Last week, I finally went to see a reputable orthopedic specialist for advice on my nagging plantars fasciitis injury. I had some preliminary x-rays done and then met in the examination room for evaluation. After two weeks of painful on again/off again running, I hoped to be back on my feet so that I could prepare for the 2015 NYC Marathon this November.
The doctor put my x-rays up on the board and hummed and hawed a bit. Next, he asked me about my training and symptoms. Finally, he did a squeeze test on my heel that almost sent me flying off the examination table.
He told me why I’d been in such discomfort. It turns out that I do have plantars fasciitis, a painful tightening of the fascia that runs from the base of the toes to the base of the heel. My high-arched feet and high mileage are a recipe for disaster. Fortunately he could help me with a plan involving time off from running, cross-training, and regular stretching and mobility exercises.
But, he wasn’t done. I’ve also developed a bone spur on the front side of my calcaneus (heel bone) as a result of my fascia pulling at it for many years. On the x-ray it looked like a wisp of white extending out towards my toes. It wasn’t big enough for surgical intervention, but it was another indicator of extremely tight fascia.
As I was coming to grips with this news, he dropped the bomb. I also had a stress fracture in my calcaneus. I’d been running on a broken bone! No wonder an easy 2-3 mile run sent me into the pain cave.
Treatment and Recovery
My recovery begins with 2-3 weeks on crutches. After that, if I’m pain-free, I can begin low impact cross-training on the bike or in the pool. Running isn’t on my radar for at least 8-10 weeks. So, I can forget NYC in November. But, maybe I can dream about Boston in April.
The trick now is to have the patience and fortitude to stick with the plan. If I return too soon, it could set me back to square one all over again. My immediate goal is to get through eleven more days with these awkward crutches.
I’m wearing a PF boot at night to keep my fascia in a flexed position. Without it, my fascia would collapse and then tear again as it stretches under the weight of my body each morning. The night splint will stay on for the next 6-8 weeks. It’s a bit clunky and tangles in the sheets, but it’s surprisingly comfortable.
My doctor also recommend a tool for increasing flexibility called the Prostretch. I have yet to use it, but I’m hoping it will be as good as advertised. First, I have to get off these damn crutches.
Distance runners are notoriously stubborn. We have to be to get through the ‘trials of miles’ as Quenton Cassidy would tell us. But, sometimes you have to know when to give in and just stop.
I’m looking at the next six weeks as a time to recover, heal, and enjoy some new fitness activities. I’m planning on riding my road bike along the seacoast and exploring the salt marshes by kayak. Maybe I’ve got a century ride in my future this fall instead of a marathon.