How to Avoid Running Injuries

Three weeks ago, I got out of bed and noticed that my right heel was really sore. That’s strange, I thought. I wonder if I stepped on a stone. Over the next few days, I kept running and noticed that it was getting progressively worse. Then it dawned on me. Could this be the dreaded Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis illustration by HeelThatPain

I immediately looked it up on Wikipedia. It said,

Plantar fasciitis, formerly known as “policeman’s heel,” is a painful inflammatory condition caused by excessive wear to the plantar fascia of the foot or biomechanical faults that cause abnormal pronation of the foot. The pain usually is felt on the underside of the heel, and is often most intense with the first steps of the day.

Those were my exact symptoms.

The first thing I did was to stop running. The repetitive impact on my foot was only aggravating the condition. I have continued working out, but now I am using the elliptical machine or a stationary bike. (As a side benefit, this has finally got me doing cross-training, something I should have been doing since I started running more than a year ago.)

Next, I went to Fleet Feet Sports in Brentwood. Jeff Wells, the proprietor, was a big help to me. He thought my chances of recovery were good, since I seem to have caught the problem early. He fitted me with some PowerStep insoles, which he said would give me more support for my arch.

He also sold me a Step Stretch device that I have been using religiously since I got it. I stretch each leg three times for forty-five seconds each, twice a day. It has really helped.

In addition, I have been periodically icing my foot. I found a reusable ice pack at Walgreens that has worked well.

However, I have still been unable to run. So, last week, I visited Adam Carter, a physical therapist here in Nashville who works with a lot of runners. He fitted me for some custom orthotics (shoe inserts). They came in on Wednesday, and I did my first workout with them yesterday.

Adam suggested that I keep using the elliptical machine or the for the next week. I have to break the orthotics in. I am hoping that I begin seeing improvement quickly.

If you are a runner, there are some import things you can do to avoid injuries. Here are my top five:

  1. Make sure your shoes are in good shape. You should keep a running log of your total miles. Shoes should be replaced every 300 miles.
  2. Stretch before and after you run. This is incredibly important. Unfortunately, I wasn’t doing this consistently, and I believe that is where my problems began.
  3. Don’t increase your mileage by more than 10% per week. So, for example, if you are running 12 miles a week (three miles, four times a week), you can safely add 1.2 miles the second week, but no more.
  4. Cross-train on an elliptical machine, stair machine, or a stationary bike. Cross-training will keep your aerobic level up without punishing your legs day after day.
  5. Engage in strength training. Strong muscles are important. They support you and make you less likely to become injured. This actually one of the reasons I often run barefoot
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  • Tamara Paton

    I occasionally suffer from the dreaded PF and swear by deep tissue massage on my calves (in addition to everything you’ve said). I consider massage to be a corollary to your stretching rule.

    If your calves are tight, then your achilles is tight. If your achilles is tight, then your planta fascia is tight. When I keep my calves strong and loose, I have happy feet.

    In the meantime, keep a golf ball under your desk at work. Take off your shoes once in a while and roll your foot over the ball. A tennis ball works too, but I find that golf balls get in between the many bones in the foot. This exercise loosens the fascia and speeds healing.

  • Matt

    Rest, particularly as you age is crucial.

    The discipline to rest is as critical as the discipline to train. Having run several half-marathons and 25k races, I’ve found that training five days a week, or every other day, is best. Without adequate recovery time, the pain of running can become a huge obstacle to one’s progress as you pursue greater distance and quicker pace. There’s mental burn-out to manage, as well.

    At 49, every other day has proven to be an excellent practice to maintain my base conditioning, and simply lengthening my runs and periodic interval training helps me ramp up for races (or drop a few pounds).

    Good luck managing the PF – I ran through growing pain and ended up having to cease all running for four months last year because of the condition (this proved to be brutal on my waistline!). Managing the condition aggressively is key, and it looks like you begin doing so.

    Best

    – MB

  • Dan

    Hey Mike…. My wife dealt with this after running the Chicago Marathon and began training for the Country Music. She had a rather severe case which lasted quite a while. She ended up having orthotripsy which helped more than anything. She suggests taking a smooth small water bottle, freezing it and rolling it under your foot. Hope you’re better soon. We were also told it can go away as quickly as it showed up! –Dan

  • Marcy Lightcap

    When I can I like to hear directly from the source. Can you please elaborate on the comment below by your employee, which came to me at our bookstore-The Master’s Christian Bookstore? It appears that he is saying Nelson is not a Christian publishing house, but that they don’t mind working with Christian authors. I know you don’t only publish fiction, proven by the dozens of titles we carry that are published by Nelson, but it appears the point is to differenciate between being a Christian house as opposed to a non-Christian one. Thanks. Marcy Lightcap

    THOMAS NELSON’S GRAPHIC NOVEL VENTURE

    With a serious new commitment to the graphic novel category, Thomas Nelson reaches out to grab a new audience. The company plans to publish adaptations of bestselling author Ted Dekker as well as a variety of manga-styled series aimed at teens, especially girls. Nelson will publish roughly 20 graphic novels over the next two years, with the adaptations of Dekker’s bestsellers as the centerpiece. The house also has an agreement with Realbuzz Studios, a comic packager that specializes in religious comics, produced in the visual style of manga. While some of these graphic novels reflect the publisher’s religious mission, most of the new works do not have overt religious content and are aimed at the growing secular book market for graphic novels.

    “We are not a Christian fiction publisher,” said Allen Arnold, senior v-p and publisher for fiction at Nelson. “We work with Christian authors who want to tell great stories,” he said, explaining that his authors weave their faith into their stories.

    Publishers Weekly

  • http://www.colleencoble.com Colleen Coble

    Mike, I had a bout of this myself a couple of weeks ago. It was so painful, I could barely walk and I looked it up and it’s an inflammatory process as you said. But did you know inflammatory processes are usually triggered by something you’re ingesting? I thought mine was from the Lyrica I was taking for shingles but when it didn’t go away after discontinuing the med, I looked deeper and discovered I’d developed an allergy to my coffee creamer. I discontinued it and the pain in heel was gone in three days. Try eating only meat and fresh fruit and vegetables for three days (and discontinue any new vitamins you’ve started taking) and see if the pain goes away. In particular don’t eat any wheat, the biggest offender for causing inflammation. If it does go away, email me and I’ll tell you how to find out what’s causing the problem. LOL Just give it a trial. I think you might be surprised.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Colleen,

    I know that inflammation is the root of many diseases and other problems. I think I’ll try going wheat-free for a week and see what happens. It can’t hurt. I am also happy to report that the orthotic inserts are working. Yea!

    Thanks much,

    Mike

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Marcy,

    Let me encourage you to read this:

    Our Content Standards

    Since this is off-topic to my original post, if you have any additional questions or concerns, please email me (see link at top right of page). I will be happy to put you in direct contact with Allen Arnold, our fiction publisher.

    Thanks,

    Mike

  • http://maurilioamorim.com Maurilio

    Mike,

    My marathon training team is doing several yoga class between now and race day. I just finished one a couple of hours ago and it really helped me get a great stretch on my quads and hamstrings after our 14-mile run yesterday. My lack of flexibility has caused me some injuries. According to my coach, the yoga classes should be very helpful in preventing future damage.

  • Scott

    Nothing else to suggest, really, although I’ll second the suggestion to get plenty of rest.

    I certainly understand the frustration. Those little (and not so little) niggling injuries can sure put a damper on one’s plans. And, at our age recovery takes so much longer.

    I have no idea what I did to cause it, but my left calf muscle hurt like the dickens after my first “official” half-marathon training run a few weeks ago. I had been running regularly prior to that, so it’s not like I was out of shape or doing anything new — just officially “training” now. I don’t know if it was a spasm or a tear, but I couldn’t run for a week. I rested for that entire week, and now I’m back to training and everything seems to be fine. I stretched regularly after every run, but now I try to do it more often (especially, after I warm up but before I begin running).

    I wonder what the next problem will be?

  • http://flametoad.com Preston

    Wow, thanks so much for this post. I’ve had this problem for several months now but didn’t know what was causing it. You described my symptoms perfectly, except that I’m not a runner so it’s not being caused by that.

  • Debbie Birkey

    Didn’t know when we saw each other Saturday that we had something in common! I’ve suffered from PF. I discovered Mephisto shoes and in a matter of months, the condition was gone. Has not returned since but I AM cross-training which is key. Enjoy the recovery. It’s nice to have an excuse to throttle down.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Debbie,

    It was great to see you on Saturday. Thanks also for the tip on Mephisto shoes. I will look into them!

    Blessings,

    Mike

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  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/donnamaria donnamaria

    I run about 10 miles a week. I'm 47 years old and just started running last year so I don't consider myself a "runner." I can share from my experience as a person who runs I guess. LOL! I have never experienced plantar fasciitis, but know people who have switched to elliptical machines because of it. I work with a triathlete trainer at my gym and she says that how we land on our feet can contribute the problem. She described the best landing as not on the heel, but sort of almost on the ball of the foot. I tried it and it pretty much stopped the slight shin splints I was feeling from time to time. It takes some getting used to but I like running that way now. My pace seems better and my legs do not seem to fatigue as quickly.