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What’s That Pain in My Heel? The CrossFitter and Plantar Fasciitis

Pf Ouch. You have this pain in your heel. It comes and goes, but it’s definitely worse when you first get up in the morning and step onto the floor. You’re not alone. Plantar Fasciitis (an overuse injury that affects the sole of your foot) is one of the most common injuries reported among CrossFitters. It’s not a result of CrossFit; blame our heel-striking society and the fact that, in the WOD, we tend to run.

So, what can you do? Treat your Plantar Fasciitis and then learn an alternative style of running, like POSE or Chi. In the meantime, you need to deal with the pain, so we bugged our resident physical therapist, Melissa Reed, for some information. As soon as she could break away from kicking everybody’s butt at “Fran”, she gave us these tips:

·         Perform a Great Toe Flexor Stretch every morning before you get out of bed and again later in the day. Basically, grab your heel with one hand and pull your big toe towards your shin with the other hand. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds, rest for 30 seconds. Do 4 repetitions.

·         Perform this stretch (Gastroc Stretch) and this one (PF Stretch) a couple times per day also.

·         Freeze a water bottle and place it on the floor. Roll the affected foot over the bottle for 5 minutes each day.

·         Wear a well-designed, supportive shoe. Don’t go barefoot, even in your house. Support the arch of your foot almost always.

·         And (you knew this was coming) see a professional. You might think it’s PF but it could be something else. And even if it is PF, your treatment may vary, depending on whether your PF is the result of a traumatic injury, your foot structure, scar tissue build-up, or simply the way that you roll your foot when you walk. Consequently, treatment could be deep massage, rest, orthotics, or even more involved procedures. Trying to diagnose the cause of your own pain is like trying to identify the main flaws of your Clean and Jerk without a coach or a video camera: you might get some of it right but you’re probably missing the big picture.

We tried what Melissa said and, wow, did we find some pain relief fast: the big toe stretch in the morning was particularly effective. Everything else she said seemed to help too. What else did we find that worked? Subbing rowing for the runs in the WOD, to provide some healing time. We also subbed some cycling when we could. When we did run (oh “Helen”, you temptress!) we tried to pay particular attention to proper foot striking.

Finally, we had to confront our love for the ultra-flat Chuck Taylors -– because they could have been exacerbating the PF. (Now, if we didn’t have this pain, the “lift barefoot or in Chucks” mentality that abounds in CrossFit might have prevailed but, quite simply, when something’s wrong, we need to fix it.) Ultimately, we loved our Chucks too much to give them up, so we relegated them to Max Effort and lifting-centric WODs. The rest of the time, you’ll find us in our squishy, well-supported, well-arched shoes. We may not look as cool but, boy, do our feet feel better.

(Text by Lisbeth Darsh/CrossFit Watertown in Connecticut.)

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