Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Boring foot problems

I think I need some sort of orthotic insert for my left foot.

I have been running some experiments on myself. Not really scientific, but trying to understand what is wrong and how to fix it. I did go to the doctor a while back and he diagnosed me with sesamoiditis and tendonitis but offered little for a cure besides rest and ibuprofen. So I've been searching for something more mechanical to help me since rest hasn't really been that successful.

I decided to experiment with various kinds of shoes. My latest experiment was to take the same two hour walk two days in a row with different shoes. The walk involved one big hill of sidewalks and asphalt, lots of flat sidewalks, one dirt trail and a mile and a half or two miles of walking on the beach. Lots of variety of surface, in other words.

The first day I wore Chaco sandals. The second day I wore moccasins (Feelmax Osmas which are pretty much moccasins in construction and feeling.) I wore these so I could see if the technology of the Chacos really makes that much of a difference over being essentially barefoot. Next I will try the walk wearing the hiking shoes I wore on the PCT, a pair of Brooks trail runners.

The first day I was a little tired at the end of my walk and had one blister from the straps, but otherwise, I had no real problems wearing the Chacos. Chacos are great. I completed the walk essentially without pain.

The second day I hobbled home at the end. I felt a lot of pain the whole time. My left foot turns inward and I can feel it on my sesamoid bone. There's also another spot that hurts. I think the resulting limping and compensating makes the tendonitis in my right foot hurt.

Now I understand better how the PCT beat my own minor foot problems into major ones. I could probably have walked to the mailbox for a lifetime without problems, but walk 3000 miles like that and look what happens.

So, since the Chacos seem to hold my feet in a good position so that my injuries aren't stressed, it would be nice to find something I could stick in my shoes that would do the same thing. I went down to the shoe repair place where they have a machine you stand on that then recommends an insert for your shoe.

I stood on the machine. It formed a red place on the image of my left foot where it sometimes hurts. So far so good. But then the lady said the machine indicates I have a low arch. I find that hard to believe since my arches seem pretty high to me and the image on the screen didn't look like my arch was low. I wondered if the machine came with instructions to tell everybody something like that.

She brought out some inserts to try out but they were terrible. I put my foot on them on the floor and my feet fell over the edges. They were too narrow for my foot. Inside the shoe it didn't feel like they kept my foot from rolling inward. I could feel pressure on my sesamoid bone. The inserts were really thick and padded. They took up a huge amount of room in the shoe and made my shoe feel too small. So I decided not to buy them.

I might have some Superfeet somewhere, or at least the hard plastic part. I might give that a try, see if it helps putting only one in the left shoe. There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with my right foot so why interfere with it. I did use Superfeet in 2008 on the PCT but I still limped and had a lot of foot problems, so I'm not convinced they're all that great.

I might also try a real podiatrist but I'm afraid that if they bring out the same huge, spongy inserts that it will be harder to say no. They wanted $70 for these little pieces of foam at the shoe place. I can only imagine what a podiatrist would charge. I don't want to feel pressured into buying something that might just be a gimmick. I'm no longer convinced doctors know all that much anymore. It's kind of like how to a man with a hammer everything is a nail. To a man who looks at diabetic feet all day, what will a woman who walked 3000 miles look like?


  1. Everyone always says feet problems are unique, what works for me might not work for you, etc. I agree with all of that, but I will share my story in case it proves valuable for you or others. Two summers ago, I took some very bad advice from a very nice thru-hiker and roadwalked from Stevens Pass to Trinity Trailhead, then up and over Buck's Pass to the PCT. Result: one hobbled hiker who had to bail out at Stehekin and go home. I tried lots of home remedies and the Good Feet Store (disastrous for me!) before finally going to a local podiatrist who happens to be an athlete and backpacker. Diagnosis: plantar fasciitis, partially torn Achilles tendon, enflamed Morton's neuroma. He made plaster imprints of both of my feet and a couple of weeks later, my custom orthotics arrived. Yes, they were expensive, but man, do they ever work! I haven't had any feet problems since. This spring I had him make me a spare pair so I can swap them out and let them dry every so often. Hopefully, they will last longer that way. YMMV.

  2. I might go to a podiatrist. I will probably have to pay for it. I'm not sure how to find a good one. I went to one a long time ago for plantar warts. Maybe he is still around. I think he was new and planned to work more with athletes. I don't want to see some old-fashioned guy who doesn't keep up with the research and sees mostly old ladies with bunions and diabetics.

  3. I saw Dr. Heard today and asked him to recommend someone in your area. He knows a podiatrist in Ventura, and he thinks he's good, but he wants to ask a friend about him first. You're right, not all docs are created equal. He said he would get back to me next week. If he follows through, I'll let you know.