musings on running, life, and everything in between

Friday Failures


In the last two days–actually on Wednesday, I discovered two things: 1) I couldn’t put my full weight on my right heel when I got out of bed and 2) my semester was starting a full week earlier than I had been thinking. Epic fails.

Wednesday morning, I got out of bed and could barely put weight on my right heel. My right ankle/foot had been bothering me a little bit, feeling super tight, but I thought little of it. The minute I realize I had heel pain, my mind flashed to plantars fasciitis. I’ve never had it, never really looked into it, so I wasn’t even sure if I was on to something. However, I had heard people say that the pain was the worst immediately after getting out of bed.

I’m not going to lie. I thought with all my form stuff and partially minimal shoes, etc., I was “immune” from this common runner’s injury. So I started Googling the heck out of it and messaging the friends who’ve dealt with such issues in the past. The most useful link in my VERY brief Google searching was actually on Wikipedia (here), mostly because I liked the image of the various locations and degrees of pain. I had thought plantars happened more along the arch and midpoint of the foot. When I saw that it was most concentrated smack in the flat of the heel, I freaked out. I quickly flipped through various strategies of dealing with it–rocking back and forth and keening in horror was one. I went with contacting my running coach/massage therapist/nerd of all trades, Bill Underwood. I knew he would be able to give me some ideas as to WHY I got it, treat it, and give some tips on treating it further. I’m not going to lie, if I already have a good idea what the issue is, I’d rather bypass the whole doctor/PT thing and go straight to my own remediation plan. I don’t have the time, energy, or patience to go somewhere X times a week and pay someone to watch me do exercises I could do at home…

Getting a massage from Bill is like childbirth. Unmedicated childbirth. You know it will be rewarding, but it’s painful as f*. There is screaming and cursing, though no tears. Or blood. There is sometimes bruising. But he’s awesome and it works. He’s also funny and free-flowing with the running advice and nerd talk.

Anyhow, we did a rundown of why I was getting plantars now when I “hadn’t” changed much. Um. Except, it turns out I had. I have been doing suddenly some longer trail runs. Oh, and the last two trail runs were in new shoes. Oh, and I’m switching up shoes that are drastically different (stability vs neutral). And I’m still heel-striking like a mofo…So. Yeah. Bill was like, “Um, just going for all the stuff, huh?”

Ok, so let’s start with the trail stuff. Whenever you drastically/significantly switch up running surfaces, you want to be careful. Different surfaces require different things of your feet and legs. Sudden long mileage (ahem, particularly in new shoes) on a different surface doesn’t give your body enough time to adapt. I also foolishly believed that switching to another minimal type trail shoe (Altra Superior) would be okay without a huge breaking in process, because I was already running in partially minimal shoes and the trail would make it okay (for some reason, I want to act like the trail is a “buffer” for things…yeah, no logic).

I also tend to have a “stable” of shoes I rotate through a lot, because I’ve read that can be better for you–having more than one pair to rotate through. So, this is my shoe collection from the semester. To be fair, I was getting ready to rotate two pairs out, one was a mostly recovery pair, and one was a pair I kept mostly from cross-training. But still…


Row 1: Saucony Kinvara 5 (both, although I swear that white one is different). Row 2: Saucony Guide, Brooks Pure Cadence, and Newton Energy.

The Kinvara’s are hands down my favorite. I like the Brooks Pure series, but I’ve read they’ve been getting narrower in their updates so I’ve avoided them (I’ve run in the Flow and the Cadence). I WANT to like Newtons, and I liked the Gravity ok though it felt a bit clunky at times. The Energy are more streamlined, but I found them lackluster. And the Guides were an attempt to actually listen to what the “experts” say, which is that I should wear a stability shoe. They felt really chunky, though, and have the highest heel drop in the lot (8 mm) so I’d been using them primarily for recovery runs. However, I decided to take them to California last weekend (I was visiting my sister and her new baby, post to come on that) and wear them on my long run (13-14 miles). I can’t remember my reasoning for it. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not the most logical or rational-thinking at times… I think it was because my ankle had been wonky and I thought they would better support them? Yeah, bad idea.

In my training journal for those runs, I wrote that I hated the Guides. They feel really big and that it forces a heavier heel strike from me. Bill scolded me for switching between so many neutral shoes and a stability shoe, and then throwing in the trail shoe and the trail running, my legs and feet were PO’ed about all the changes I was throwing at them. So I need to make up my mind and decide if I’m stability or neutral. I’m going with neutral, but I also know that I am by nature a heel striker, and somewhat uneven in my strike as well. See picture below.


I didn’t have a photo of the heels before I donated them, but you can see from the tread on the lugs of these Newtons, that I’m pushing more heavily from my left foot. Being asymmetrical in running is never good–especially for distance runners.

Because I know I’m a heel striker and this is putting a lot of load on my heels/calves/feet, Bill really encouraged me to make sure I was activating my glutes by either raising my knees higher or really thinking about kicking back when I run and really trying to get on my midfoot. I’m over-relying on smaller muscles in my lower legs and being inefficient in my form, which is causing all kinds of wacky things. I also need to stretch seriously and rekindle my romance with the Grid roller and my Orb. I’ve been getting lazy, which was obvious to Bill as he tried to break my ITB in half and then proceeded to gouge my very tender hips (something I wasn’t aware was tight or sore, sigh).

So. Plan of action. Stick with neutral shoes. I think I’m going to try and see Bill at Roadrunner Sports where he works this weekend to try some new ones. Work on my form. Fit in yoga at least once a week. Foam roll/massage like crazy. And I took two days off from running. I even *gasp* cross-trained. Seriously, that was the first time in almost a year. Bill doesn’t think it’s plantars yet, just angry tight feet and legs, but I need to get on it if I don’t want it to get there.

Anyhow, gonna head out and try to do a short run to test the waters before tomorrow’s long run. And it’s misty raining. Great. Happy Friday everyone! And hope you get out there and do something.


Author: runNerdier

Marathoner. Academic. Mom of 2 ankle-biters.

8 thoughts on “Friday Failures

  1. A few thoughts… I used to run in newtons (gravity, motions, and distance series) and I enjoyed distance III most. great shoes, but lasted only 300miles. I have Altra superior (320+miles) and it’s good up to 13-14 miles for me although I once ran 20 miles thou. I highly recommend to try midfoot strike than heel. I switched myself from heel to midfoot in 2014 (took long to get used to it), but very rewarding after all. Also you might want to add highly cushioned shoe for recovery (e.g., hoka 11 clifton, etc). For me, I do uptempo run with clifton and the recovery is super fast. Lastly, foam roller should be a daily practice if you can. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think my misguided attempt to go with the guides was equating stability with cushioning, which isn’t really the same thing. I’ve been working on the midfoot for awhile but seems like i need to work harder. Sigh. What’s your go to shoe for over 14 miles?


  2. Interesting read. I have a mild case of PF in my right heel and am debating whether or not to take time off running to let it heel ( I dread this as I NEED to run!). I am stretching a lot and icing when I need it and rolling a ball under my arch when sitting. Do you think I should stop running for it to heal?Any tips?


    • From what I’ve read and heard, yes, you need to stop. Depending on where you are in your training, it won’t necessarily hurt you. And it’s way better to take a week or two off now and get healed than to push yourself and be forced to either have to take time at a more crucial point in your training, take a much longer time off, or not run your race at all. PF seems to be an ongoing recurring issue for a lot of folks, so better to nip it in the bud now than to wrestle with it for awhile. Also, I would make sure you figure out what is causing it so you can try to address the SOURCE of the issue as well. Hope this helps!

      Liked by 1 person

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