I have often been nagged by aches and pains that aren’t too bad, but just won’t go away. I actually enjoy going to Physical Therapy, but not so much in a Pandemic — plus my insurance doesn’t pay for it. I have had a time or two when the pain was either bad enough or I was in the midst of training for something and I had to seek out help. Even with the help of a great PT, it can still take diligent months of exercises to feel relief.
When my Achilles Tendon started to act up in the Summer, I dropped my mileage and I began to explore various remedies. Dropping my mileage definitely helped with the more intense pain, but the ache continued to linger. Until as suddenly as it came, it seemed to go away (fingers crossed — so far, so good). Here’s what I felt to be the most important contributors to my healing.
Daily Foam Rolling
With particular attention to my calves — not forgetting to work toward the inside (distal) side of the calves, too! Also paying attention to my feet and hamstrings. I often did more — especially on run days — but if I was short on time this is what I hit.
I started out with almost daily foot stretches/strengtheners, too, but as the pain subsided I typically did these only pre-run. I put up a video on my YouTube Channel here. I do the foot holds on the ball almost every day — the other exercises I usually only do on the days I run.
Kept my mileage low
Although I’ve had the occasional aches in my Achilles over the years, it usually went away quickly. Until it didn’t. Until it was severe enough to cause limping. Not training for anything, I had no desire for a serious injury. Dropping my mileage was a no-brainer for me.
It’s all connected, of course, and often a pain in one area is actually cause by an imbalance in another area. The Achilles attaches to the calves, so for months I did walking on my toes, my heels, and the sides of my feet most days. I haven’t been doing these as much lately, as I’ve found the other things I do seem to keep my Achilles happy — so far. These are always good drills to do, though, especially if you’re a trail runner!
You can see what I used to do in this video here, although I’ve changed up my routine quite a bit with some of the things I’ve since learned.
It’s not what it sounds like! Basically it’s draping your foot over a ball and putting your weight on it. I have about five spots that I move through. This is also great for Plantar Fasciitis! You will note that I don’t actually roll my feet in this practice — and I very rarely roll my feet at all any more. Even if I’m just feeling a slight twinge in the morning, this will usually make it go away.
Of course I am not a medical professional or a physical therapist — you know the drill! I can’t diagnose what’s causing your pain. I can tell you that if you suffer with foot pain, there’s a good chance these practices will help you, too. I have slowly increased my mileage (although it’s definitely still not high mileage, not even close) without feeling a return of the problem — so far, knock on wood.
I can also say that if I had seen a Physical Therapist, maybe my issue would have been resolved much quicker — and maybe not. I’ve had to do PT exercises for months in the past before finding any relief. I really do recommend you see a PT if you’re in pain, but all of these exercises are great for runners — whether your feet bother you or not. Final, final thought: always listen to your body and stop at once if you feel pain or an ache worsens.
What do you do to keep your feet happy?
Are there any PT exercises you still do?
What do you do to keep running injury free?