Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Plantar Fasciitis & Brooks Launch 2

For the past few months I've been dealing with some incredibly tiresome plantar fasciitis in my left foot. I don't really know if running caused it or not, but funnily enough, running actually isn't painful 99% percent of the time. In fact, it actually seems to help--my best days seem to be the ones after a long run, and after Eugene I felt almost normal for several days.

Literally any excuse to post this picture. #eugene

Even walking isn't that bad if I've been up and around for a while and all the muscles & things have gotten nice & warmed up. Walking after I've been off my feet for a while, though? Sucks.

Worst of all for a while there was waking up in the morning. Not even kidding, there were plenty of days when I felt like a pair of crutches at my bedside would not have gone amiss. (Thankfully, it always got significantly better after five or ten minutes of walking around.)

Any time you've got a persistent injury everyone's advice seems to be to stop running for a while & let it heal, but during the ~3ish weeks around the time we were in Ireland I didn't run at all, and guess what? It got worse, not better.

Needless to say, all this had me scouring the internet for tips & tricks (like you do when you can't get an appointment with your foot doctor inside of a month). The good news is, people know a LOT about PF & there is a lot of helpful information out there. I can't remember now all the articles & posts I read, but this one by Kelly O'Mara stands out because a) it was aimed at runners and b) it was written by a runner who I know for a fact is both realistic but also extremely legit. (A lot of what's out there is aimed at older or sedentary/inactive people, which for the most part is different advice than maybe what you need if you're a young-ish, very active person.) I also found this one by John Davis helpful.

Long story short, here are the things that I feel like have (arguably) helped improve my symptoms over the last month or two:

  • Wearing flats as much as possible
  • Stretching my calf/Achilles several times a day
  • This stretch several times a day (from the Davis article)
  • Taping my foot for runs over about 6 miles.
  • Wearing a blue SuperFeet orthotic in my left shoe, along with strategically placed metatarsel pads
  • This technique from PT Kelly Starrett
  • Sleeping in a night splint (which has pretty much eliminated altogether the first-thing-in-the-morning need for crutches)
  • Switching temporarily from my 4mm drop Kinvaras to a 10mm shoe

(In case it isn't obvious, almost all of this has to do with fixing calf muscle tightness, which is apparently one of the biggest causes of PF.)

I read the bit about how switching to a higher drop shoe had helped some people when I was at maybe the worst of my symptoms just a few weeks before Eugene. I love me some Kinvaras (except for the 6, which was awful) but at that point I was willing to try just about anything. Thankfully, I am also a big fan of the Brooks Launch when it comes to longer distances, which happens to have a 10mm drop, so I decided to try switching back to that for a while & see if it made a difference.

I have a couple of pairs of the original Launch kicking around in the closet which I would have happily worn, but around this same time a friend of mine was raving about the Launch 2 which I didn't even know existed. Apparently that version was on its way out, which meant they were being hugely discounted everywhere, so I figured what the heck & managed to find a pair in my size for like $40.

The Launch (versions 1 & 2) is a bit stiffer than any Kinvara I've worn, but they're nice & roomy as traditional running shoes go with a bit less cushioning than most (= better ground feel).

And? It worked!

Launch 2s in the wild.

Generally I try to rotate my shoes both for the good of my feet as well as to prolong the life of the shoes, but I got the Brooks 2s in early April & ran in them for basically every run between then and Eugene (including the race). Between that and everything else on that list above, my symptoms gradually got better in the weeks leading up to the race, and I was able to run it completely pain-free (and was even pain-free for several days following the race!). So I'll definitely be holding on to those babies.


  1. Oh, how I can empathize – PF absolutely sucks, and though the splint helps, it's not a good look long-term. When I was dealing with PF two years ago, I dreaded stepping out of bed in the morning. I did a ton of research and tried icing, rolling a spiky ball underfoot, taping my foot etc. Nothing helped in any sustainable way, until I finally got hooked up with the PT for the LA Clippers who listened to my symptoms and focused immediately on my calf, without the slightest interest in my heel. Turns out someone whose job it is to keep pro athletes healthy knows what she's doing! She shared three very simple daily exercises for stretching & strengthening the calf (hello, Thera-Band!), and within a month my heel was completely pain-free, as it has been for two years now. Since then I've had two PF sufferers tell me the exercises she recommended were the only things that alleviated their heel pain. If you're interested, I posted on my recovery here:

    Hope this helps!

  2. Good for you to get your PF under control - a lot of runners really struggle with recurrent PF.

  3. PF is horrible and hard to get through. I'm so glad you figured it out.