Monday, October 18, 2010

On fixing those hurting feet...

Recently I've been experiencing some major (to me) foot problems. I won't go into all the technical gobbledygook I've been told and learned while trying to fix said problems. Basically, the pad of my foot hurts when I put pressure on it right under the toe area. Bones are pushing a nerve which is swelling and causing a lot of pain. My toes were hurting and cramping, and I was walking on my heel to avoid putting any pressure on the pad as it felt like it was badly bruised.

I tried fixing it myself with padding, soaking, massage but nothing helped so I trekked over to see my fave podiatrist. He's great. He told me the problem, said I needed a cortisone shot to stop the swelling. I said no, we tried pads. No help. Second visit I did the shot with pads and taped toes.

Shot didn't help and it wasn't exactly fun although not as bad as I've heard. I'm a wimp when it comes to needles, will pretty much do anything to avoid a shot, so you should know I was hurting pretty bad to acquiesce to the thing... especially since I don't like anything foreign being pumped into my bod.

When I went back for the next visit we tried the "boot". It holds your foot stable. Hated it.

I had to do a show in Florence, South Carolina --- three days of standing on concrete from 7 something in the morning until after 6 p.m. I spent the day switching shoes. Crocs, the boot, two different sets of tennis shoes... nothing really helped. The boot made me walk lopsided and my knees started hurting and swelling.

My son, who was with me, has bone spurs in his feet and he limps at times from the pain. He was also going back and forth to a podiatrist. 

The second day I was there a couple walked up and we got into a friendly conversation with the husband. At one point he glanced down at my son's feet and said 'bet you have bone spurs'. We both did a double-take. He then said he probably had problems with painful corns and he'd bet he had plantar faciitis. Wow... right on the mark.

We were properly awed. He then looked at my tennis shoe encased feet (no boot at the time) and correctly told me where I was hurting.

Then he told us that we were wearing the wrong size shoes. Ummm... measured at the shoe store, bought the shoes, they seemed to fit... Turns out he owns a shoe store, Jack's Comfort Shoes, and boy did he know feet and shoes!

I won't go into all the stuff he told us, although I'm sure you'd like to know, right? He correctly 'diagnosed' every ache and pain our poor feet shared with us every time we put pressure on them!

We wanted to go to his store and buy some shoes but couldn't due to time constraints. We both spent part of the following week doing some Internet research, verifying the things that he'd told us.

The next week we planned to be in Columbia so we made plans to go early and visit his shoe store, get fitted properly.

Didn't quite work out. However, we did find a place in Columbia that had pretty much the same philosophy. We went there and had them measure and suggest shoes. They didn't quite come up with the same thing the Florence shoe store owner did, so I had them change out my shoes until they worked like the guy from Jack's said they should. They added extra arch supports for my high arches and put in the little med-pads to spread my bones while I walked. We played with it until I knew it was right.

I spent three blissful, pain-free days walking on concrete floors, same hours as the Florence show. I was shocked and amazed. I really didn't quite 100% accept what the Jack's owner had said until I experienced it!

Last week we found a store here in Tucker, Georgia that has a comparable philosophy and "fits" properly. None of the stores, including the one in Tucker mentioned one important thing that the guy in Florence insisted upon --- and that is that you make sure your heel doesn't slide around in your shoe.

See, most of us measure based on length and width. We may find a shoe that fits us in both aspects, but it leaves our heel moving a little to a lot from side-to-side. My son has bad dryness on his heel --- he thought it was dry skin. The guy in Florence (and I'd use his name but I lost the business card, arrrggghhh) said it was due to his foot moving around in the shoe.

My heel didn't slip out of the shoe, but when I fit the width for the top of my foot I always had room to move sideways. If my heel didn't slide back and forth, the top of the shoe would start to pinch after I'd worn it for a while. I'm not talking about slipping up out of the shoe. It's the kind of movement you don't notice until you're paying attention.

I also thought my pronating was due to my legs, knees, posture, etc. After getting fitted and tested, I realized I had high arches. I pronate, slide inward, when I don't have proper arch support. Duh.

I've become a convert and I know when I slip my foot into a shoe whether it 'fits' properly. I picked up some pads at the Village Shoe Service in Tucker and have rigged some of my shoes (including my Crocs) so they have arch support and extra padding where I need it. The guy in Florence said he won't sell Crocs, horrible for your feet. My podiatrist said they're fine to use as slippers around the house. I compromised by adding the supports!

OK, long post and I didn't cover a fraction of what I learned over the past couple of months about my feet!

I'm still pain-free and am in the process of replacing every single pair of shoes I have (given time and dollars!). Once I learned how my shoes SHOULD fit and feel, it's not necessary for me to spend a small fortune on each pair. However, I'm willing to spend whatever is needed to get good support and continue to walk without pain.

Oh, one quick note --- I'm not wearing clunky medical ugly shoes. I'm in a pair of 'normal-looking' Brooks tennis shoes. And as for dress shoes, there are many, many that are comfortable and stylish, pretty, dainty looking.

Bottom line -- go at least once to a GOOD shoe store, not one where they pull out the old silver thing to measure your foot. Go to one where you get on those machines, can discuss your specific foot issues, get someone with years of experience and training to help you find the right shoes. Go to a store where they'll add the little pads under the cushion to give you the support you need.

And a tip -- never go shoe shopping early in the day. Your feet swell as the day goes on. Shoes that fit in the morning may hurt in the afternoon.

I highly recommend Village Shoe Service in Tucker, Georgia (http://villageshoeservice.com/) and
Jack's Comfort Shoes in Florence, South Carolina 1506 2nd Loop Road, phone (843) 662-4551
(I hope that's the right store! All I remember is that the store had the name "Jack" in it... if you find more than one with Jack in the title, call and talk to them about how they fit shoes).

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