Q: I need some advice. I have been dealing with plantar fasciitis since July of 2013. I have orthotics and I've stretched, done physical therapy, used a night splint, the boot, heel cups and have had cortisone shots, and I am still suffering. I have been told that high-intensity electric shock therapy has good results, but it costs $4,000 and is not covered by my insurance. I'm considering surgery but am not sure I'd be doing the right thing. The surgeon wants to go in on the bottom of my foot and cut 2/3 of the fascia. I have had people tell me not to let anyone go in on the bottom of my foot, because it can cause nerve damage and an assortment of other problems. Any advice is appreciated. — Lisa A., Woodbine, Md.
A: I am sorry to hear you are dealing with this frustrating and painful condition. Like you, I had a long battle with a severe, double case of plantar fasciitis — PF — that sidelined me for a long time and kept me from doing the things I enjoy. Though I am not a medical doctor, I personally favor holistic healing and would always consider surgery a last resort.
With the exception of cortisone shots, I tried all the same things you did, including ultrasound therapy and two months of traditional physical therapy, during my battle with PF and nothing worked. Finally, I turned to acupuncture and was amazed how quickly I began to heal. In addition to acupuncture treatments, I continued stretching, icing and, most uncomfortably, walking barefoot on gravel a few times a week to increase blood flow to the fascia, which is a flat band of non-vascular tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes.
As I struggled to recover, I learned about Chi Running and determined that my PF may have been caused, at least in part, by improper running form. When I finally returned to running, I switched to minimalist shoes and worked to transition from a heel-striking gait to a mid-sole landing. I also eschewed traditional PF healing strategies, such as the use of insoles, supportive shoes and not going barefoot, deeming these tactics Band-Aids rather than solutions to my problem. In theory, decades of wearing supportive footwear renders feet weak. If the feet are continually supported, the muscles are unable to strengthen on their own, and increasing foot strength is imperative to preventing PF from recurring. To that end, I regularly practiced exercises designed to increase foot strength.
After healing from PF, switching to minimalist shoes, and altering my gait, I have remained PF-free for years. What worked for me, however, may not work for you, and my non-traditional approach to healing runs counter to what most physical therapists and podiatrists would recommend. As always, you should listen to your body and consult with your physician to determine which treatment is best for you.
Please email your fitness and health questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to:
As I See Fit
c/o The Advocate
115 Airport Drive, Suite 170
Westminster, MD 21157