For many months the plan I've had with my podiatrist has been to use my current flexible orthotics to keep the PF in check, while allowing my feet to move and increase their strength. The goal has been to, ultimately, be orthotic free. I've been deeply committed to this philosophy as well as frustrated at the time it seems to be taking to make it happen. The doc has asked I be patient, that it will come with time, and he has said that I can continue to run on a limited basis. This has been going on for a year. On the one hand I'm running 3 miles every-other-day, which is light-years ahead of where I was 12 months ago. On the other hand I continue to deal with heel pain that comes and goes, which leads me to believe I'm not really getting better - totally better. In an effort to get over "that last little bit" I've been doing all sorts of things: hip strengthening, adjusting the degree of arch support, stretching, core strengthening, small amounts of barefoot running in grass, starting to change to a midfoot strike, etc. The bottom line is this: I'm not getting over "that last little bit" and I'm not able to determine if any given effort to make things better is really helping or not. Conversely, I'm not really sure if my small amount of running is too much and, consequently, undoing any progress I might be making.
I've been doing a large amount of reading recently that has strongly influenced my decision to approach this differently:
- The Pose Running Method. Pose is a running form that focuses on efficiency as well as minimizing the stress running typically places on the body - ultimately resulting in lower injury rates. Dr. Nicholas Romanov created this method quite a number of years ago. It has brought positive results to many. Check out http://www.posetech.com/
- Born To Run by Christopher McDougall. Chris searches out the Mexican Tarahumara Indians who are legendary runners. He does this because he has been told by his doctors to stop running due to his age and a variety of foot issues. He learns how the Tarahumara are able to run at levels most runners deem unattainable. When Chris adopts some of their basic principles he not only is able to run pain free, but he completes a 50 mile ultramarathon. If you take nothing else from this or future postings read this book. It's fabulous.
- Stop running. These two words are what the majority of runners least want to hear, however I think I need to take that entire variable out of the equation in order to see if I can make progress on the foot pain and strength and not wonder if I'm undoing progress when I subject my feet to the pounding of running.
- Do a small amount of walking/running barefoot in grass. Experiment carefully to be sure it's not causing damage.
- Learn and practice the Pose drills. Right now I'm using the Pose website as well as YouTube to learn about them, their purpose, etc.
- Wear a Pose-endorsed shoe. The Pose philosophy, when it comes to shoes, is that a very minimalist shoe should be used - to encourage the foot to feel the ground and fire the right foot muscles appropriately. The belief is that the modern padded running shoe prevents this from happening and actually encourages us to run incorrectly.
- Consistently execute a core and hip strengthening program. I have an exercise ball and will be using it to work on core strength.
- Consistently work a program for improving balance. I think the Bosu Ball is the ideal solution here - but I'm not willing to drop $100 for the privilege. I've purchased a balance "disc" ($20). I'm also going to be doing some work my PT has suggested.
- As I get to the point I can consistently do the above with no foot/heel pain, begin some extremely short (Did I say "extremely"? 200m? 400m?) runs on hard surfaces using the Pose method. If well tolerated, increase at an extremely conservative rate.
Next Step & Goal: Get the shoes and start doing the Pose drills while wearing them - and see if I can just do them consistently without aggravating the foot pain. I'm not going to attempt any running (besides a very limited amount of barefoot grass running) until I can be sure I can do the basic drills pain free.
I can commit to giving updates here on how things progress. Whether those updates end up being reports of success or failure remains to be seen.
Running is a privilege.
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