Syracuse Online


Dr. J. on Running

Plantar Fasciatis

Healing the Heel

Published May 21, 2001 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

The early October sun broke through the clouds, invigorating me into a faster pace. I ran hard the last mile, and finished my 6-miler with an all-out sprint up the final hill for home. A hot shower and a hot cup of coffee capped the morning.

I spent the rest of the day at my keyboard, working diligently on an overdue report. When I stood up to leave for home, a shooting pain at the bottom of my foot froze me in place. I tried walking to no avail. The pain was extreme and localized. Patience eventually allowed me to walk to the door.

The pain went away as the evening progressed, but returned with increased intensity in the morning. The first steps out of bed were agony. The "user's guide to running injuries" confirmed my diagnosis of plantar fasciatis, an inflammation of the soft tissue connecting the heel bone to the toes.

I reacted to the news with denial, and went on the business of running. The foot felt fine during the run, and hurt like mad in the morning. Ice and ibuprofen did not help much. By November, I had moved from denial to anger. Why me? Why now? Fall is the best season to run.

Fellow runners suggested treatment options. From the Strassburg sock which pulled my toes and constricted my calf all night, to dark chocolate and cappuccino to facilitate blood flow, the routine remained the same. Acute morning pain gradually gave way to a pleasant run at noon, which caused more pain the following morning.

Record snowfall in December replaced my anger with bargaining. I promised to run only three or four miles at a time, three or four days a week. That resolution quickly deteriorated into one or two miles once or twice a week, as the daily pain took away the serenity of morning.

Acceptance took the form of a short visit to my doctor and a referral to a podiatrist. A quick checklist of the causes of my injury gave me a perfect score: I had gained weight, spent much time on my feet, abused my shoes, moved from soft trails to hard city roads, and ran too much too soon.

After concurring with my diagnosis, Doc proceeded with the treatment. He prescribed orthotics to gradually stretch my fascia and increase its flexibility. He permitted me to resume running up to two miles each week. For several weeks, he increased the thickness of my shoe inserts and the allowable mileage.

April brought me new permanent inserts that Doc crafted in his workshop. They fit snuggly, and felt good. Doc permitted me to increase my runs at the rate of half-a-mile per week.

Now that the pain is gone, and my mileage is back in double digits, I can turn my attention to the root causes. To lose weight, I have switched to skim milk cappuccinos. I sit wherever I used to stand. I traded in my 1992 Jazz running shoes for 2001 Grids. Soon, I will return to the trails of Highland Forest.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at

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