Training Road Blocks: Extensor Tendonitis

Getting back into shape is never easy. Just when you think you are getting into the groove, it feels like something always has to happen to get in the way.

I felt pretty good last week after Ragnar, which I viewed as a great success. I felt comfortable enough to begin some actual speed training.

On Wednesday, I did a morning hill workout – 12 x 200 meter hill sprints at 5K pace with a 1 mile warm up and 1 mile cool down. It wasn’t easy (and my Garmin didn’t want to cooperate, since I was ran this workout on a big metal bridge that always messes with the GPS signal), but I got through it and felt good afterward.

On Thursday, I ran an evening track workout – 6 x 800 meters at 15K pace with 50 seconds of recovery between intervals. The last interval was really hard, but again, I saw that as a sign of a workout well done.

Saturday, it was “long run” day, about 10.5 miles at my fall marathon goal long run pace. After that run, the top of my foot hurt. It had hurt the prior weekend after the final leg of my Ragnar, when I had tightened my laces because of a blister under the ball of my left foot. I thought tighter laces would mean less sliding and no more blister. Instead, tighter laces meant an irritated extensor tendon.

The top of my foot felt fine by the time I ran on Wednesday, but when I ran in the same shoes on Saturday, I re-irritated that tendon. It hurt to walk around on it on Saturday, so that night I began my usual aggressive tendonitis treatment plan: rest, ice, anti-inflammatories, foam rolling and KT tape.

On Sunday, I iced three times for 20 minutes at a time, aggressively foam rolled the calf muscle at the front of my leg, took 400 mg of ibuprofen ever 4-6 hours and applied KT tape across the top of my foot and cancelled my 4 mile recovery run.

On Monday, I repeated that process, skipping another scheduled workout. My foot felt generally okay throughout the day, but I did feel some discomfort whenever I started walking after sitting at rest for a while.

For those unfamiliar with KT tape, it’s that colorful stuff you might see on athletes (think Olympic Volleyball players). Like compression socks, there is a lot of debate as to whether it actually works. I’m firmly pro-KT tap (though I have no relationship with them).

For something like tendonitis, it’s perfect. The way one of my physical therapists described it is that the tape can provide just enough lifting of the skin to allow for extra blood flow at the application site, which can be really helpful when your body is trying to fight inflammation.

Today, I think I’m ready for a test run with a new application of KT tap and my shoes laced to minimize discomfort. I’ve laced my shoes so the laces don’t crisscross above the irritated part of my foot. I’ve done this successfully before to address irritation on the top of the foot, so I’m optimistic.

Now, why do I think this is an extensor tendon issue and not a metatarsal stress fracture?

You might think after dealing with a stress fracture this winter that I’d be pretty paranoid about this, but I’ve dealt with so many different cases of tendonitis in the past that I’m pretty sure this is a tendon problem.

First, the pain isn’t sharp and localized. It’s dispersed across the top of my foot. Second, it gets better the longer I’m active (a stress fracture would lead the pain to worsen). Third, when I use the tendon (by flexing my toes) it was kind of “crunchy.” That’s a weird way to describe it, I know, but it’s kind of one of those things where you know it when it happens. I could kind of feel the inflamed tendons rubbing together. It’s a truly weird sensation and something I’ve only ever experienced when dealing with bouts of tendonitis.

Do any of you have tips on dealing with tendonitis? What do you think about KT tape? Is it magic tape, or is this just placebo effect?

I’m hoping I was able to kick this problem with aggressive treatment upfront, but I’ll keep you posted.



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