Friday, August 21, 2009


I spent five years and thousands of dollars getting to know plantar fasciitis. I’ll describe my journey and what I learned.

There are differing opinions about managing PF in the early stages. Barefoot or no-barefoot is one of the first conflicting ideas you may hear. One friend says he was advised to go around barefooted and it helped. But, when I first developed PF fifteen years ago, I was told never to barefooted. I still follow that advice and always try to have some support under my feet except for standing in the shower or stumbling to the head to takea pee at night.

The treatment of PF escalates through a fairly predictable sequence of protocols. It goes something like this.

First, you spend a few bucks on over-the-counter orthotics (arch supports) like Dr. Scholl’s. Might help if you have very mild PF, but probably not.

Anti-inflamatories and ice packs are good. Right? Sure. Heat, too. Alternate with ice. Fine.

Buy a book, read on-line articles, talk to friends. You’ll hear about various stretching exercises. I hope they work for you, but if you have a severe case, they will not. Sorry.

Custom orthotics! Wow, are they sexy! Take a mold of your feet, computer designs, one-of-a-kind composite, state-of-the-art polymer blah blah blah. Spend the $600, $800, or more. Guess what? Still hurts like hell.

OK. Give it up. Time for professional help. The friendly podiatrist knows all about PF. Get out your checkbook, because he also knows all kinds of ways to take your money. Let’s see, he’s got physical therapy complete with ultrasound, night splints, more stretches, super taping routines, and, saving the best for last, cortisone. Ta da! Oh yeah, baby, cortisone right in the ol’ plantar fascia. Two injections? Half a dozen?

So it’s five years of suffering and treatments that didn’t work, and I’m about to lose my freakin’ mind.

One day, a neighbor, who happens to be an anesthesiologist, listens to my story. “Brother,” says he, “you are too far gone for this mickey mouse crap. Why haven’t you got it cut?”

(small voice) “Cut?”

He goes on to tell me that he “gasses” for one of the top podiatric surgeons in Northern California. He says he’ll set it up and do the anesthesia himself. Won’t be cheap because it’s outside of my health care plan (Kaiser). Who cares? Just make it stop hurting!

On the appointed day I drive to San Jose, see the doc, get some x-rays. “Yep,” says the doc, “that’s one sorry-looking plantar fascia. The scar tissue is as thick as my thumb. How long have you been walking on that thing?”

“About 5 years.”

“%#*&*&#@*” (swear words)

“OK, Norman, let’s cut this guy.”

So, after some lovely anesthesia, I wake up with a smile on my face. PAIN FREE. I mean, no pain, not even from the operation. I wanted to cry, but being a manly man, of course, resisted. Within three days I was walking, within two weeks I was running.

I’ve been running ever since. No pain. I’m careful to not walk around barefooted, and I have these little blue wrap-around arch-support thingies I wear all the time, just in case, but I run, baby, run.

A couple of final notes. I believe that one of the main contributing causes of PF is carrying too much weight, as in fat. Do yourself, and your feet, a favor and keep yourself as trim as possible. Buy the best shoes and have them selected and fitted by an expert. Finally, if the protocols are not working, stop tossing good money at the problem. Find the best podiatric surgeon in the area and take care of it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Plantar Fasciitis can be really painful. When I had it, the pain was out of control. Thank god I had my orthopedic shoes with out them I wouldn't have been able to walk.