First off – I’ve been fighting with plantar fasciitis for a while, now. Like years, off and on. Years ago I treated with off the shelf orthotics (Superfeet) with relative success. However, for the last year and a half or so – and really the last 8 months – I’ve been transitioning to barefoot and barefoot analogue shoes – both vibram five fingers and Merrell’s ‘Glove’ line. (Full disclosure – I prefer the Merrell’s and they have become my everyday goto shoes.)
In addition to transitioning to barefooting, I’ve also started CrossFit. My activity level went from fairly light (I kept trying to convince myself I was at least better than my coworkers, but that was a hollow victory) with the exception of cycling (not intensive on your foot’s anatomy) to rigorous. I end up spending at least 5 hours every week at the gym (not all 5 of those are spent in ‘action’). In addition to that, I find myself wanting to use my new strength, increased energy, and improved range of motion to get out and do stuff – like hike, or just walk with the family, etc.
A side effect of all this has been that my feet, with all the ground-pounding they’ve been doing, have developed a bit of the dread pirate of performance plantar fasciitis. It got bad enough that I spent some time researching treatment. Lots of people recommend boots and orthotics – I’m not interested in orthotics because I don’t think they actually treat the issue, just the symptom. And symptom treatment is fine, if you plan on treating that symptom for the rest of your life. I do not.
As a part of my CrossFit education, I was introduced to Kelly Starrett’s mobilityWod blog. This is truly a fantastic resource and I recommend everyone go there, because chances are you have SOMETHING that needs to be treated or improved, or whatever. Regardless, I found he had some examples and recommendations to follow to help solve my problems. Here is his video on plantar fasciitis: (link to the post is here)
So I’ve been following some of the exercises for a while now (rolling out my feet in the morning, etc), but not all of them. Tonight, however, I took the icy plunge.
I’ve never done any sort of ice bath, and the whole process seems a bit mystical, to be honest. Oh, I understand the process – the capillaries contract and inflammation is reduced – but there is a sort of secret reverence given to the ice bath. And after experiencing it tonight for the first time, I think that I might be a convert.
First off, it’s cold. Damn cold. Your feet feel as though they are withering away cold. That lasted about a minute or so. Following that, a light numbness set in. This numbness made the pain less, but still obviously there. I waited the kStar mentioned five minutes and pulled them out. I had prepared a nice fluffy towel that my feet – now numbed and a bit blocky feeling – were quickly transferred to. Then, as they thawed and feeling returned, it was pretty amazing. Magic, even! They felt great – different than they have in some time.
Standing on them a few minutes later, some of the dull persistent pain returned, but far less than it was previously. Magic indeed!
I will definitely be continuing the ice bath and probably all of the other self-treatments he recommends. The two I’ve used the most have been wildly successful, and I want it to get better, so I’m happy to take the time to get it done. As kStar says – pony up.
I don’t know about plantar fasciitis, but the barefoot shoes are really working my calves. The reduced heal strike is essentially forcing my calves to do more work. Hopefully this just means they weren’t as strong as I thought they were, and the new foot postion will help strengthen these muscles. It does feel like I’m running a bit faster, with better efficiency, but this could just be all in my mind.