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I’ve got spurs… and they don’t jingle June 5, 2007

Posted by atlantarunner in Injuries, Running.


The above image is not my foot – I found it on http://www.wheelessonline.com as a result of a Google image search for “achilles calcification.”

So, I visited Dr. Perry H. Julien today, a noted podiatrist and runner here in Atlanta, to find out what I should do about my achilles tendinitis. He x-rayed both feet and found that I have what is known as “calcification of the achilles tendon insertion.” In plain English, it’s a spur that forms where the achilles tendon attaches to the back of the heel bone. This spur forms as a result of years of abuse: poor stretching regimen, overtraining, and bad shoes, to be precise. Although I only have pain in my right foot, I have this condition in both feet. The doctor said I’ve probably had these for at least 5 years. Yikes! I had plenty of warning signs in the form of on-and-off achilles tendinitis in both feet over the last 15 years, but because the pain eventually went away, I ignored it.

The good news is that I can keep running for years, perhaps decades to come, as long as I repent from my sins. The pain should mostly subside, but I’ve got those spurs for life. If I follow the doctor’s advice, the spurs should not get any worse. That advice includes:

  • Stretch my calves 6-8 times per day, every day, 365 days a year, forever and ever, amen. Each stretching session should take about a minute: 10 seconds for the left, 10 seconds for the right, repeat 2 more times. Note that when stretching the calf, do not stretch so much that you feel it in your achilles tendon.
  • Make sure I replace my running shoes promptly whenever they wear out. The general recommendation is 200-500 miles for a pair of shoes, but for me, 300 miles seems to be my absolute maximum.

While the pain lasts, he also recommends massage therapy every 7-10 days, for 2 or 3 visits, and icing the injury once or twice a day for 10-15 minutes at a time.

The good doctor also assigned me two chapters of reading from his book, Sure Footing (which he was about to give me a copy of, but I already own it). It’s a good book on running/exercise-related injuries and how to avoid them. Um… too bad I didn’t pay much attention to it until now.

One lesson learned from this experience is that I waited way too long to get the advice of a doctor. I’ve had these spurs for at least 5 years and never knew it, and I’ve experienced on-and-off tendinitis for about 15 years. For the mere price of a copay, I could have gotten advice much sooner. Luckily I finally did see the doctor before it got any worse.



1. Tim - June 6, 2007

Yikes! No wonder you’ve had pain, indeed! It sounds, though, as if the prognosis is positive. Actually the treatment doesn’t sound half bad, either. Stretching and massage? Could be worse….

Hope we’ll see you out there on the roads again soon — and pain free! (And hope that yesterday morning’s run treated you well….)

2. atlantarunner - June 6, 2007

Thanks, Tim! Yes, stretching and massage is probably one of the better prescriptions I have received. But the real good news is that I can keep on running. 7 mile tempo run tomorrow morning!

3. AB in PA - February 15, 2008

How are things? Any updates? Still running? Very curious! It’s difficult to find cases like ours (I have the exact same thing and found out late last year – x-Ray shows quite a spur back there). My first running season just started and I still ‘feel it’ back there. I wonder if I’ll always feel it a little or if it’s a bad sign. I know everyone’s different, but I’m still curious as to how yours managed out! 🙂

4. atlantarunner - February 15, 2008

Hello, AB in PA. Sorry to hear you’re afflicted with the same thing. Yes, I’m still running, and by keeping up with my calf stretches, I rarely feel any pain back there. My doctor recommends stretching each calf for 10 seconds, alternating right and left, and repeating 3 times for each calf. So the exercise takes about 1 minute. He says to do this 6-8 times a day. I actually remember to do it about 4-6 times a day. But by doing that, it has helped a lot!
By the way, I don’t keep up with this blog much any more, but feel free to check out my new site, http://paulmckibben.com. It’s not all about running, but there are some running posts there.

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