I struggled with pain in my feet for most of 2012. I dreaded putting my feet on the floor in the morning, and running was just, well, not good. I do not do well when I can’t run, and even walking was getting painful.
Plantar fasciitis has been a problem for years, but for some reason, running in the Vibram Five-Fingers and Merrell pace gloves didn’t hurt my feet. Influenced by the book Born to Run, I started wearing these minimal shoes to see if they would help my knee pain, which they did, with nearly magical results. Until May 2012, when it felt like my feet exploded. I had a workup for stress fractures, but thankfully it was “only” plantar fasciitis. Which is still seriously annoying.
I have a lot of patients with plantar fasciitis, so I have more than just a personal interest in my own foot pain. What does research show? PubMed lists a number of articles covering different treatment modalities. Custom orthoses, rocker-sole shoes, steroid injections, ultrasound, dry needling, all have some effect, but all the studies had really small sample sizes. I can’t get really excited about a study with only 22 people in it!
And the idea of sticking a needle into my heel is really unappealing.
I took a couple of weeks completely off from running, after which I think everyone was ready to put me on extra-large doses of Prozac. I tried “regular running shoes.” I tried pool running. Nada. Still hurting, still really crabby.
Running friend Rob has an excellent physiotherapy book pointing out different trigger points, so I started working out the trigger points for plantar fasciitis (which are located on the shin, because the place that hurts very often is not the place that is the real problem). Aha! Some progress, some pain relief.
I started triathlon training, especially working on my freestyle swimming. Aha aha!!! Something about the flutter kick actively releases those trigger points that tighten up the plantar fascia.
So, anyway, your mileage may vary, but podiatrists recommend cycling and swimming for athletes with foot pain, and now I absolutely recommend swimming as plantar fasciitis therapy.
Plus I’m happy to be back in the water, especially living here at the beach. I grew up swimming out to the reef and to Monster Island at Taechun Beach in South Korea, and when I took SCUBA lessons it was a lovely moment to go underwater and just hang out and breathe for the first time.