What is one of the most common ailments that bother hikers? Plantar Fasciitis.
It can be scary to wake up one morning and suddenly not be able to stand properly for the first couple minutes, hobbling to the bathroom. Or worse, spending the first mile in red hot pain as your foot warms up. But you needn’t suffer so badly, nor for so long.
I have had Plantar twice, the first time was years ago when I walked off a trail and ripped up my foot. After a lengthy session of pain I went to a foot doctor and learned how to tape my foot up. I was instructed to toss my hiking boots and get new ones. I did all and within a couple months I was back to normal.
Yet even knowing that, this past early fall I was hiking with Kirk & Ford and trying to catch up, I moved too fast, wearing unsupportive (and worn out) trail runners. I felt a bad pain in the back of my foot that day but figured it was just a twinge. It was OK overall, hurting, but not bad. Typical low level Plantar where it never fully heals but it isn’t bad either. Then we went to Florida in December and I spent two weeks in Chaco sandals. And what did me in was going to Disney World. Spending all day on concrete in those sandals sealed the deal – by the time we got home in early January I could barely walk with my left foot. I was hobbling. It was worse than that first time. I couldn’t hike, I couldn’t go walking without being in pain.
Kirk remembered he had a night splint from a foot injury he had and told me he was going to take care of my feet. So now, for the past two months I have been wearing the night splint nearly nightly. It holds my leg where it should be, allowing things to heal.
If you haven’t seen a night splint see:
Medtherapies Plantar Fascia Night Splint
Combined with that I got new trail runners (as mentioned a couple months back here) and picked up two pairs of Superfeet Berry for them and my hiking boots. Superfeet can help a lot with your healing, keeping your foot where it should be. The reason behind new shoes is often your shoes are worn out before you realize it and that the shoes have molded to the foot – in its injured state. Tossing trail runners and starting over with new ones is cheaper than going back a couple times to a doctor!
Sadly though the best thing you can do is give yourself time for your foot to heal. That means slowing down or not hiking at all! Yes, it blows. You will quit hurting, then go hiking…and OOOOWWWW! The next day you will be back to where you started.
So after I started wearing the splint I knocked off the hiking and most of all I quit walking on hard packed and paved rail to trails – the hard flat surface is brutal to the foot. I have been working out at the gym instead, doing workouts that don’t impact my foot for the past 9 weeks. As Kirk points out – if I kept hiking during the first healing period it would never heal all the way.
So if you have even the start of Plantar, give your foot the rest it needs to start the healing. Don’t shrug it off! I can now hike once again and not be in pain 🙂 Though I am still staying off that foot – Spring is here and soon the good trails will be opening up. And my feet cannot wait! I will be hiking on schedule once again – though I will still wear my “boot” to bed at night – to make sure I feel good in the morning!