If you have suffered foot, heel and Achilles pain…you know the frustration of painful and stiff runs or worse yet not being able to run. Use these lessons learned to make sure you aren’t sidelined for something most likely treatable and preventable.
A number of readers and runners that I coach have suffered pains and injuries to their lower legs at one point or another. They’ve suffered through the aggravation of Plantar fasciitis (usually pain in the heel), foot pain and aching Achilles tendons. If this sounds familiar to you don’t worry. You are not alone. The good news is that you can alleviate most of these common ailments with inexpensive and non-invasive do-it-yourself therapies.
As a fellow sufferer of plantar fasciitis, foot pain and achilles issues I have tested out a number of solutions. Below are 8 treatments for you. These treatments have helped me and those that I coach. Thank you to Dr. Douglas Stam, a local A.R.T. specialist, the physical therapists at my local ATI, AIS Therapist Phil Wharton and a number of posts on LetsRun.com, StrengthRunning.com and CoachJayJohnson.com for the forms of relief I am about to share with you.
One quick note: If you are currently unable to run without pain you should immediately see your Dr. and have the area examined by a professional (or two). It can be a fine line between normal soreness and a potential injury and it is better to be cautious and think of your long-term goals as a runner.
This post is split into 2 sections. The first section is designed to give you short-term relief for the discomfort you are feeling and the second section is for strengthening yourself in such a way as to guard against future recurrence of these issues. You do not need to do all of these things but by trying each one out a few times you will find at least one that will provide you relief.
2. Do towel crunches using your toes after getting out of the shower. To do these you will stand on a towel and simply scrunch your toes up underneath your foot. You might (ok, almost definitely WILL) feel some discomfort doing these the first few times as scar tissue is being broken up. I’ve posted a video below in case you need to see how this looks.
3. “Roll” a golf ball, tennis ball or baseball under your foot in the area of pain to break up scar tissue. First thing in the morning is a good time for this when you’re likely stiffened up and lacking blood flow to that area. Think of this exercise like foam rolling but you are using a ball to reach an area that a foam roller just wouldn’t be much good for. Here is another video demonstration of how this should look:
4. Get a massage or perform some self massage on your feet, achilles and calves. If you go the self massage route feel free to get in there and look to increase blood flow and break up scar tissue using in your heel, calves and achilles your thumbs and fingers. Icing immediately after the massage can aid this process.
5. Use “The Stick” multiple times per day. Your feet and heels might be hurting you because of tight calves or knots in your calves that need to be broken up. Conversely, foot problems could be causing issues in your calves and achilles. You can use this rolling-pin like device to press against your calves from the back of the leg. This is similar to getting a massage or performing a self massage. This will most likely be pretty unpleasant the first time or two that you do this. A video is below to show exactly how to use “The Stick.” 50 times up and down each calf should do the trick.
6. Watch, and perform, Phil Wharton’s “Foot and Ankle Routine” Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. This will provide both short-term and long-term relief to you by breaking up that scar tissue residing in your feet, calves and achilles that is causing you pain. These 3 videos from Wharton walk you through exactly how to stretch, heal and strengthen these bothersome areas. You will definitely notice a better range of motion and feeling quickly.
Long term resolutions
The first six options can also be used for both short-term and long-term relief but if you’ve read this far you probably want both. Good idea! The next three suggestions are designed to strengthen your feet and lower legs long term to minimize the risk of future occurrence of the training setbacks.
7. Start including some “strides” after easy runs 1-2 times a week if you are not already doing them. Doing strides will help train your body to run more efficiently and possibly reduce the impact you put on your feet each run. If you are already doing strides then attempting to run some of them barefoot or in minimalist shoes in an area that is safe to run barefoot can strengthen your feet and lower legs. This should only be implemented after the pain is gone. This approach (that some will certainly criticize) is designed to strengthen your lower legs and feet instead of artificially protect it with heavy shoes and inserts.
8. Replace or supplement your shoe collection. Many times a running related injury begins with either some kind of overtraining or worn out shoes. If you are running more than a few times a week and doing so in the same shoes you will benefit from getting a second pair to alternate running in. This will help your shoes last longer and provide a slightly different stimulus and type of cushion to your feet and body each run. Runningwarehouse.com is a great option for deals on shoes and has great return policies.
9. Bonus: Negative calf raises. Negative calf raises are great for strengthening, stretching and bringing blood flow to a tough to reach area: your Achilles. To do these you will stand on the edge of a stair and go up with two feet and then lower yourself back down with just one leg. At first you should do 3 sets of as many of these as you can with each leg and once you surpass 30 per leg start holding weight. You should look at this exercise as more of a stretch than it is a workout. Below is a video demonstration if needed.
Please bookmark and report back. How are these things working for you?