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).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hotel Blues

I've been on the road for the past two weekends, both times in South Carolina. I was working at some flower shows, helping my son on short notice. It was hard work, but loads of fun. I loved spending time with my son!

The first weekend we stayed at an older hotel in Florence, The Thunderbird. While it was older, it was clean and the people were outstanding. The breakfast, a full buffet, was included. I think I gained ten pound in four days just eating at that buffet! Omelets to order, a fruit bar, waffles, pancakes, four or five different meats... even salmon cakes. They offer a great golf package that includes room, two meals, games at your choice of a whole bunch of great golf courses. It's a good basic place to stay.

We ran into a bit of trouble getting into a hotel the second weekend as we were in Columbia, SC at the same time as the South Carolina vs Alabama game. Hotels were packed and the rates were high. Given the number of shows and amount of time spent in hotels Chris had numerous discount cards. Pretty much none of the hotels were giving discounts. Usually he books in advance, but there weren't any deals on-line. Sometimes you'll get better deals showing up at the hotel when the on-line offerings are nil -- and many of your smaller hotels aren't on-line or don't update with deals.

We spent some time trying to find a decent hotel but the prices were a bit high given the quality of the hotels. We finally settled in on one that looked good, had decent rates and per the front desk, the new management was in the process of upgrading the rooms, renovating the hotel. All good. The lobby was beautiful at night, in low light --- spiral staircases on both sides, beautiful hand-painted murals, and a nice sitting area. It didn't offer a continental breakfast, but given the rates we were OK with the lack of what's usually not-so-good food anyway.

We soon discovered that the looks of the front lobby were misleading. The side door closest to our room didn't close without a good shove, nor did the access key work. We had to travel through the front area to get to the room. No biggie, we knew they were working on the place, right? I was a bit concerned about safety given the entry door didn't close easily...

The room wasn't great, but it looked fairly clean. The lights were all low wattage bulbs so until daylight it was hard to see the corners.

I had forgotten my bug spray and spray disinfectant, new additions to my travel packing since the bed bug stories started circulating. I checked the mattresses thoroughly, no bugs, no signs of bugs, no stains. The bathroom looked OK, although they shorted us on the washcloths and hand towels.

We popped the air conditioner on and settled in for the night. I clicked on the computer to hook into the WI-FI they advertised on their marquee. It was down. The front desk said they expected to have it on by midnight. Yours truly planned to be snoozing soundly by midnight. Stuff happens, I figured I'd catch up the next night on updating my websites.

The air conditioner didn't work, something we didn't fully realize until we were hitting the sack. The fan worked and tepid air circulated, but it never got cold. I was OK, barely, but my son was miserable. He played with the thing off and on, slept on the floor next to it to suck up the breeze for a while only to wake up with his back hurting.

The next morning I was able to see the crud build-up in the corners, the stains on the walls (was that blood?), the holes and other problems. It's rare that anyone can please me when it comes to cleanliness in a hotel, this one wasn't filthy, you could tell they vacuumed and cleaned... I could smell the disinfectant. I think that over time things built up and weren't corrected. I decided I could handle it for two more nights if they fixed the air conditioner.

As we left we stopped by the front desk and told them about the air conditioner. They said they'd either get it fixed or move us to another room.

We got back to the hotel around nine that night after eating dinner with some friends. The key to the room didn't work so we figured they'd moved us. Nope, the key just didn't work. We then "assumed" they must have fixed the air conditioner. Nope to that one, too.

Chris went down, talked with the front desk, they gave us the option of two different rooms, both on the second floor.

The first one looked OK, it even had sliding glass doors leading out to the balcony. Chris opened the door, started to step out and luckily realized that there wasn't a balcony before taking that next fatal step. One foot out the door and he'd have dropped down two stories to the cement path. It was "in the works" and had a few other problems -- Chris shared them with me but I've forgotten what they were as we ultimately chose the second room.

In the second, the room was still undergoing renovations also. Things weren't connected, electrical outlets were missing covers, the mirror wasn't on the wall... but it was OK and there was a balcony.

We moved. By the time we settled in all I had time to do was turn on the computer and check a few emails. I was pooped.

No bed bugs, but yes, bugs. Chris went down to the front desk and got a spray bottle of bug killer. We sprayed the entire room down, including the mattresses. Then let everything air out. We talked about checking out, but given the trouble we'd had finding a room we figured we'd end up sleeping in his truck so decided to stick it out.

I spent a restless night, expecting to see bugs. If I'd seen the bug that someone drew on the door jam before getting settled, I might have opted to stay in the other room... or slept in the truck! No more bugs, the spray worked. We sprayed again before leaving the next morning and again when we got in the next night.

I could regale you with more details of the horrors of the hotel, like the key not working on our door again (I guess they check you out every day?), but this would be a book, not a blog. The poor girl at the front desk was in tears one time when we stopped by sobbing that she liked to make people happy but, sob, sob, but...

I hate to pan the hotel forever as a place to stay given that they are renovating. I understand they have new management --- but it's the same owner. New owners would have made me feel better. You don't own a hotel and let it go down that far!

I'm debating on whether to share the name only because maybe when it's finished it'll be OK. I'll go this far --- it's near the hospital, within viewing distance. And, it's NOT the Holiday Inn or Days Inn or any of the other major names you're probably familiar with.

My biggest lesson? From now on I want to see the room before checking in. On-line reviews don't really help when choosing a room because the owners, management, staff or friends will go out and write nice things... and generally the only others who'll share are those who've had a bad experience. It's also hard to tell when someone writes a bad review how much of the problem emanated from their end. There are just some people who find fault with everything or try to scam the system in order to get free rooms or discounts.

Aside from the hotel, everything else about Columbia was great! Wonderful people, great food and it's a beautiful city. I'd like to spend more time there... in a different hotel.