I am so, SO glad to write that the pain in my foot and ankle are abating and that I am back to the roads (and treadmill). Though I felt heavy-legged and clumsy during most of my runs last week, I managed a 9 mile long road run and even an unplanned double day. I was completely exhausted on Sunday after two weeks of working out without a day off, so I slept in and didn’t wash my hair! I like to live on the edge.
I’d previously written about the nature of my injury and am now reassessing. I noticed that ankle dorsiflexion stretches make my foot feel so much better, which could mean I had really tight calf muscles or really tight foot muscles. In fact, it was kind of a light bulb moment during a pre-break run. By that point, my foot and ankle were in so much pain, but I was still out running 10 miles. We stopped halfway through and after stretching my foot and ankle (image below), it felt like the foot muscles loosened up substantially, resulting in a much less painful return trip. It was at that point that I began to do research on the cause of my pain. Lore of Running mentions that tight calf muscles are the root cause of many an injury, so I started to do some research.
I began to wonder if I was overcompensating for a tight calf muscle by utilizing my foot muscles more, or keeping them cramped and tightened to produce more power for the push-off phase. It didn’t feel like I ever kept my foot and toes cramped up, but I do know that I don’t wear the most foot-friendly shoes (cheap flats) which probably causes me to tense the small muscles often. Another possibility was altered foot movement based on when my heel hit the ground. The calf muscle, together with the Achilles tendon, control when the heel (calcaneus) strikes the ground. If the muscle is tight, the hell starts to strike the ground later and later because the tight muscle keeps it up higher. I felt significant pain in the midfoot for a while which I had very initially believed to be a navicular stress fracture. However, it may have actually been a collapsing talar-navicular joint due to the calcaneous being kept pulled “up” by that tight calf muscle or Achilles tendon, or both. Ankle dorsiflexion still seems more difficult and painful on the “bad” side, but daily calf muscle stretches seems to be helping.
Yes, I am definitely one of those annoying patients who walks into the doctor’s office loaded with Google search-derived information about what my ailment may be.
On a happy, pain-free note, today’s run was probably one of the best since returning to the roads! This weekend’s weather was perfect for lounging around and relaxing, but this morning’s weather was perfect for running. When I set out, it felt like the world hadn’t really awoken yet. A majority of windows were still dark and the roads were still somewhat empty. This is my favorite time to run and I often find myself feeling like I have the world to myself. It allowed me to reminisce about my first year or two of running, during which I covered this same route thousands of times. I remember my first few runs, before I had an iPod or Garmin. I would park on St. Joseph Avenue and Ocean Boulevard, glance at my car clock for the start time, jump out of the car and run hard down to the end of the peninsula. I would turn around and run home, ready to collapse after 3 miles. Why did I run hard every time? It just felt good. I wish I had video of these runs, simply to see what my form was like. I would immediately check the car clock to see how long it had taken me.
I did this many times, making my way up to 4 and 5 miles. When I was running 6 miles pretty consistently, I would run on the beach path. I still remember carrying my heavy Blackberry while listening to Pandora. I would become so frustrated when my Pandora kept cutting in and out due to signals! I still remember a majority of those runs, some good, some terrible, but I kept coming back. I still run on that path, but feel like a much different person and runner than I was 5 and a half years ago.