Oh, My Aching Foot

mylifeMy host Jack loves the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, and attends all the home football games. So I took this sunny September Saturday and headed out to the beach again. It was great to sun myself, after being wrapped in the cocoon of safety gear all summer.

Here’s some background that I’ve kinda kept under wraps. Please don’t make a big fuss. Its just part of my summer diary. I’ve developed something called “plantar’s fasciitis”. Its a nagging, lingering pain in my right foot. I attribute it to not driving (no pressing on the gas / brake pedals), to wearing cheap wal-mart boots, to all those hours on the dance floor and the gym, and to hours and hours of keeping my legs hyper extended on my scooter (not to mention those nightly leg cramps, ouch!)

For the first 3 or 4 weeks, I rode in the more conservative seated fashion; with my knees and elbows bent, my back straight; like when you are seated on a stiff wooden chair. This is how you sit on a small scooter; a Vespa or the like. Its how I’ve always sat.

At that point, I finally started to stretch out and use my new custom seat. I slid back 6-8 inches, my legs fully extended, my arms straight, elbows mostly locked, and my back curved. This looks like that comic book image of a motorcycle “tough guy”. I hate that look, but it is really quite comfortable for long rides. Also, it is way safer then sitting straight up, when you accelerate or brake suddenly. You can really brace yourself with your full arms and legs.

A couple weeks into using this new posture, I had a series of long riding days, up and around the smokey mountains including the famous “tail of the dragon”. This was also when I also did a lot of ballroom and freestyle dancing using my new, again, cheap shoes, at both of my summer camps. Forty plus hours of dancing. Somewhere in there, my right arch started to have a now and then undefined “shadowy” ache. Like a toothache tipping you off you have a cavity way underneath.

While in upper Michigan, I couldn’t put weight directly on my right heel when not in shoes. So lounging around or my midnight stroll required I step using the ball of my foot. Just a little limp, only when barefoot. But the day my engine blew in Indiana was a fiasco.

I was stuck on the side of the road, then sat in a gas station during a gully washer thunderstorm and finally arranged a tow truck to haul the bike and me to distant Indianapolis on a Saturday night. I arrived at my hostel late, almost 11pm, and the place was packed with noisy college kids for the weekend. All of the bottom bunks were taken and its just the rules; I accepted my fate and claimed my first top bunk since I was10 years old.

I made it up the little ladder just fine, and even down once, but in my nightly 3am visit I stepped my bare foot wrong onto the skinny metal bunk bed rung. It pressed my entire body weight across my already sore right instep, directly beneath my painful right heel. I had a horrendous shot of pain, a lightning bolt. I then reflexively lurched up, then jumped down off the bunk; only to land on the cold basement cement floor, now jamming that right heal again with my full weight onto concrete. A disaster. I managed to not scream with 8 kids softly snoring.

Since that moment, the pain has been constant. It waivers from wispy to solidly present to downright tortuous. I mentioned my injury to some of you while I was home getting the bike repaired, and I was surprised that a number of people my age suffer this pain in silence (due to either a lifetime of high heels, or of just years of working on their feet). These friends pretty much said that the only true solution to plantar’s fasciitis is whining, swearing and your eventual death. You can do a lot of other things in the interim; ice it down, visit lots of doctors, buy expensive shoes, stand on your head, drink the blood of a cat; but in the end only your own death will provide relief from this constant foot pain. … That’s what friends are for.

There is a neat device I bought at CVS for about $12, that is essentially a 3 inch by 3 inch PVC stirrup for your instep with a Velcro strap across the top of your foot. I experimented for several days; forward and back, high and low; and now get good relief from it. Humorously, I now must wear my socks, this wedgie, and untied shoes for my 3am saunter; an odd new ritual climbing out of bed. And I’ve 100% given up going barefoot, anywhere anytime; anything to avoid that pain. I will see a podiatrist when I return home, and there may be a solution, especially since I caught it so early. We will see.

I finally tell this story today because for two out of three days now I’ve walked out to the Atlantic ocean at Sandy Hook, a most beautiful location. I went have time alone, to sun myself and swim in the chilly, salty, turbulent ocean surf. This used to be a joy, walking barefoot in the warm soft sand of Clearwater beach. I’ve dreamed of starting a new life, and possibly including regular long barefoot walks on the beach; maybe even weaving those walks into some kind of exercise program.

That’s not gonna happen.

I wore shoes, socks and my wedgie across the sand both days; planting my right foot solidly horizontal; making sure the heel did not land first. I walked barefoot out into the water, and was OK once I was weightless (and of course when swimming), but walking back across the sand barefoot to my chair I could feel the pain start to accumulate again. Those few yards, just that fast. So when packing up my blanket and cooler and chair, I first put on my socks, my instep support, and my sneakers. Then I hoofed across the sand; Step Thump Step Thump Step Thump.

It was fun sunning and swimming in the ocean today (got a little color), but I have to say its was just not worth the pain, the work, and the inconvenience. I’ll keep myself to dry land until I’m home and see my doctor. I can ride and walk and sleep OK and, you know, that’s really enough for now.

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