Tributaries Planning & Pain Management

I set out on my second long-distance path of the year next Saturday. All my walking plans for this year are based around guide books; either new books or new editions of my existing books. Next week’s walk is to allow a complete re-write of the Tributaries Walk; a 93-mile, 8-day walk around the Yorkshire Dales. The walk focuses on the rivers, becks and gills of the area; crossing or walking beside 41 different water courses and visiting 15 dales along the way.

I’m really looking forward to getting back on the trail again and yet, at the same time, I’m afraid of what is to come. I’m expecting to be in pain for much of the time I’m walking and in even more pain each evening after the walking has completed. If anything, the first steps out of bed in the morning will be the most painful of any!

Looking across Semer Water
Looking across Semer Water

I suffered with foot problems on my last walk, in March, when I walked the Eden Way. That was mostly down to poor preparation, a bad selection of insoles and being overweight. I made a schoolboy error of trying out a new combination of insoles and boots, on a long distance walk! The result was blisters on both feet and rubbing my left little toe completely raw. The toenails on both big toes have turned black and my feet are only just now recovering from the damage. However, this is nothing compared to the pain I seem to have developed since the walk finished.

Now, on any walk over about 5 miles I suffer with a dull pain on the bottom of my right heel and as the walk progresses the pain gets gradually worse. It feels like I’ve bruised my heel, as if I’ve stepped on a sharp stone and once I become aware of it the feeling becomes all-consuming, it’s all I can think about and all I can concentrate on. Dr. Google suggested it was Plantar Faciitis and this was confirmed by my GP a couple of weeks ago, after she ruled out a heel spur.

If the symptoms were limited to the increasingly painful ache on a walk that would be one thing, but the real kicker with PF is what it feels like when the exercise is over and you sit down. From that point, simply moving my right foot results in the most excruciating pain I’ve experiences since my kidney stone. The shot of pain up my heel is almost euphoric  and it’s not helped by the fact that you know it will happen. The morning following a walk, the first steps from the bed to the bathroom are the worst – I dread getting out of bed and standing up – I’ve become afraid to walk.

Untreated the PF should go away on its own. It’s like tennis elbow but for heels – it’s basically a repetitive strain injury. If you don’t want to live with the pain for an indeterminate period then there are treatments for PF, including physiotherapy, steroid injections and ultrasound, which my GP tells me is unlikely to happen on the NHS (which I can understand given the current pressures being placed on it). In the short term she suggested Ibuprofen, which should reduce the inflammation associated with the injury and Paracetamol for the general pain.

A fellow sufferer, from Twitter, is currently undergoing physio treatment and as soon as I get the Tributaries out of the way, I’ll be following her example and having someone look at it. It may end up being quite expensive, but if it goes anyway to relieving the pain I’m suffering almost every day then it will be a small price. Perhaps this time next year I’ll be looking back and wondering what all the fuss was about. I doubt I’ll forget the pain though – it makes my eyes water and I can make it happen at will – an intoxicating combination!

8 thoughts on “Tributaries Planning & Pain Management”

  1. Jonothan Hitchen

    Hi Stuart, I too am suffering from PF!. Not sure what Adsa charge for Ibuprofen but Aldi charge 25p for 16 200mg tablets 🙂

  2. Frank Hollingworth

    Having suffered from PF after a gruelling long distance walk I’ve kept it at bay by doing a daily exercises as recommended by my GP, no need for expensive physio.

  3. Hope new footwear helps and that it eases over the course of the walk. Try massaging the sole of the foot before and after the walk & stretching your Achilles’ tendon intermittently. It won’t harm & may help. And have fun. Sounds like a fab route.

    1. Thanks, I’m actually going back to old footwear that I know fit perfectly, but are falling to bits, hopefully I can coax one more summer out of them!

  4. Sure hope you can manage the pain! before starting my current walk from Land’s End I got a shot of cortisone in one of big toes and viscosupplementation in my left knee. Both treatments were for osteoarthritis — which is usually made worse from extended walks. So far, after 45 days of walking — with two breaks — I have been fine. The injections are obviously not a permanent solution but it’s been over two months since the injections. I have also had issues with toe nails turning black, but a pair of new boots a half size larger seem to have done the trick. Despite my concerns that the boots would be too large they have been fine. I suspect because of swelling over the course of the day. Wishing you good luck! Tim

    1. Thanks Tim, the black toes were down to the insoles reducing the volume inside the boots, which also caused the little toe problem. Good luck with the last leg of your trip north!

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