When can I have my foot back?
January 28, 2008 5:01 PM   Subscribe

How long will I be in excruciating pain?

I went a little overboard on the treadmill at the gym and now I have plantar's fasciitis in my left foot. It fuckin' hurts real bad, and I'm going to go crazy if I can't run, especially in the winter. (I don't think I'll even be able to ride a bike, and swimming gives me a massive headache.) Plus, I live alone so being on crutches is a huge pain.

I'm looking for a few data points from anyone who's been through this -- how long before you could walk/run again? How susceptible is a reoccurence? I'm obviously going to be much more careful from now on.
posted by Camofrog to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Relax....and start stretching your foot. (Technically, your calf muscle.) And get one of those foot gel pads from Dr Scholls.

And for next time, don't use the incline on the treadmill as that aggravates things.

(Does your gym have spin classes? Might be worth a try.)
posted by konolia at 5:06 PM on January 28, 2008

Definitely stretch your foot, flexing and pointing, before you get out of bed every day. Unbelievable how much that helps!

I've had it short-term, where it went away in a few days (don't know why), and long-term (I had actually had a bone break in my foot that time, though). The main thing is to stretch and, as konolia says, try to find insoles that help you with your pain. Sometimes you can even get a prescription for custom insoles for your shoes.

I'm sorry, I know it really is frustrating, and it will be a while (could be weeks) before you can run, though you should be able to ride a bike soon.
posted by misha at 5:32 PM on January 28, 2008

Best answer: I developed plantar fasciitis for the first time about two years ago. Here's what has worked for me:

Stretching calves and ankles before even getting out of bed in the morning.
Stretch several more times during the day.
Superfeet insoles.
Wear supportive shoes (this kills my high heel leather look).
Don't walk around barefoot ever (this also sucks).

I had about ten months of morning pain, and then some months of major relief. However, I've recently had a recurrence (damned tall boots), and need to take my own advice.
posted by vers at 5:34 PM on January 28, 2008

I've suffered it. The only thing that allowed me to keep running was physical therapy. When I stopped going to physical therapy I had to start swimming and biking to stay in shape.
posted by Packy_1962 at 5:39 PM on January 28, 2008

Best answer: I developed fairly bad PF in the fall of 2005 that I neglected for several weeks because I was so busy moving into a new house. It took 3 months of physiotherapy and home stretching to recover.

If your case is so bad that you need crutches to walk, you're dinged up something fierce. Most cases resolve within two months, according to this site, but your case sounds severe. What estimates have your doctor and physiotherapist given you?

You are getting physiotherapy, right? RIGHT? Yes, NSAIDs, ice and stretches that you can do on your own are a necessary part of recovery. You may find a cortisone shot from your doctor may ease the pain (although the shot itself is pretty nasty, from what I hear). You may need to use a splint at night to keep your foot in the correct position. You may need to have your gait analyzed and orthotics made so you can minimize the chances of a recurrence.

But you need to have what feel like "knots" in your fascia worked out by a physiotherapist one or more times a week, and you need to learn how to massage your foot effectively in between physiotherapy sessions. My physiotherapist used her terrifyingly strong thumbs to make me squirm and yelp as she worked on my left foot, then switched to a simple little rubber-headed reflex hammer. The pain was 7-8 on a scale of 10 when she started, but within a couple of weeks of using the Hammer of Sore (her nickname, not mine), she could put a lot of effort into torturing my foot with the pain barely registering as a 1-2.

I bought my own hammer for home use for less than $3 at the local university bookstore, and I'm sure you can find one at a medical supplies store. All the advice you get about rolling around golf balls and tennis balls with your feet is well and good for keeping your feet supple, but if you want to work out the knots, get a physiotherapist and get the hammer.
posted by maudlin at 5:39 PM on January 28, 2008

I had it once, albeit not so bad that I was on crutches. It took about six months or so for it to go away. For me, the cure was stretching at every opportunity. Fortunately (ha!) I was a smoker at the time, so I had a lot of little five-minute breaks during the day in which i could stretch the offending foot behind me and lean forward, rocking gently. And I splinted it. My podiatrist offered a cortisone shot, but the thought of a huge needle going into the sole of my foot ... well, that's what's in my personal Room 101, I guess. It worked itself out in the end.
posted by mumkin at 5:57 PM on January 28, 2008

Response by poster: You are getting physiotherapy, right?

I wish. No insurance. The doctor didn't give me an estimate as to when it would feel better. He just told me to get custom inserts and try acupuncture. And I see all kinds of time-frames here and there for how long this lasts, including some that say months or years.

I gotta get me one of those hammers and a night splint. And a girlfriend with strong thumbs!

Thanks! The advice is great so far.
posted by Camofrog at 6:29 PM on January 28, 2008

Best answer: By "custom inserts", I'm guessing he means orthotics. Up here in Toronto, those cost between $400-500. You may be able to find something cheaper from a store like Good Feet, but I've never bought their inserts and have no idea how good they are.

Acupuncture. Hmm. I tried that, and it was -- interesting. Apart from getting a major TWANG or two a couple of times when those needles got a little too close to a prime nerve cluster, it didn't hurt, but it didn't help me either. I don't think I even had a placebo effect kicking in, despite being quite enthusiastic and optimistic about getting treated. My physiotherapist said that it was unusual that I wasn't helped, and you may find some people here who swear by it, but it was a big zero for me.

Having no insurance sucks, but a single evaluation with a physiotherapist, where s/he would assess your state, prescribe some specific exercises, and, most importantly, show you how to effectively massage your feet, might only cost about $75. Bring your little hammer and see what response you get. And maybe you can find a few bucks to budget for a monthly or biweekly visit to assess your progress and check your pain tolerance. :-)

Seriously, if you are considering spending money on inserts or acupuncture, divert your money to a physiotherapist first.

Good luck!
posted by maudlin at 7:10 PM on January 28, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks maudlin, I'll definitely go for the physiotherapist first. I certainly do not have hundreds of dollars for orthotics.

I'm bummed, but not altogether surprised, to hear the acupuncture did nothing. I was really looking forward to that. A physiotherapy session every coupla weeks would be worth every penny to avoid a repeat of this.
posted by Camofrog at 7:55 PM on January 28, 2008

To help speed your recovery (which will still take weeks), wear supportive footwear any time you are on your feet, including the shower.
posted by Good Brain at 8:03 PM on January 28, 2008

I have had this, largely due to having flat feet. Calf stretches help but now that I have custom orthotics it doesn't get bad and happens fairly infrequently. Before though, they were pretty much an all the time constant pain. It wasn't as crippling as yours though.

My brother who has a similar condition got by with store bought orthotics though I think he might actually be stacking them in his shoe to get enough support.

See a pro, someone in sports medicine, and be prepared to pay money. I know it's costly but it beats being unable to walk. Also be patient as it can take a long time to pass and if you have underlying issues (like flat feet) they basically won't pass unless you get real help.
posted by chairface at 10:18 PM on January 28, 2008

I've lived with this my whole life. I'm big as hell and I was a high school wrestler (running at least 2 miles a day) and boxer, when I'd get home from practice I simply couldn't walk for about an hour or so once the shoes came off. The key is to REALLY give yourself some cool down time after a long workout and stretch your feet as often as you can.

Unless you have to run, don't! Ride the damn bike! It'll save your knees and feet and avoid a lot of the horrible pain you have.
posted by lattiboy at 11:19 PM on January 28, 2008

My sweetie was told to get clogs for this, and they helped a lot. The problem is, he decided he really likes clogs and wears them all the time now, sometimes with little red socks. Don't take it that far, please. Get well soon!
posted by Scram at 12:26 AM on January 29, 2008 [3 favorites]

I had a bout of this several years ago (back when I had good insurance) and I had the luxury of being able to get PT for it. They taught me some good techniques to keep PF at bay.

Stretching is definitely key. For me, they told me to amplify my usual pre-run achilles stretch by standing on an elevated platform with my heels hanging off the edge. Then, one foot at a time, lower my heel over the edge, allowing my weight to stretch the tendons as far as possible. Hold that for 3 minutes, then switch to the other heel and do 3 minutes again.

Repeat this after your run.

Additionally, my trainer had me include gel heel pads in my shoes whenever I run. This and the stretches has worked wonders for me.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:13 AM on January 29, 2008

Additionally, when I first presented with PF, the therapist put me through the most excruciating torture I think I'd ever experienced. It consisted of what I can only call a "scraping" of the cartilage and those little "knots" that maudlin mentions. The therapist use a set of smooth, heavy metal bars and literally scraped-down my heels and tendons. This was followed by long-term ice packs on my heels. I don't know which hurt more.

But, the process worked.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:19 AM on January 29, 2008

I also recommend SuperFeet insoles once you're back in your tennies.
posted by jrichards at 6:15 AM on January 29, 2008

Oh! And all this talk of shoes made me remember: try not to go barefoot while this is bothering you, even around your own home. Yes, it is a pain (I live in FL and hardly ever wear shoes in the house), but it helps cushion your heel.
posted by misha at 12:37 PM on January 29, 2008

Response by poster: when I first presented with PF, the therapist put me through the most excruciating torture I think I'd ever experienced. It consisted of what I can only call a "scraping" of the cartilage and those little "knots" that maudlin mentions.

Gah!!!! I hope you mean just on the outside.

And fuck! I love going barefoot, all summer. Damn you to hell, poorly adapted human feet!
posted by Camofrog at 1:39 PM on January 29, 2008

Response by poster: he decided he really likes clogs and wears them all the time now, sometimes with little red socks. Don't take it that far, please.

Um, no worries there. Clogs, Birks, Crocs ... I'd rather almost have PF
posted by Camofrog at 1:42 PM on January 29, 2008

Yes, it's just on the outside. And it definitely hurt (7-8, as I said), but within a few minutes, my feet felt awesome.

Shoes: buy a pair of shoes just for indoors that will fit either cheap drugstore heel cushions or, if you win the lottery, inserts or orthotics. You really should wear these in your acute phase, and for some time afterwards, but if you start physio now, you should be able to go barefoot sometimes this coming summer. (Just don't walk EVERYWHERE barefoot.)
posted by maudlin at 1:51 PM on January 29, 2008

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