LimpNWhimper: Heel Pain

After seeing numerous patients over the years with plantar fascitis, I am now the proud owner of a foot so afflicted. I’ve only just now concluded that this explains my symptoms over the past few months, and only wish I’d discovered that cause sooner.

It began months ago, noticed when I first got out of bed: the sensation of a stone bruise under my left heel. But since it was a pain that went away after a few minutes on my feet and never returned during the day, I disregarded it.

Starting about a week ago, the pain began lasting longer each day. Now, it never goes away. But I found that if I did some of the things I would have told a patient to do–don’t go without shoes, stretch and ice–the pain temporarily diminishes.

All of my symptoms are consistent with plantar fascitis–including the odd fact that more people have the problem (at least first) in the left heel. Being at home in slippers or barefoot or in my old rubber boots has not helped–none of then provide any arch support, placing more stress on the “suspension system” of the foot. Hindsight: sheesh!

So. As a (retired) physical therapist, I know what to do. And I’ll do those things for six weeks, and reassess before paying ridiculous sums of money to have someone else tell me what I have and what to do about it. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Meanwhile, I’ll limp and whimper.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. So sorry to hear it — I feel – or felt – your pain — literally! Suffered thru the first bout with plantar fascitis with the left heel two years ago. Last Oct. I developed it in the right heet. Thought I knew how to handle it, but by Jan. I could barely take a step and went to the podiatrist for a cortisone shot. The shot was excruciating, but the eventual relief was wonderful. It gave me the chance to do the exercises, the icing, etc. and by March things were pretty well healing. There are still twinges and minor bouts, but going back to consistent stretching, wearing whatever it takes in the way of shoes with the right arch support and heel cushioning is worth it. Six week may or may not do the trick, but as you said you know what to do. Take care of yourself — hope you won’t need the cortisone shot.

  2. I had it about a year ago, Fred. Both heels. My friend, Debbi, (who’d also had it) recommended that I freeze several bottles of water in the 16-oz. size (had to beg these from others since I don’t drink bottled water) and once frozen, takeit out and roll each bottle as if I were rolling a rolling pin from arch to heel and back as I sat at the computer. As the ice inside melted, they got a little squishy and crackly-sounding, and had to be re-frozen. Or rotated with other frozen bottles. Since I owned a marble rolling pin, I decided to try putting it in the freezer. Voila! No mess, cold, soothing, and comfortable. I did the exercises as well—particularly the pointing of toes toward head–stretching back muscles of heel, etc. Today? No pain. The exercises do work, an it’s more than anything, a matter of time. No quick fixes that I know of. Hobbling around for awhile, I guess.

    I never go barefoot, though. (miss it!) And I do miss the slippers I wore for years–no support–from Lands End. No more. Have you ever tried to locate slippers with arch support???!!!


  3. I had this problem about 10 years ago so I headed to the doctor. He gave me three options, surgery, steroids, or exercise. I chose exercise.
    I told the doctor that once I was up and about I was able to walk. He told me that the damage occurs when I first put pressure on the feet so he gave me an exercise to do before my feet ever hit the floor in the morning. He said to Point your toes and draw in the air the entire alphabet in capital letters. I did this for several months without fail and the problem went away and I have not had any foot pain since. I still do this exercise as a precaution but there has not been a reoccurrence of this problem. A friend of mine told me of his pain and I told him about the exercise. He started doing it and his feet are much better. His doctor never mentioned this exercise but in all cases I have come across it really fixed the problem.

  4. About 10-12 years ago, I had it in my right foot, if memory serves. At the suggestion of a colleague, I got some heel cushions, Dr. Scholl’s, I believe. They worked for awhile, but were not all that durable. At some point Barbara’s middle sister, Janet, suggested that I get heel support inserts from Spenco. Which I did, and they seem to have done the trick. I’d guess it’s been about 5 years now with no problems–and the the original set of heel supports still in place. Maybe I was just lucky, but I’d say they’re worth a try. Supposedly available in C’Burg or Roanoke.
    A couple of years ago I recommended Spenco to a colleague at work, and they solved his problem, too.
    I hope they might help you as well as they did me. Good luck!

  5. I have had years with this and actually did the surgery thing many years ago to my left foot — never recommend that! I do HIGHLY recommend Wharton’s Stretch Book — since adopting this process into every morning’s routine I can actually step out of bed every morning with NO PAIN! Good luck — buy the book! 😉

  6. And they say these are our golden years? There ain’t much golden about osteoarthritis, swollen knuckles and creaking knees that hurt when you’re awake. This gettin’ old is a bunch of malarky. I ain’t doin’ it no more!

  7. Hi Fred – Sorry about the foot pain – geez – know what that’s like. Along with the exercises, find someone who does reflexology and have that done each week for awhile – it REALLY helps.
    hugs from PA

  8. I’ve had it in both feet. I did weeks of physical therapy and while it helped it’s very expensive and was time consuming – 3x a week for an hour each time. I finally bought a pair of Sketchers Shape Ups at the recommendation of a friend with the same problem. They have helped 100%. I’ve got inserts that were made by the podiatrist and they don’t work n nearly as well as the Sketchers do. It’s the most expensive pair of shoes I’ve bought, but well worth it!