That’s it. I’m out!

I’ve sprained my ankle. I wish I had a more elaborate story as to how I managed to sprain it. I wasn’t saving a kitten up a tree. I didn’t fall off my bike. I wasn’t even participating in a trail run. I simply stepped off the patio onto the grass on my way to pick up dog pooh. Yeah, that’s it.

The timing is actually perfect. It’s year-end and the race calendar has run out. Spraining my ankle has forced me to go into a phase of forced rest without having serious FOMO about any races I’m missing.

Come to think about it, I have missed quite a few races this year. Not entirely out of choice, but because they’ve sold out so quickly. I blame Discovery and their ridiculous point system. Since they entered the game with their Vitality Series, things have been quite chaotic at races.

The entries have sold out fast. The fields have become bigger and bigger resulting in gridlocked traffic on the road as well as huge congestion in the race. I’m seeing an increase in litter at all the water stops from mainly inexperienced runners.

Running a race in Jo’burg has become quite painful. And the last time I checked, old favourites such as Om Die Dam and Oceans were already sold out. We used to have a few months to plan and think about the races we’d like to enter. Not anymore.

Don’t get me wrong. The increase in the number of people running and getting fit is wonderful. It’s positive. I mean, WTH! Sell out races is great. But the vibe has changed. I’ve started to choose an afternoon run around my neighborhood and the occasional run with Graham Block’s group over the stress of an actual running race.

I might feel different about the whole situation next year. Things might have changed. Maybe I’m just tired and winding down. Maybe I’m just really miserable and yes, maybe it is FOMO. With my ankle injury, I’m going nowhere fast and putting my feet foot up has left me with lots of time to think. 

I’m doing a lot of that lately.

 

Tips for treating that dreaded Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common injuries among athletes, affecting approximately 10% of runners at least once during their lives. It sparks fear in most runners because it’s a stubborn injury that can take weeks, even months to heal.

When I was struck down by plantar fasciitis (a little dramatic, I admit), I started to do everything I could to treat it. And I mean everything! Here’s my top 5 treatments:

Plantar Fasciitis treatment

1. I changed my running shoes from Asics to New Balance. Best decision ever to follow the advice of an Orthotist. The tests he performed were so interesting and have made a huge difference. My NB’s are so comfortable.

2. One of my Running Junkie mates recommended the FS6 foot sleeves from Hunt Orthopaedics. These compression socks are designed specifically for sufferers of plantar fasciitis. I wear the sock around the house or whenever I don’t have shoes on.

3. I bought the B4Play ball from Sportsman’s Warehouse. This gadget ties itself around your ankle so while you watch TV, you can comfortably do your exercises with no hassle at all. The best part is that it’s designed specifically to treat plantar fasciitis.

4. This photo is me as a baby, crying. I still enjoy a good, ugly cry. But whatever you do, you need to deal with the frustration that a stubborn injury brings. It demands patience. Plantar fasciitis is a debilitating injury that can take months and even years to go away. For a runner, it’s a death sentence but be patient. Try something else while you wait. I tried hot yoga at the gym and it’s fabulous!

5. Physiotherapist & friend Francis hooked me up with a Strassburg sock. I sleep with it every night religiously and for me, it has made the biggest difference. The compression part irritates me & sometimes I will pull the sock off in the early hours of the morning in my sleep, but it works. I’ll say that again. It works!

6. Calf stretching & massages. My bio Mari alerted me to new research in the beginning & I’ve been disciplined in following her stretching program. It’s worth the read.

There’s a whole range of other treatments which I haven’t even begun to explore yet. Needling, taping, electroshock therapy. The list is endless. What have you tried that’s worked for you?

It’s been almost 6 months since I started treating my stubborn heel. Six difficult and long months. It’s taught me an incredibly valuable lesson in patience. It’s forced me to stop and rest. I think out of everything, for me as a runner, that’s been the hardest part. But it’s humbled me. I long to be out there, running pain free. The time is coming. The foot is healing. Eventually!

I’ll keep you posted!

My tips on buying running shoes

Before I start, let me admit that I am by no means an expert! But what I do know is that when you’re frustrated week after week and unable to run because of a foot injury, you do whatever it takes to find a solution.

This has been my action plan so far: I returned for regular sessions with my bio, Mari. She issued me with a training program to strengthen my weak hamstrings, glutes, back etc. I was sent to an orthotist to have my feet analysed. And he instructed me to buy new shoes. All in all, I have a pretty good idea of why my foot aches and what I need to do to recover.

There were some surprises along the way. Stories from runners, learnings from physiotherapists and reviews on many running websites all seem to say the same thing.

Here’s my tips from what I know:

  • Don’t buy the same shoe year after year after year. *guilty* The manufacturers make tweaks here & there and sometimes it changes the shoe completely. I recall that when KK had foot injuries, he was also advised to change from Nike Pegasus. Apparently the shoe design had been revolutionised and didn’t suit KK anymore.

Take a look at the comparison of the Gel Nimbus 16 next to the Gel Nimbus 18 in the pic below. Different, right?img_6341

  • Don’t buy a men’s shoe just because you’re looking for a wider fit. *guilty* See how wide the Nimbus 18 above looks? Stupid me for not realising that Asics were so narrow. Look at how wide the New Balance 1080 appear! img_6365
  • Buying running shoes from a specialist sports shop such as Sweatshop is better than Sportsman’s Warehouse. But running up and down that 20 meter lane while the salesman watches you run didn’t help me. My advice is to rather have a podiatrist or orthotist do a proper assessment of your gait and feet.
  • I was instructed to look for stability shoes with a cushioned heel and cushioned feet and to avoid anti-pronation. Huh? How the hell would I find this combo? When I gave the specs to the salesman, he didn’t even flinch. Instead he brought out boxes for all the major shoe brands for me to try on.
  • Mari also recommends the Running Warehouse website where you can do all sorts of comparisons based on specs such as pronation control, stack height and even weight.

What have I missed?

The exercises and stretching continues and some days I wake up thinking I’m fine, just to feel that stabbing pain in my heel ruin my entire day. If anything, it has taught me patience and the importance of resting. Not less running. NO running. It’s been tough.

Hey, if you’re buying new shoes soon, send me a pic!

Fixing my feet

I had my feet checked out by an orthotist last week. I arrived at his office with a pair of my old and current running shoes and a history of how the stabbing pain all began. He questioned me about my running history, scribbling notes on a fresh A4 piece of paper. “When did the plantar fasciitis begin? How long have you run for? How old are your shoes? How often do you stretch?”

You can clearly see that the older model on the left looks very different to the one on the right.

When I showed him the two pairs of running shoes, it was quite obvious I had not noticed how completely different the same shoe was. I have been an Asics fan since I started running. I have bought the Gel Nimbus shoe year after year. But when we studied the older model with the newer one, they looked like two different shoes! WTH?

The image on the left is how normal feet run. My feet, shown in the image on the right, is where you can see how my left foot hardly touches the ground and how all the weight is sitting in my right heel (where all the pain is).

Image on the left is how a normal person’s feet should stand. My feet, on the right, shows how much weight I am distributing on the balls of my feet. And yes, the right heel taking strain.

He made me run up and down a computerized mat to assess my feet. Again, quite revealing. The plantar fasciitis pain runs into my right foot, but it’s mainly caused by the lazy left leg.

The conclusion: There’s nothing wrong with my feet. The problem lies in the weakness of my hamstrings, glutes and calves. My current running shoes are too big for me and my feet slip up and down inside the front of the shoe. Ironically, I’ve always bought a men’s shoe for the wider fit. Don’t ask me why I’ve never considered other brands before? The shoes also cause me to over-pronate. I’m also tying my shoe laces incorrectly.

He wrote out a few instructions for me to take back to my bio, Mari. I need to focus on key strength exercises but quite honestly, I need to be disciplined to do the exercises if I have any hope of recovering.

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080s

I must admit, I walked out of his offices relieved that I knew what was wrong. I was gutted to miss the Pick ‘n Pay half marathon this weekend but I did buy new shoes! Say hello to my New Balance babies! How did I choose these running shoes? Blog post to follow this week.