Just had a question from Grant in Linkoping, Sweden. Sounds all too
familiar to me. I sent the question out to the coaches. Here are their responses:
‘Training for Gothenburg half marathon (18th May) at the moment and I’m now suffering pain in my left foot. Most probably plantar fasciitis. Classic symptom of pain with my first few steps in the morning. Taking it easy at the moment, but all I wanna do is run of course. Anyone with similar experience? I’ve been running barefoot/min since end of December. Gradually building up the mileage. What to do?’
There are a number of causes of PF, and there are some conditions that mimic PF. So, with the caveat that I’m not a doctor and that I’m not trying to diagnose you (especially not via email), here are some thoughts:
1) A common cause of PF symptoms (and actual PF) is calf tightness. Use a foam roller (check Youtube for instructions about using a foam roller on your calf) and stretch the calf.
2) Note that you’re NOT having the problem on the right side… as you walk and run, pay attention to what you may be doing differently with that “good” side. Your “bad” side may, then, adjust to match.
3) Make a video of your barefoot running, from the side and the back. Ideally, use a camera that lets you then view yourself in slow motion. Check and see if you find any differences, left to right. Look at how your foot lands. Check and see if your heel touches the ground or not (if you heel strike, that could lead to PF, and if you forefoot or mid-foot strike but don’t let your heel touch down, that could cause calf strain).
4) This is a bit extreme, but: I’ve also found that chocolate cures everything!
Feel The World!
Steven Sashen, CEO
Xero Shoes • Original Barefootware
I just knew my pretend case study on plantar fasciitis would come in useful one day.
- DO NOT STRETCH the muscles of either the foot or the calf. Until you know why there is pain, pulling something that might be tight probably won’t make it feel any better about itself … and in fact, it’s likely to feel worse. Stretching is an over-used and frequently misused tool.
- DO NOT use ICE … extremes of temperature shut down the lymphatic system which is your vehicle for removing metabolic waste fluid. Icing is an over-used tool with no medical proof of efficacy at all. It might make you feel as if you’re doing good, and it might ‘numb’ the area, but it won’t help disperse the inflammatory fluid which is part of the pain picture.
- DO NOT weight-bear after rest/sleep without first mobilising the soft tissue of the lower leg; eg whilst still in bed, rotate your ankles in both directions several times and point and flex the ankle (do not hold any stretches – this is mobilisation) several times. Do this for a few minutes to loosen soft tissue that has shortened and tightened whilst you’re sleeping ( foetal position is with relaxed ankles, our toes lower than our heels, shortening the calf muscles for many hours of your life)
- DO NOT ‘BEAT UP’ sore soft tissue, thinking ‘no pain, no gain’.
- Gentle massage to loosen and generate an improved circulation
- Use rollers/stick tools to make self massage easier, more enjoyable and more productive. Here’s a video showing you how – many videos show you to lift your bottom off the floor. You won’t last longer than 30 seconds and that’s not long enough to be productive. You need a few minutes at least to start to make a difference.
- Check your running form to ensure you’re not pushing with your toes – classic cause of pain in the feet.
- Check your foot bone structure to see if the end of the long foot bone leading to the big toe is at the same level as the end of the long foot bone leading to the second toe. If they aren’t level, and the 1st metatarsal is shorter than the 2nd, it is almost certain that that is the root cause of your plantar-fasciitis and the condition (Morton’s Foot) needs correcting.
You say ‘most probably’ so the first thing you need to do is have this confirmed by a medical professional. If it is the case you then need to consider your training.
You say you’re gradually building up mileage but if you only started barefoot running end December, for most people three months is not enough time to get the strength in the muscles of your feet and lower legs to run a comfortable 1/2 marathon. A traditional running shoe supports these muscles. If you run barefoot or in minimalist shoes and the feet and lower legs muscles are not fully conditioned then it falls to the plantar fascia to do most of the work.
Also running on and/or pushing off with the toes overloads the lower leg muscles
again putting strain on the plantar fascia so make sure your lower legs are relaxed
and you are landing mid-foot with your posture in good alignment.
I would advise that good technique, foot and lower leg muscle conditioning and a
more gradual progress approach to training should help. It’s important to avoid
damage to tendons and ligaments as they take much longer to repair than muscles due to limited blood supply.
Here’s hoping all goes well in Gothenburg but remember no one race is worth putting
the bigger picture of enjoyable life-long running at risk. Be sensible and listen to
your body. It usually knows what’s best!
Chi Running Instructor and Personal Trainer