Splints for Plantar Fasciitis

If you know me you know two things…I call my self the hard runner because it is so hard for me to run.  You also probably know that I suffered from plantar fasciitis for more than 4 years.  My left foot suffered from 2006 to 2008 after wearing flat racing shoes on the track one morning and then the next morning tripping over a curb and twisting my foot.  During that time I tried everything.

I used a ball to roll over my foot.  I tried the frozen bottle of water.  I got up every morning and immediately put on a pair of shoes.  I tried that funky white sock contraption.  I even slept in a boot!  Can you imagine trying to sleep in a boot!  My wife was pretty much hating the whole running thing.  I went to doctors and chiropractors who all offered some temporary help.

I forgot to mention that I tried that cold laser treatment, too.  That was the least effective solution for me.  After every visit from the therapist I felt worse than when I went in.  I was so desperate, eager and naive I thought that maybe I should have pain before it gets better.  Nothing really worked.


The best relief I did have was from a cortisone shot.  Dear good gracious macious that is a painful experience.  The doctor sticks the needle in your heel and lets the medicine flow throughout the heel for best results.  The medicine oozing through your heel is excruciating.  Maybe I’m just a whimp, but the itis didn’t seem as bad as the shot.  Now the relief immediately following the shot was quite a marvel.  Oh the wonders of modern medicine!  I know this only masked the symptom and the problem persisted, but to be out of pain, if only for a while was something to behold.

When the pain returned however, it came back with a vengeance.  I was too cowardly to ask for another shot, so I went on suffering and looking for a solution.


Then suddenly, one day the pain was gone!  Just like that, I woke up, got out of bed and felt absolutely no pain.  This was several months after the injection.


Fast forward to early 2009, and after two months of running joy I tried a new pair of running shoes (again with running shoes?).  This was a different brand than the previous incident, however.


The story goes something like this.  I was looking for a distance and training shoe.  The shoes that I had been really comfortable with were the Nike Zoom Elite 4.  I went through three pairs of these shoes before they removed them from the market.  The direction changed to the Nike Lunar line.


Side note:  Please don’t ask me why they changed the shoe design.  I cannot for the life of me figure out why anyone fixes something that isn’t broken.  Wasn’t my regular purchase of your shoe every 3-4 months enough to keep your pockets lined?  At any rate, I was convinced by one of my running shoe advisors that the Nike Lunar Glide were equivalent to the Zoom Elite 4.  Let’s just say they were so wrong and it cost me the comfortable use of my right foot to find out.  You guessed it, after only two runs in the new Lunar shoes I was suffering from the “itis” in a new foot.  I was beside myself with grief.


Of course, some experts will tell you the problem was not caused by shoes.  ”You were already out of alignment and the shoes just exacerbated the problem.”  ”You probably got over zealous with your running since you were in a new shoe which caused your problem.”  Whatever the case may be, I was running fine one day with old shoes and the next day I was suffering from the worse runner’s injury.  The only change was the shoe, therefore the shoe was at fault.  On the surface, the logic is sound enough, so that’s what I went with.  No matter the cause the results are the same, I was once again reduced to a sniveling baby because of foot pain.


I knew what I was willing to do to treat the problem.  I also knew what I was not going to do.  I was not going to use cold laser treatment.  I was not going to use the “sock.”  I was not going to get another shot (of course that changed after 15 months of suffering).  I would find a real therapist regardless to licensing.  And, I would get online to find out what everyone else has done to relieve their pain.


Don’t get the impression that I was researching and going to a doctor every day during this stint of plantar faciitis.  If you have suffered then you may understand what I mean.  You have good days and bad days.  You also go through a psychological challenge where you start to accept the pain.  You just sort of “get used to it.”  That’s not to say that it doesn’t hinder your performance.  You just have really crappy running days and other days you have good runs.  These are always because of the pain or in spite of it, respectfully.  When you feel like you’ve tried everything, you start thinking this is the way it will always be.


But there is hope.  Three major things happened that changed my perspective and let me know I didn’t have to live like this forever.


First, was a sports trainer in Dallas named Ambrose Coleman.  He patiently showed me how my whole right leg was completely out of whack.  Was the fasciitis a cause or was it a result, didn’t seem relevant to me.  What was important was the list of the exercises he showed me.  He also pointed out the huge knots in my soleus muscle.  This is a muscle in the lower leg that many people confuse for the calf muscle.  The soleus connects directly into the ligament that runs down past the heel and into the plantar facia.


According to the trigger point therapy site  “The soleus muscle is responsible for plantarflexion and acts as an antagonist to the anterior tibialis by limiting the amount of dorsiflexion in the foot. As the soleus muscle is overworked, the fascia of the surrounding muscles adhere to this large muscle causing much greater torque on the calcaneous tendon than what it was ever intended to endure. When the soleus muscle is challenged, the body mechanics can be extremely compromised.”  Ah Hah!  That was my problem.


One exercise that really started addressing my soleus was the bent leg raises.  Thanks Ambrose.
For several days I performed 25 bent leg raises on each leg.  The key is to be standing on your toes so that your soleus and calf are completely engaged.  Raise one leg up so the knee is parallel to your waist.  Ensure that foot is in  full dorsiflexion.  Do not alternate between repetitions.   This is also a great strengthen exercise for the lower leg as well.


Second, the Graston Technique was a procedure I discovered on the internet of all places.  As I think back, one of my running fellows told me about it. But, after a lot of research on the internet I decided to give it a try.  The graston technique is….  Basically, you use a tool to press and rub across the injured area to rub out scar tissue.  This proved to be pretty painful for me, so I started using my thumb instead.  What I found was I could more easily identify the “problem” areas, the areas with scar tissue, but not hit the area with the most pain.  Much like a massage from a great massage therapist.  So I started practicing this maneuver every morning before getting out of bed and every night before I went to sleep.  With the help of this and other exercises, I was soon feeling less and less discomfort from the “itis”.


Third, was a great stretching tool I found and Luke’s Locker.  Called the Medi-Dyne pro stretch plus.  this really help me stretch out my soleus muscle like I never have been abel to do before.  After returning from a run, I would spend about 3-5 minutes working on this tool.  It really offered a ruler stretch than anything I have ever had before.  Much better than standing on the end of a curb pressing you heels down.  That extra stretch motivated my soleus to loosen up and I started feeling better every day.


Suddenly one day early in January I got out of bed and felt no pain.  If you have suffered from this miserable condition, then you know how powerful of a feeling that is.  No pain!?  I was simply delighted.  I didn’t rest on my laurels though.  What I know now is you must continue to stretch and work on your soleus and even massage your plantar fascia to prevent rein jury.  Can plantar fasciitis return.  I don’t no of any cases where it has, but I’m sure it can given the right, or wrong circumstances.  You must work on preventing it by doing these same exercises at least two days a week.  They really cannot hurt and it ensures your soleus and kept healthy and strong.


Let me sum up what I’ve learned to treat plantar fasciitis.  These are things you can do on your own at home.  However, if your problem persist, then get some qualified help.  Plantar fasciitis is one of the most ruthless injuries an athlete can suffer, but you shouldn’t suffer forever.  I’ve recorded two videos dealing with this condition.  This is my first attempt at video making so please forgive the hokeyness upfront.  I have a Do’s and Don’ts video.


1.  Modified Graston Technique - I like to use my thumbs and fingers so I can isolate the damaged area and reduce the risk of hitting the site of the pain.  Do this everyday before you get out of bed and before you go to sleep.  Here’s a video I made just for this.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wy-EUoNqlNQ

2.  Standing Bent Leg raises - These are great because they help strengthen your soleus and increase your plantar fascia range of motion.  I only do this once per day, 25 reps on each leg.  Here’s a demo video for you.

3.  Barefooting it - There is a big difference between reducing pain and healing the problem.  When you get advice about wearing shoes as soon as you get up in the morning, that is addressing pain.  But if you want to cure the itis, you need to let your feet experience a full range of motion as often as possible.  If you prepare your foot before you get out of bed, you can still reduce pain and get the benefit of walking barefoot.


4.  Stretching - Give your soleus a break after your morning run by stretching it as soon as possible.  I have fallen in love with a great stretching tool I picked up at Luke’s Locker, Medi-Dyne Prostretch Plus.  It allows for a much deeper stretch of the lower leg.  A deeper stretch is what’s required to reach the soleus.  Stretching from the street curb, just doesn’t seem to do the trick.


Remember, I’m no qualified doc.  These techniques and advice are simply things that worked for me.  However, others have found relief from many other tools and applications.  Always seek professional assistance for serious injuries.


Never, never stop running!