Tag Archives: plantar fasciitis

Crash and Burn

Today’s run was a big crash and burn. Worst I’ve had in a while. I was planning for 5 miles — a decent enough long run given where my running has been lately, especially given that we were headed to the Georgia Aquarium today, where we were sure to get lots of walking in.

To fend off the monotony, I uncapped one of the routes I haven’t used in a while, heading away from the mall where I usually run out toward a side road that goes behind one of the local shopping centers. A really peaceful route actually, and one that’s lovely in the mist that settled in early this morning. And I felt the first twinges in my heel at about two miles.

By the time I hit the farthest point, my heel was screaming with every step. So I was faced with the injured runner’s quandary: suck it up and power through the injury, possibly doing further injury in the process, or take the walk of shame and walk it home. Unfortunately, at a distance of over two miles from home, walking wasn’t a particularly good look. I split the difference, running a quarter mile then walking a hundred yards or so. I don’t think I made the injury any worse. Hours later, a bunch of walking and a healthy dose of ice behind me, and it’s feeling okay. Better than this morning. Okay enough to make me think this morning could have been a fluke: just a tweak and not a major setback.

Still, this is frustrating as hell. I’ve had heel issues for over a year now — maybe more like two — and while I’d had a recent flareup, it’s been better over the past couple of weeks, better enough that I thought I had the injury on the ropes again. And then, just a total breakdown.

The smart play is to cool it on the running for a while, but if you’ve read the blog for any length of time, you might know how hard that would be for me. Partially I fear the loss of momentum, though that’s less an issue for me now than it was a few years ago… running is in my blood these days, it ain’t gonna leave me if I break for a week or three. More of an issue is that running is my mind-altering drug of choice. My day starts from the run. It’s how I deal with stress, it’s how I clear my head and kick around writing ideas and … yeah. It’s an addiction of the worst sort: I need it to feel normal.

My wife is rolling her eyes as she reads this, but I’m probably going to suit up for a run again on Tuesday and see how it feels. If my heel is still jolting me like an exposed nerve, then — then — it’ll be time to hang up my shoes for a bit.

But not before.

For better or worse, I’m stubborn about my runs, and I can accept a little physical discomfort in favor of the mental benefits.

First Run in Hokas – A Terrible Review

I have a history of conducting really bad science when it comes to fixing myself. For starters, I’m balls awful at self-diagnosing, whether it’s writing or running or dadding or whatever… see, to fix a problem, you first have to know what the problem is, and I’m pretty bad at that. It’s why I married a woman much smarter than I am — so that I have somebody to point me at the right targets. Then, I tend to take on too many things at once or dive headfirst into new things rather than easing in, to the effect that whether I succeed or fail, I never really know what to attribute the success or failure to.

But I’ve got this injury. In my foot. For a while I thought it might have been tendonosis, but lately it feels like good ol’ plantar fasciitis, but one way or another, my freaking foot hurts, and it’s been hurting for a while. And I’ve tried a handful of things to fix it, including seeing a podiatrist, taking breaks from running, stepping up my running, eating only fried chicken on Fridays, consulting with spirit guides… and it still hurts. So it’s time for drastic measures.

I’m not the kind of guy that believes in magic bullets, but there comes a point — and that point in my case is when I’ve been dealing with more-or-less chronic pain for the better part of a year — where you’re willing to try just about anything. So among the many things I’m trying to fix the pain right now are some new shoes.


I know, I know.

They look ridiculous. But I got a pretty sweet deal on them and, like I said, I’m willing to try anything.

If you don’t run in running circles (haw) you might not be familiar with Hokas and their ilk, so to put them in a nutshell (which is impossible, I mean, just look at the size of them), they are a new thing in running, the inverse pendulum swing from the minimalism trend that happened in the late aughts. Where minimalist shoes aimed to make shoes feel less like shoes by dint of removing padding and stabilizing elements and “putting you more in touch with the road,” Hokas and other so-called “maximalist” shoes take the opposite tack: they add frankly ridiculous amounts of padding to desensitize you to the surfaces you’re running on entirely. (I should note that “desensitize” is my word, not theirs.)

Now, I think minimalist shoes are the bomb. I think they are the way and the truth. They may have contributed to my injuries, and I’m willing to own my part in that, because I probably jumped in too fast and didn’t give myself the appropriate time to adjust. That said, I still believe in minimalism, because I believe in evolution, and I don’t think that millions of years of adjustment to the earth below our feet would have crafted a foot that needs perfect shoes to make us good at, you know, walking or running on said earth. Shoes being a construct of the past couple of millenia of human development, I’m going to trust natural selection and say that probably our feet are just fine as they are, and maybe it’s the way we’re treating our feet that’s fargoed up. But I digress. I’m not here to argue minimalism vs maximalism, I’m not here to open the Born to Run debate or touch on barefoot running or any of that.

I’m here because in desperation I ordered these shoes, and I’m going to try them out as part of my latest effort to fix my feet so that I can run pain-free again.

Let me make all appropriate disclaimers: “maximalist” shoes are too new for there to be any studies drawing far-reaching conclusions about their effectiveness at preventing or recovering from injury. However, there is a ton of anecdotal evidence out there, and much of that anecdotal evidence comes in the form of gobsmacked distance runners who are amazed that these shoes have allowed them to start running pain-free after extended bouts with hip pain, knee pain, ankle pain, back pain, foot pain… you name it. So I ordered them, and they got here, and I took them for a run yesterday, and here’s what I learned.

  1. They are huge. I’ve sat at 5’11” my whole life, and these shoes put me comfortably in the 6’3″ range. My wife, a demure and delightful 5’2″, tried them on and was able to look me in the eye for the first time in her life. The air just feels a little thinner while you’re wearing them, and maybe that makes you a little lightheaded, and maybe that’s why the pain goes away.
  2. They are soft. Boy, are they soft. Reviewers often describe them as “like walking on clouds”, which is the most overused simile in shoes, and I won’t be using it, because it’s nonsense. You can’t walk on clouds in the first place, and no shoe is going to remove all the groundfeel from your feet. That said, even just stepping into them and taking a few tentative steps around the living room I could feel my feet sinking into their pillowy depths. They compress like a worn-in tennis ball, which is to say, quite a bit, but not so much that you go right through it like you would with a down pillow or, if you must, a cloud. The padding underfoot is sensational, and it really does feel awesome just to walk around in them.
  3. They are bouncy. That tennis ball analogy I used was not a mistake. I thought hard about the best way to describe what running feels like with these things on, and it struck me. Every step is like landing perfectly on a tennis ball. You land, you feel the resistance, the resistance gives more than you expect, and then as your weight transfers over, there’s a spring effect that feels like the shoe is catapulting you forward just a little bit. That effect was disorienting in the first half mile or so, but once you get used to it, it feels normal.
  4. They are grippy. Here’s my primary concern about these shoes, especially having tried minimalist shoes and even my bare feet: you get used to feeling what’s under your feet and adjusting accordingly. That’s impossible in these clunkers. My kitchen floor feels exactly like my lawn feels exactly like my driveway feels exactly like pavement feels exactly like the rocky mudfield out back of the tire shop I run past every day. My concern is that I’d end up slipping because I can’t feel the little rocks or sticks or tiny bumps in the ground or whatever, but this concern broke apart in the atmosphere before I got to the end of the street. The sole of the shoe compresses so much that it actually seems to conform to whatever’s on the ground like a coat of paint going on over my shoddy drywall work in the bathroom. In short, the entire sole gets down on every step. It even makes this sound, like you’re running on velcro, with every step. The sound will probably go away as the shoes break in, but it demonstrated pretty clearly what the shoe was doing: bending and flexing to every contour of the road/lawn/tire lot.
  5. They are light. Enormous as they are, they’re as lightweight as any traditional shoe I’ve had, which seems counterintuitive I guess, until you begin to think about the composition of that sole that bends and flexes and compresses like silly putty.
  6. They are snug. Shoe sizes vary depending on manufacturer, yeah, I get that, but these fit me oddly. The length is fine, but it’s almost as if there isn’t enough room for the height of my foot in the shoe, which makes me wonder about taking out the insoles, even though I’ve never had to do that with any other shoe. Also, the toe box is — for my taste — exceedingly narrow, and my toes feel pretty squished in there. I can’t say I love that feeling. It’s hard for me to imagine running five or six or ten miles or more that way, but maybe they’ll loosen up as the shoe breaks in.
  7. They are huge. Did I say this already? It bears saying again. They’re enormous.

The question is, how did they do on the run?

First impressions only, but they felt pretty damn good. The pain in my foot lately feels like a needle going up into my heel, and I had a bit of that at first (as I do on every run). But by the end of the first quarter mile or so, that pain was gone completely; so completely that I switched to a heelstrike briefly to see if the issue was still there (spoiler alert, it was — and the shoes didn’t protect me from feeling the pain in a heelstriking stride), but as soon as I readjusted, it evaporated again. Lovely. Now, my aches and pains have a tendency to work themselves out after the first mile or so, so my good feels might be attributed to that alone, and not the shoes… but I didn’t have any additional pain later in the evening like I’ve had after my last few runs.

There’s more to be seen, here, but at least for the moment, I’m hopeful that the Hokas are going to help me out. It’s my hope that I can use the Hokas to start getting some regularity back in my runs — start pushing my distance up again, in other words — while allowing my feet to “rest”, while I can continue to use my minimals once or twice a week to keep strengthening my feet. We’ll see how that plays out.

In the meantime, however, there is no cure for how goofy they look. Temper that, of course, with the fact that I much prefer wearing something like this…


Heeling / Healing

It’s no secret that my blarg is about as focused as a toddler with ADD. I write about what occurs to me, and while that’s usually writing, occasionally I stray into the muddier waters of product and television reviews, or sometimes into the less-muddy, more-poopy waters of parenting, and still other times into the not-so-muddy-at-all but rather likely totally uninteresting waters of my personal fitness.

I can’t help but wonder if my blog might garner more views if I chose a focus and stuck to it. Then again, I phrase a doubt like that and then the Ego-Writer chimes in and reminds me that on a personal and intellectual level, I don’t really give a sharknado about my views and follows and likes and all that other crap. So what if my drivel reaches ten people, or a hundred, or a thousand? (Spoiler alert: it hasn’t.) It’s all so many droplets in the ocean, so many swirling grains of silica in a desert sandstorm.

I don’t care about views really; I care about giving vent and voice to what’s on my mind, so LindaGHill’s stream-of-consciousness prompt for this weekend is timely. It’s heal/heel, which is funny, because this week I’ve been particularly concerned with the healing of my heel.

No, really. Back in the early days of this blarg, I tweaked something in my left heel, and since then I’ve had a long road of injuries culminating in a similar but entirely different and more treatment-resistant issue with my right heel. Maybe it was my Vibrams, maybe it was the fact that I pushed up too quickly after my injury, but my feet have been fargoed for a while, and I’ve had enough of it.

Now, when I’ve had enough of feeling unproductive on my book, I can force myself to sit down and work on it. When I’ve had enough of being behind at work, I can sit down and grade until my fingers curl up like burned spiders and get caught up. When I’m feeling too much like a sloth, I can haul my blubbery self out for a run or a workout. When I feel like I’ve had one too many chili dogs (okay, I don’t eat chili dogs, but feel free to insert slices of pizza or cheeseburgers or scoops of ice cream) I can starve myself the next day. I can fix most problems of excess by realizing the excess and shutting it down. Not so much this excess of pain.

I shouldn’t say excess, though. Since visiting the podiatrist back in October (I think) I’ve had varying levels of discomfort, but nothing that could really qualify as pain. I get tweaks and twinges and aches, but nothing that keeps me from walking around, nothing that keeps me from getting out for a run, nothing that I wouldn’t feel silly classifying as “pain.” That said, even on the best of days, I’m aware that all is not right with my heel; it’s always there, nagging at the edge of my consciousness like a burn on the roof of your mouth or that faint whiff of baby poop whenever I pass my hand in front of my face. (Seriously, I washed my hands MULTIPLE times, where is it COMING FROM??) It just won’t go away.

It’s so persistent, now — I’ve been dealing with some level of this ache in my foot for the past six months now — that I’m wondering if it’s not just something I have to live with. Like, I’m almost 35… well past the time when I could, for example, sprain the sharknado out of my ankle, then eat nothing but Cap’n Crunch and occasionally rub a piece of ice on the affected area and bounce back like the goldfingered rubber band man. I want to believe that I can shake this off, but I’m starting to wonder. I’ve been afflicted with this thing for quite a while… so long it’s just starting to feel normal, which frankly is not something I’m okay with.

I think it’s doubly frustrating because I’ve been redoubling my efforts at fitness in other areas and I’m making strides at a ridiculous rate. I’m pushing up my reps and my difficulties. I’m doing a ton of extra walking (my wife is partly to blame for that, since we compete now with our little step-tracking-gizmos. “Compete” is the wrong word. She stomps me in this “competition” every day). I’m losing weight again, faster than I have any right to. All of which is fantastic.

But I can’t shake this thing with my heel.

It’s troubling. Partly because I feel like my ability to run regularly and for long distances has kind of become part of my identity, even though I’ve only been doing it for three years. Partly because I feel like just about every challenge I set for myself lately, no matter how insurmountable it seems at first, feels like little more than a speedbump as I coast past it. I mean… in the past year alone, I decided to write a novel, and I finished a first draft in less than six months. I gave up sodas over the space of three or four weeks. But I can’t overcome this thing with my heel.

Tomorrow’s another long run. If form holds, the heel will feel shaky as hell for the first half mile, then loosen up and feel great for three or four or maybe five miles, then tighten up as I head into mile six and seven.

I really don’t know how to end this post. I usually like to end with some sort of turn toward optimism or at least some cheeky snide aside, but all I can muster on the issue is doubt. This issue is such a small issue in the scheme of things, but it’s still hanging over my head like a set of particularly heavy storm clouds after so many months.

Anyway… this post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday.

Baby Steps Don’t Fargo Up My Feet

I think there’s little as frustrating to somebody who’s been productive as the inability to produce at the level you know you’re capable of.

Okay, that’s vague as anything. Specifically, I’m talking about running. If you follow, you may know that this has been a year plagued with injury for me. First one foot, then the other; the soles, then the ankles, then the heels, until I start to wonder if I’m not so much doing damage to myself as my body has simply passed its sell-by date and is withering and falling apart like a bunch of rotted grapes.

But I’ve been to the doctor, and the doctor said to give running a try again, so run I did. And I’ve gone on two runs now, my first in a month (which honestly felt like an entire season, given all the crazies I was stirring during that month). And they’ve been okay. There’s tightness and there’s uncertainty, but no pain. Such an astounding lack of pain, in fact, that I’m having all the delusions of grandeur that accompany a return to form: “maybe it’s not so bad. I can do another mile!” or “this isn’t so bad. I can go faster!” And while I almost certainly could do those things, that would almost certainly be the most direct route back to injury.

So I am tempering the glee that comes with being able to run without crippling pain by forcing myself to take it slow, listen to my feet, and make sure that I don’t rush myself right back into the podiatrist’s office again.  But taking it slow is an agony. My body chemistry has changed over the last three years, to the point where the run satisfies something like hunger in my brain, and like an alcoholic feeling the pull of a perfectly mixed gin and tonic, I’ve got the scent of these last couple of runs in my bones. The chill bite of the fall air in my lungs, the regular tap of my feet on the pavement, the ebbing drone in my mind as my focus slips away and I embrace the calm.

My wife and I are signed up for a race in a week and a half, and I may actually be able to run at least a portion of it with her. We’ve signed up for another in January. I won’t be running my farthest distances or my fastest paces by any stretch, but I’m pretty confident that simply being out there will be enough. For now, it’s time to suck it up and accept that it’s not the time to run fast or far, and appreciate the fact that I can run at all.

What’s a Runner Who Doesn’t Run?

I’ve been to see the podiatrist for the second time this year.

It’s odd how much I’ve grown into the label of a runner over the last three years, but this year has been instructive. My non-running time has added up to be almost as much as my running-enabled time, and even when I have been able to run, it’s been in a severely diminished capacity from where I was last year at this time. That being said, my first trip to the podiatrist was encouraging. The doctor saw the inflammation on my x-ray, gave me a local treatment, a stretching regimen, an icing regimen, and seemed pretty confident that a) he’d identified the problem and b) would be able to solve it. And he was right — the tweakiness in my left foot is virtually gone, less some tightness in the morning.

My second visit has only been frustrating.

Nothing to show on the x-ray, which he says is a good thing, but it also means that the cause and source of the pain are harder to identify. He poked and prodded at my Achilles a bit and said that while he can definitely pinpoint the location of the injury, he can’t really tell what’s going on. Sometimes, he said, the Achilles can tear (if in the case of a violent and acute injury — like I stepped in a pothole and hyperextended the thing) or almost “fray” (from simple overuse… also, the idea of a tendon “fraying” is enough to send me scrabbling up the walls to throw up in my mouth). But he sees no sign of any of that sort of damage. No local treatment this time, since he can’t be sure what’s causing the pain. Just a renewal of some anti-inflammatory meds (which I’m almost convinced are just sugar tablets at this point), a heel insert for my shoe (to take some of the “pressure” off the tendon, with the added side benefit of making me feel positively geriatric), and an appointment to come back in three weeks to reassess.

I asked him if I need to think about giving up running for a while. I’m not sure if he heard the trepidation in my voice and didn’t want to crush me or if he’s genuine, but he said to just give it a week and then go out for a slow, short run… with the shoe insert. Which I’m sure is going to feel like I’m running in platform heels. So I’m going to try going for a run on Saturday, which will be my first in a month (minus the test run which I cut short less than a quarter-mile from my front door a week and a half ago). But I have to confess I’m not optimistic. Something in my gut is telling me that my feet need a hard reset; that I need to take a few solid months off to give the old peds time to shake off whatever’s ailing them, and spend the meantime tiptoeing around them and not stressing them out too badly (in much the same way my wife and I lightfoot it past the kids’ bedrooms when they’re falling into a tenuous sleep).

What am I going to do if I can’t run?

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