Six weeks before my first full marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, I started to develop peroneal tendonitis. For those of you who aren’t MDs or haven’t had this problem before, peroneal tendonitis is an overuse injury, where the tendons that attact to the peroneal muscles, the peroneus longus and peroneus brevus, become inflammed (-itis means “inflammation”). Basically my ankles hurt.
The peroneus longus and peroneus brevis are the two muscles that run on the outside of your leg, and are responsible for plantarflexion (pointing your toe) and eversion of the foot (making the sole face the lateral side of the body). The peroneus longus starts just below the knee and runs down the outside of the leg; it becomes a tendon as it runs behind the lateral malleolus (non-scientifically known as ‘that knobby thing on the outside of your ankle’) attaches between the first metatarsal and medial cuneiform. The peroneus brevis originates in the lower half of the tibia; it becomes a tendon and runs behind the lateral malleolus in the same sheath as the peroneus longus, and then attaches to the base of the 5th metatarsal.
Yes, if you are either (a) my stalker or (b) awesome at remembering things, then you remember my fun with these exact same locations, back in February. My doctors were confused at my ‘mystery’ pain around my medial cuneiform, and that they thought I had a ‘mystery’ stress-fracture in my metatarsal that remarkably never showed up on X-ray. While these pains never went away, they never got worse, so I gave up on my doctors. I still hurt in those two locations on my R ankle when toe-ing off (look! plantarflexion!), and the outside of my calf below my knee is still tender (wow! who’d have thought these two were related!).
Since my horrible half-marathon on Oct 2, I’ve had some sharper pain behind my lateral malleolus on my L ankle that has kept me benched. I guess I probably don’t need to say it, but this is exactly what you don’t want to happen 4 weeks before your first marathon. It’s a Catch-22: I need to rest my peroneal tendons (the only way to heal an overuse injury is to not use it until it heals) so they can heal in time for the marathon, but I need to get my runs in so I can tackle the marathon. I may regret it (and some of you will certainly make fun of me or think I’m dumb) but I’ve been resting as much as possible and I’m going to very slowly run/walk the marathon.
So, I’ve tried a bunch of different ankle braces in my desperate attempt to heal quickly so I can run the MCM. I’m also trying out any brace I can get my hands on to see which will be the best to wear during the race. I figured I’d share my personal opinions on the braces I’ve tried, as I figure someone out there might want this input. I’m not a spokesperson for any of these, nor did I get paid or receive any of these braces for free. I’m just sharing my personal experiences with the braces below as they helped/didn’t help my peroneal tendonitis.
Tommie Copper – Ankle Compression Sleeve
Support: Ultra light
Profile: Ultra slim
Purchased Online at TommieCopper.com ($25)
Not a ‘brace’, definitely a compression sleeve. I was on the border between sizes, and the very helpful people at TC customer service advised me to order the smaller of the two sizes. The fabric feels somewhat like lycra, but thinner and a bit softer – all in all a very interesting-feeling fabric. Apparently there’s copper woven into the fabric, which is supposed to “stimulates the immune system to fight infections, to repair injured tissues, and to promote healing”, although I’m not sure of the science behind that claim. (I’m sure of the science behind ingested copper to provide those benefits, I just can’t find any scientific evidence that fabric woven with copper wrapped around your ankle will provide any of those benefits).
How I use it: Since, at the moment, I require more support for my tired little tendons, I’ll probably use the Tommie Copper sleeve during runs once my peroneal tendonitis has gone away. The compression was light, but I hypothesize that the compression will be just enough support for healthy ankles to prevent peroneal tendonitis from coming back. I’ll likely trade off between using the Tommie Copper sleeve and full compression socks, depending on the run and the state of my calves/feet/etc.
Futuro – Ankle Brace for Her
Purchased at Target ($10)
My current all-around favorite, feels like a ‘very snug hug’ on your foot, with support all around (peroneal tendons, posterior tibial tendons, medial and lateral arches, achilles, etc). I can definitely tell a difference between wearing this brace and not wearing this brace – with it my ankle feels stable, without it my ankle does not feel stable. Easy to put on and take off, easy to walk in, easy to run in. My only complaint is that, when wearing this brace during the day, sometimes I feel the need to loosen the laces on my shoes because the combination of the tied-tight laces and the brace start to be uncomfortably binding. I haven’t have this problem when running.
How I use it: I’ve been wearing this brace all day since I got it. I’ve been running in it, working in it, hanging around in it, etc. This is definitely my favorite, so far. I’ll be wearing this on race day.
CEP RxORTHO Ankle Brace
Purchased: online at Amazon.com ($56)
I just ordered this one about 15 minutes before writing this post. I’ll update this post as soon as it arrives and I give it a good test-drive.
Cramer – Power Lacer Ankle Brace
Support: Moderate to Heavy
Purchased online at Amazon.com ($35)
This brace was a little bit awkward to get on, due to the snug nature of the brace. It was also a little bit awkward to walk in when shod, due to the rigid nature of the side braces. So awkward, in fact, I didn’t try running with it on. The brace fits strangely, at least on me. I tied up the laces tightly, followed the instructions on how to adjust the side braces, but it didn’t restrict ankle movement the way I thought it was supposed to. It felt very snug yet very bulky around the top of the brace, but I couldn’t get it to brace the tendons that needed support – the peroneal and posterior tibial tendons. It doesn’t really restrict the lateral movement of the foot any more than the Futuro brace, but the Cramer brace heavily restricts plantar flexion. I also feel like the top of the brace (around the lower leg / upper ankle) might rub too much on the skin and might cause blisters or chafing if the brace is worn while walking/running.
How I use it: I put it back in the box and returned it to Amazon.com. It fits way too awkwardly for me and doesn’t seem to brace the tendons that I need braced.
Purchased through Orthopedist
This brace is very clunky. It stresses weird tendons/muscles in your lower leg that might not be used to the workout, because the boot causes you to alter your gait (it near-completely restricts the wearer from plantarflexion).
This is the boot my orthopedist put me in when I had a stress fracture in my metatarsal. I wore it for around 6 weeks to allow the stress fracture to completely heal. I have added it here, on my post about braces for peroneal tendonitis, as I have a sneaking suspicion that the brace, may have made my peroneal tendonitis a bit worse (or at least didn’t help it). Since the brace near-completely prohibits the wearer from plantarflexion, it requires the use of more secondary muscles to walk, muscles like the peroneal tendons which aren’t used to being so heavily involved in simple locomotion. Talk to your own doctor about this one, but pay attention to what muscles or tendons are sore at the end of a full day of wearing it, just in case.