I thought that perhaps it was yet another part of aging (along with this slow weight gain as my body becomes more pear shaped, and the increasing aches and pains resulting from misuse of certain muscles and joints over the past 51 years of my life) and so I put up with it. Intermittent heel pain - everyone has that now and then - right? You know, some people say that you can lose padding on the bottom of your feet and without that cushioning one could expect a little pain and so as long as it doesn't get too bad I shouldn't have to concern myself with seeing a doctor about it. At least that is what I told myself.
But the pain in my left heel came more often. I got used to getting out of bed in the morning and taking a few steps in pain (both feet, but stronger in my left foot). But then it got to where the same would happen after sitting down to watch a little television, even for only 15 to 20 minutes. I knew that I was a heel striker and chose to blame it on the ‘glide step’ from high school marching band (TB, reach out 22.5 inches with your foot, land on the heel and roll around the outside of the foot towards the toe, one foot in front of the other) which turned into a heel-striking one foot in front of the other reaching out in front of you style of walking. And so I thought that perhaps what I needed to do was to teach myself to land on my forefoot with each forward reaching step and I practiced it diligently. But the pain continued, and then the tendon on top of my left foot became enflamed, and I began SERIOUSLY CONSIDERING a visit to a doctor’s office and even posted the name of one in my room.
And yet... I had noticed that if I squeezed the sides of my heel the pain would fluctuate, and that massaging all around the foot would help, as would massaging the calf muscle and so I wasn't ready to go see a doctor when I felt that there was more self-help which I could do. It was at this time - almost 2 weeks ago that my daughter showed me information posted at www.xeroshoes.com relating to walking (incorrectly) and heel striking and of various foot ailments which could just be a result of walking and running incorrectly in shoes which don't allow the feet to freely move, and of bad form in walking and/or running. The information made sense and I was curious to at least TRY their Venture sandals and see if correcting my gait could lesson the pain I was in.
The shoes arrived May 8th. Within 3 days there was minimal pain left in the tendon on top of the foot, and I was no longer hobbling whenever I began to walk. Of course trying to learn to NOT reach forward with your foot (using your quadriceps and flexing your foot thereby creating a heel strike) and instead allowing your hamstrings and gluteus muscles to tighten and propel you forward (walking under and behind your body) is not easy and feels quite awkward and ungainly (although it really doesn't look as weird as it feels like it does). I had to teach myself how to relax my foot when taking a step, thereby allowing the toe to drop down (similar to how your foot is positioned before stepping UP onto something) and limiting the possibility of landing on my heel. Even the motion of my hips has changed in that I am no longer swinging one foot around and in front of the other but instead am stepping down and then allowing the hip to shift to the outside, thereby centering my body over that foot (using a SlackBlock helps with improving balance). The hips are still moving side to side, yet the movement is different. Yes, it feels awkward: like a little child tottering side to side while learning how to walk for the first time, but being able to walk around pain free makes the work worth it.
So here I am, having completed 8 days with the shoes. The tendon issue has cleared up. I am not taking painful steps when I get up in the morning. And despite needing to spend a couple of different days spending a few hours running errands, about 75% of the pain is gone from my left heel. Yes, there is still some pain, but it takes time for deep bruising to heal (and my doing a 1 mile ‘slappity-slap’ run/walk 4 days ago, before I had read HOW to properly run, probably didn't help but that is for part 2 of this post). Yet despite my own mistakes, there has been some DEFINATE improvement in my health! Yes, the first few days were TIRING since I had muscles (lower back, backside, calves, arches) which were out of shape but toning those muscles also improves one’s appearance, which is a good thing and thereby incentive to keep at this. I am learning to walk, and even to run fairly quietly (slap-slap means you’re probably heel-striking) and to really focus on my form and which muscles are tightening/relaxing at a given moment. And with all of this, I am amazed and thankful to God that He answered my prayer for healing (of my foot) by providing the information and resources I needed to correct the CAUSE of my foot pain. It’s going to take work and dedication on my part, but if I want to try running again it is what I will have to do... and the results are certainly worth it!
Blessings on your day,