky to the downright weird. I have been wearing a night brace on my foot, which is basically a splint that keeps the plantar flexed all night, thereby increasing flexibility and reducing stress on the foot after it has been relaxed for eight hours. Some people have suggested massage, both on the foot and on literally every other part of my body. Core strength is also supposed to help somehow, though how that could be true escapes my logic. We all know that a certain Boulder runner overcame plantar this year with the help of hyper-supportive shoes like Hokas, but even though I like running enough to try to fix this problem, I’m not sure if I like it that much. Ultrasound has been suggested to me at least twice, and I’m in favor of it. Not because I know what it is (I don’t, and it’s probably expensive anyway.), but because it’s called “ultrasound.” That sounds perfect for “ultrarunners,” right? It’s like one guy was really into music AND endurance, and one day was like, “what if I listened to music longer than the standard length of a song? It would be, like, ultrasound.” Sounds pretty progressive to me. And then, after all other treatments have failed, there’s surgery. No foot equals no pain, right?

Yesterday, at the behest of my Occupational-Therapist-Aunt Debbie, I volunteered to be a model for some of her alternative therapy friends in Boulder. Having no idea what was going on, nor what their numerous credentials meant, I acquiesced to lie down while they poked and prodded various parts of my body. According to them I have rock hard kidneys (thank you), no flexibility, an “interesting” pancreas and I don’t breathe through my belly right. They “listened” to my body and were drawn to areas such as my left abdomen (kidneys), lower back, forehead and left foot. I was told my lymph drainage system has poor flow. In fact, the only area they seemed to ignore in their analysis of my plantar fasciitis was the actual injury itself, in my right arch. When I pointed out this seeming incongruity, they dismissed without hesitation the idea that the issue came from my foot at all. Instead they insisted that my kidney’s and liver’s inability to process all of the toxins produced from exercise, as well as my poor diet, were causing issues that radiated throughout my body and manifested themselves in my foot, which is prone to weakness because I’m a runner and stress that area heavily and often. As I lay on the table wondering when they would start taking mescaline and chanting over my prone figure, they started to make sense. Perhaps the issue really isn’t directly in the foot, but more a manifestation of larger physical issues throughout my body that can be changed through overarching positive lifestyle changes. Then again, perhaps I’ve been in Boulder too long. Hard to say.

Having never suffered a running injury before, I never paid much attention to the problem. But now I understand that running injuries are a widespread – and totally unexpected – effect of running hundreds of miles on steep mountains. Who would expect their body to have trouble dealing with incessant blunt trauma like that? Not me! Anyway, to provide help to other unlucky souls like myself who get up every day and wish they could pummel themselves viciously in a desperate game of survival in the mountains (That’s what ultrarunning is about, right?), I’ve started an organization with the intent to… well, we sure won’t be able to cure anything. But we can keep you entertained. It’s called “iRunFar.com” – and I’m totally not being paid to say this – send them your money and they’ll keep supporting your addiction to “mud, mountains, miles, and more.” Bryon Powell will happily accept donations in the form of money, vehicles, small children and seats on your company’s board of directors. It’s the only way to save ultrarunning!