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Taking care of yer aching feet (guest post)!

Posted Dec 10 2009 12:00am
Thanks so much to Meg for this at-my-request guest post.

Please to enjoy.

Feet– sometimes called ugly… used to propel and support us (when we are standing, walking, running, jumping, etc) throughout the day…. are sometimes neglected in the world of the athlete.
Let’s face it: when your feet aren’t happy, you are miserable.

After suffering from plantar fasciitis (finally learned to spell it) this summer, I thought it imperative to discuss this and what can be done to prevent it.

The plantar fascia is the “meaty part” of the bottom of the foot, that runs essentially under the arch from the heel to the balls of the feet. (This is the part that usually feels really good when massaged). The -itis refers to the inflammation that occurs in this part of the foot.
Generally speaking, the complaint may be pain in the heel. It is worse in the morning and improves as the day goes on. One might experience more pain after long walks.

In my case, the pain started in the achilles tendon. The achilles tendon comes off the calf muscles (back of the lower leg) and actually becomes the plantar fascia — (pretty cool how our muscles and tendons are inter-connected). It would hurt A LOT after I ran or walked or did anything on my feet. In the morning, I couldn’t walk. It was embarrassing. If I sat for a period of time, it was challenging getting up and walking across the room.

When I looked up recommendations for treatment, many sites and physicians suggest orthotics, heel stretching exercises, ice therapy, night splints, medications, as well as some other interventions.

If you know me, you know that I do not take medications unless I am dying. You also know that I have worn orthotics in the past and walked these flat and ended up with knee problems from the orthotics and slower running times (not saying that you should not invest in orthotics if recommended– for me, I need to do exercises to keep my pelvic girdle healthy). And you know that I rarely listen to doctors… I know BAD… but I experiment and figure it out.

So, when I sought advice from a colleague, Mort (a retired chiropractor), he asked me what I was doing to my achilles tendon. He said it was so tense, he was surprised it hadn’t ruptured or calcified…. ooops.. He recommended that I do cross-fiber friction/massage with a towel, using vitamin E in a lotion to help break up the tightness. Mort also suggested I roll my feet on a ball. (I began using a baseball– as I work in baseball, easy to come by. Needed to find a golf ball, but for now, this was better than nothing).

I asked another colleague to do some deep tissue work… a combination of ART (active release technique) and some trigger point work. I have a very high tolerance for pain, but OUCH!!!! Starting at the juncture of the calf and the achilles tendon, he massaged the tissue all the way down the achilles through the plantar fascia– and when I thought we were finished, REPEAT!!! (and then the other foot)… he used a lotion that had vitamin E and arnica (a natural agent that reduces swelling). It was recommended that I roll my feet daily on the golf ball (could start with a bottle or the baseball to warm the tissue up) and I could use bio-freeze or a lotion like the one he used.

And amazingly so, that was the beginning the healing process. The tissue started to release and I could walk somewhat easily with minimal pain. Until the 3-Day walk…..

Day one of the 3-Day walk, i was in pain. Fortunately, there was a chiropractor as part of the sports medicine team in the walk… and she adjusted my hips, thoracic spine, neck and then did a release on my feet.

WOW!!! I felt the calcaneus bone move instantly… and the pain and tightness that ran from my foot to my hip released.

The calcaneus bone is the heel bone. It, like all bones, is supposed to have a natural rhythm in its joint or movement. My heel had gotten stuck, so to speak. When the heel was adjusted, the true healing began. The bone was stuck, so the normal tracking of the tissue had changed.
Because I was training for a marathon, the repetitive foot movement was further irritating the fascia.

My thoughts:

– shoes that fit and provide comfortable support… you are running in these. Do you feel like they will support you through your natural movement or restrict you. If the shoes restrict your natural motion, you might create a new movement pattern b/c of compensation.
(shoes should be rotated in the course of a week.. ie– don’t train in the same shoes every day and the shoes you train in should not be worn all day. shoes also need to be replaced about every two or three months, pending the mileage.)

– orthotics…. they don’t work for me. That does not mean that you shouldn’t use them, if your feet pronate (collapse or are flat).

– heel stretching… IMPORTANT… this is actually your calf stretches. I use stairs and drop my heels. I use a stretch board and turn my foot in and out and keep it straight (changing foot position changes the stretch). I keep my knee slightly bent and I extend it.

– icing after run… for me, to keep my feet healthy, I need to soak my feet in a bucket of ice water for about 20 minutes.

– rolling the fascia…. to warm up for my runs, bike-rides, spin classes, I roll my feet on the golf ball. I do the same to cool-down.

– stretching after your runs…. if your hamstrings are tight, your hips are tight, low- back is tight, your calves are tight, and your feet feel all of it. sometimes I use a yoga video in the am or pm to feel centered and loose.

It is important to note that a little prevention goes a long way.

Motion originates in the feet. Let’s keep them happy.

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