Have you ever felt smug about meeting your daily step target? Imagine if you met your 11,000-step target every day continuously for more than a week — that's what I did. But my feet paid a price for it.
There were a lot of illnesses I was afraid of coming down with in my 10-week internship in Washington because I had never before experienced temperatures lower than 59 degrees Fahrenheit, but my feet were the last thing I was concerned about. One morning I woke up, got off the bed and as soon as I put my feet on the ground, I felt as if I had severely bruised my feet.
The pain was unbearable, and I knew that walking anywhere was out of the question. But only a few weeks were left before I would leave my internship at The Washington Post, and I wanted to make the most of my time here, so I decided to power through. Turns out, that was not a smart decision.
My pain kept getting worse, and because I was new to the city, I didn't know where to go to a hospital or clinic. I kept pushing myself and walked every day, meeting my step count even though I wasn't trying to, sometimes even exceeding it.
To give you an idea of why the pain became unbearable, I'll give you a snapshot of the day I walked the most. On one Friday night, my friends and I made a plan to visit the Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum the next day. I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and left the house at 6. My friends and I waited outside the museum for eight hours before we were called in, and then we had to wait another two hours to get the tickets.
But it doesn't end there.
Once we were inside the museum, each exhibit room had queues that looked infinite themselves, which meant waiting while standing for an hour at minimum. After having enjoyed a few seconds in each exhibit room, we decided to visit the Tidal Basin for the cherry blossoms. We walked one stretch of the basin and then explored the area around the Washington Monument. It was a fun and happening day, but it was also the day that made the pain excruciating.
At first the pain was at the bottom of my feet but then it traveled to the top of the feet. I kept ignoring it, and it kept getting worse. And then one day, all of the pain became concentrated in my left foot.
I was miserable and my friends who traveled here with me were concerned, so we did what nearly everyone does — we Googled my symptoms. Cold therapy was the first treatment method we found for the kind of pain I was suffering. Even though I was supposed to apply an ice pack to the painful area for 20 minutes, with a 40-minute break in between each application, my friends and I got carried away and applied the ice pack for two hours nonstop.
I bought painkillers and took them regularly, but nothing seemed to be working. I got so frustrated and agitated with the constant pain that I decided to visit a doctor, who diagnosed me with a condition that sounded pretty scary when she named it: plantar fasciitis. Rest was all I needed, nothing more and nothing less.
After doing some research, I found that foot pain is more common than I thought. Up to 10 percent of the population in the United States is likely to seek treatment for heel pain over the course of their lives, and plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain at the outpatient clinic, said Adam Groth, an orthopedic surgeon at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
In most cases, plantar fasciitis develops without a specific reason, but there are factors that can make you more prone to the condition, such as tight calf muscles, high arched foot, obesity, repetitive impact activity, or new and increased activity.
Since the condition is aggravated by tight muscles in the calves or feet, stretching your calves and feet is the most effective way to relieve or prevent pain that comes with the condition.
“The best way to prevent ankle sprains and other common foot and ankle injuries is to maintain good muscle strength, balance and flexibility,” Groth said.
Most people who develop the condition improve within 10 months of starting simple treatment methods, such as rest, ice, soft heel pads or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
“Heel pain and most sprains are minor injuries that heal with home treatments like rest and applying ice” Groth said. “However, if your foot or ankle is very swollen and painful to walk on — or if you are having trouble putting weight on your foot or ankle at all, you should see your doctor.”
So as my internship came to an end, I prepared to leave Washington with my step-counter off. I learned a lot during my internship, some of it the hard way.