Tom, that was a fantastic post. Extremely well articulated.
The mechanism you outlined, by the way, was exactly the same for me. From the foot to the ankle to the shins to the tight hips. Systemic body wide issue...But how come only my foot hurt? Going down stairs was agony in the mornings. For me; trigger point therapy and foam rolling really helped knock things loose..and allowed for the beginning of the restrengthening and rebalancing work.
Good Luck Don.
Agreed re Tom's post! And I will second Josh on trigger points and foam rollers (I use the latter routinely for t.p.s in my quads and rarely in my itbs)