One of the standard “treatments” for Plantar Fasciitis is to lose weight. That makes sense: The less weight you have bearing down on your feet the less stress they’ll be under.
So, as a recovering Plantar Fasciitis sufferer, the prospect of going on an 8-day backpacking trip through the WY mountains scared me a bit. Not only would I be instantly gaining 40 lbs. each time I put on my pack, but the itinerary called for traveling a total of 43 miles and crossing the Continental Divide multiple times. Backing out of the trip was not an option – both because I wanted to go but also because I was part of the adult team leading a group of Boy Scouts on the trip.
Fortunately I was able to see my Podiatrist before I left. I told him my predicament (my recovery had been progressing fine and, were it not for this trip, I wouldn’t even be in his exam room) and asked if there were any “emergency” measures we could take to prevent my feet from becoming hamburger and setting back the months of progress I’d made. He made a simple modification to my orthotics. He placed some piano felt across the arch and created a relatively significant bump to provide even more arch support. He said it would feel really strange (and it did) but it would prevent the plantar fascia from being stressed too much under the additional weight.
The orthotic change seems to have worked really well. While I finished the trip with a few feet issues (a little swelling, a little numbness) I have not acquired any renewed classic Plantar Fasciitis symptoms.
I’m looking forward to running again since I haven’t gone out since I got home. The problem is that I’m just exhausted. I thought I was a relatively fit person, but this trip just totally wiped me out. From a raw strength and endurance standpoint I think it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Backpacking doesn’t even come close to providing the level of enjoyment I get from running. But it did open my eyes as being a very viable cross-training option. I think it was great for the hips: With every step Gluteus Medius and the IT Band have to hold up that extra weight. And I can even see that, within reason, it’s a good way to strengthen the feet.
I’d be interested to hear if others have used or viewed backpacking as a cross-training option. I could see donning a pack loaded with deadweight every couple of weeks and going on a hike in order to build strength in key areas. Fortunately this method also enables you to go on an instant diet – lightening yourself by 40 lbs. when you take your pack off. This potentially provides a great way to control not only the extra load, but also how long your body is dealing with it.
I’d be interested in your thoughts and experiences.