Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Happy Feet

I've been realizing recently that my feet don't hurt much anymore from the hateful plantar fasciitis. I attribute this to three things.
  1. stretching the backs of my legs with the BodyRev
  2. wearing cushioned flip flops in the shower on the advice of my podiatrist and
  3. finally finding OTC orthotics that support the fascia in the middle of my foot (see pic), not the inner edge of the arch, allowing me to walk pain free in something other than Chaco sandals.
This is something that makes me VERY happy. Let me 'splain. PF feels like walking on broken glass. It sucks. The standard "treatments" for it are mostly useless. It is an exercise in pain and frustration that should not be necessary.
line drawing of plantar fascia tendon running up center of foot
When I first started feeling pain in May of 2005, I was running 5Ks, not stretching enough, getting calf cramps, walking up 10-16 flights of stairs a day, and weighed more than your average bear - your basic recipe for foot disaster. I'd always had great feet except for some chronic athlete's foot - never sore, blisters healed fast, high arches, fit in well stocked sizes of shoes - so this caught me by surprise. (In looking up that picture, I ran across some new to me information that people with really high arches are more susceptible to PF. Yay me.)

I figured the pain would go away on its own if I rested and cushioned the sore spots. I bought heel cushions for my shoes which was sufficient for a while. But the pain got worse. I was having problems standing for more than 15 minutes. I stopped running (and, my bad, didn't replace it with swimming) and gained weight. When I looked for a new job, I factored in the amount of standing time required with trepidation.

I went to see an internist who told me to take insufficient ibuprofen. I went to see a podiatrist, got a diagnosis and some tape under my arch that made my feet itch but worked okayish on the pain. He also recommended $250 custom orthotics but didn't explain to me sufficiently why they would work and failed to close the deal. All my running friends offered moral support and I found out a fair number of them do wear orthotics. A doctor friend in chorus explained that the needed anti-inflammatory properties of ibuprofen only come out at doses of 600mg or over, not the 400mg I'd been told to take. She also counseled that one only wants to take that much for 2 weeks at a time to prevent killing ones liver. I did ok during my 2 week stint of doping, but the expected lingering inflammation reduction did not take place and the following day all the pain was back. I was not happy with my medical care.

I can't remember who suggested I try them again but the Chaco sandals that sat under my bed for months because of an odd and annoying arch placement (I had to partially file the footbed down to avoid under foot blisters) suddenly became the only shoes I could stand in for longer than a half hour without incurring pain. I figured out a mere 2 weeks before my trip to Genoa last September that I could actually walk for hours in them. Without those sandals, I would have wasted a trip to Italy. (Thank you, Chaco fairy!)
my feet in Chaco sandals after climbing Mt Wittenberg and cleaning the residual dust off one foot

Spiffy sandals didn't help at work because they are not the cleanroom required closed toe, closed heel shoes. Still not convinced that custom orthotics were worthwhile, I nonetheless churned through an array of over the counter options buoyed on by my early success with the $4 heel gels. I have yet to find an arch support that is actually as high as my own arch; you might guess that my success from them has been limited. The astounding thing is that until about 2 months ago I couldn't find a single OTC orthotic insert that supported the middle of my foot in the Chaco style. Then within the space of a week, I found 2 likely candidates. The first pair I found at the dollar store. It was close, but not quite right. It set me on the path to find a $20 pair with interchangeable *middle foot supports* of various heights at Mecca.

I haven't been able to go barefoot in two years. I love being barefoot so this has been a trial. Around the house, I've found that the best sock compliant sandals for the job are my beat up Land's End Birk knockoffs. No one seems to sell cheap Birk knockoffs anymore and I don't want to pay $90 for house slippers, even if there is a return on the investment, so I keep wearing my ratty, cork shedding ones and hoping they last just a little longer. Wearing the house sandals helped but not enough.

It was when my new podiatrist told me that I even had to wear cushioned or supported sandals in the shower that my feet really started healing. I had imagined that the slight give in my bathtub was enough to help, but no. The combination of waking up in the morning with stiff feet and legs, hopping out of bed and actually using my feet was enough to undo any gains from previous days, ibuprofen, icing, etc... Unless I got out of bed and walked in dry sandals to the bathtub where I put on wettable sandals, every day my feet hurt anew.

Combine the rest with the surprisingly effective, yet easy BodyRev stretch. If you don't have a BodyRev, you can replicate this with a 10# hand weight or a bag of sugar. Essentially do standing toe touches, but allow this small extra weight to pull you down. (When you can reach farther than your toes, curl your arms a bit.) That little extra weight made all the difference for me. Wiggle around until you're getting the maximum stretch through the back of your legs. Try it also on the bottom stair with your toes on the riser and your heels hanging off. Alternate bent and straight leg stretches to target both calves and hamstrings.

Perhaps you didn't catch it, but I wore heels on my date the other night. I also wore heels to my friend's wedding a couple weeks ago. And I'm running again. None of this would have been possible without the trifecta of new stretch, center of foot orthotics, and shower shoes. I haven't even taken ibuprofen. I'm pretty sure that I won't need the $250 orthotics. Or uncomfortable overnight braces.

This post got a LOT longer than the one paragraph I'd anticipated writing. Thanks for sticking with me if you did. If not, I'm working on my HP7 thoughts, so check back in soon. After you've read the Suz Brockmann free .pdf with short stories, excerpts and tips on POV writing. And be kind to your feet.


Wade said...

I'm so glad that your PF is getting better; I know that this has been major pain in the, er, foot for you for quite a while. There is nothing like good health to make for a good life.

CrankyOtter said...

Yay, someone read this post of enormous length! Or at least skimmed it.

Yes, health is one of those things that you never think of until it goes south. And I can't say it's a bad thing. This is my 3rd major health inconvenience - sleep, the TMI bathroom post from the early days, and the feet. I keep hoping that when I deal with this, I'll be able to ignore my health again for a while.

My feet aren't totally repaired - I still have to use all the props and shoes and can't go barefoot, but I can make it a short while in non-orthotic shoes later in the day after stretching the feet a bit. And stand most of the day at work if necessary. It's heaven.

janet w said...

And I skimmed, read and shared! LOVED the post ... you are writing a book you know: Self Help from One Who Gets It, and Files It and Explains It.

EXplanations by Erika! No More EXcuses :)

kerrit said...

I feel your pain! And I found my way through your commentary! :) PF has been plaguing me since 1999, when the weight went up and the concern for arch support had not yet entered my mind. Oh how I wish I knew then what I know now. I wouldn't have kept wearing those old flat shoes. I woke up in pain one AM, talked to my regular doctor who informed me about PF, went through the exercise bit, the icing bit, the ibuprofen bit, and basically just toughed it out, living with the pain. I did not seek help from a foot specialist because I was sure the price tag would be high. After a decent Internet search, I bought good arch support sneakers (do they still call them tennis shoes?) and added arch supports with special heel cushions. I don't go barefoot and am always conscious of stretching the feet during the day (I am hours in front of the computer). I walk daily, at least two miles. Things have settled down, it's not completely gone, it flares up now and then, but it is nothing like the original go-round. So, did you make it through my commentary? LOL! Cheers to you.
Oh, yeah, ONE FREAKIN' WEEK and counting down until BOURNE COMES HOME! On pins and needles! Reviews coming in are glowing! Planning on taking in a show?


CrankyOtter said...

Kerrit: Am I planning on taking in the Bourne show? More like will they get me out of the theater! If only we could go together.

Glad your foot stuff is working for you. The inserts I link to at Tar.get are very good for me.