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Bill Bergeman


10 Things That Helped Me (nearly) Defeat Chronic Plantar Fasciitis

I first developed plantar fasciitis in my left heel in July 2020, exactly three years ago. I can confidently say that I am now 95% healed, and if I stay on my current healing trajectory, the tissue should be fully healed within a month.

If you have ever had this injury, and certainly if you've had it for an extended period, you know it's pernicious. I would rather break a bone. At least with that, I know I can brace it and within eight weeks it should heal. With PF, you never know if it will get better. It is relentless.

I have done literally every stretch, mobility routine, strength exercise, leg elevation, ice treatment, compression, needle (too many needles), scraping, ASTYM, massage, shockwave treatment, foam roll, and massage gun therapy you can possibly imagine.

Most things did not work. At best, they kept me just healthy enough to keep running. I was able to continue running marathons and ultra-marathons for a while, buoyed by good physical therapy and daily strength training and stretching, but it eventually caught up to me.

The list below covers the things I've done during the last several months that seem to have contributed to putting me on a path to full recovery.

    1. Platelet-rich plasma injections.

    I did this at the end of March. Your blood is drawn and put into a centrifuge, removing the red and white blood cells, leaving only a cloudy substance. That's your plasma, and the platelets in your plasma contribute to healing tissue. This is then injected into the damaged tissue (with a loony-toon-sized!) which elicits inflammation. LOTS of inflammation. I was unable to walk for several days, and after that, I could only get around with a walking boot for about a week. After a couple of weeks, I could start doing walk/run intervals, very easy.

    2. Tweak to my running form.

    I have a habit of walking and running with a midfoot strike, which is actually the best way to do it, but when you have a damaged plantar fascia, it can mean overstressing the tissue. This is why so many orthopedists recommend wearing insoles to support the heel when one is suffering from PF. I wore insoles for a short while, but after the inflammation calmed down I switched purely to zero-drop shoes. Wearing them, I pulled back on landing purely with a midfoot strike and now I run a little bit more heal-to-toe. I'll slowly switch back as I continue to heal.

    3. Wearing zero-drop shoes.

    But, as I mentioned above, not at first. The tissue is overstretched and overworked, so wearing zero-drop shoes will only irritate it more. But over time, as it relaxes and the pain at least somewhat subsides, it helps to strengthen the muscles of the feet, and wearing shoes with no heel lift helps. Artificial elevation of the heel contributes to back pain, pelvic tilt, bad walking/running form, and a host of other physical ailments. We were not born to wear overly-manufactured coffins on our feet.

    4. Calf stretches.

    Tight calves are often a primary culprit in developing PF, so you have to stretch, stretch, and stretch those things all the time.

    5. Heel drops.

    Standing on the edge of a step, drop both heels, slowly raise up on your toes, then slowly lower down on one foot until the heel drops as low as is comfortable. Repeat 15 times.

    6. Foam roll calves.

    This goes along with loosening up those tight calves. It's also painful if you've never done it before. Lie on the ground, lay one calf on the foam roller, and the other calf crossed over on top of the lower leg. Roll back and forth and try not to scream.

    7. Get into a squat position.

    I've found this to be really helpful to help lengthen the Achilles tendons, of which tight tendons can be another cause of PF. Also, squatting is just great for the body for so many other reasons as well.

    8. Endless glute exercises.

    Having strong glutes contributes to good walking and running form as well as overall stability.

    9. Very, very (very!) gradual return to running.

    I've done nothing but walk/run intervals for months. It's boring but it's working. In two weeks, I'll be able to fully run without interstitial walk breaks.

    10. A relentlessly positive attitude.

    Having a can-do mindset always makes suffering more endurable. Stop whining, start working, and fully believe that every step forward will get you to the finish line.

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