Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Monday After Shoes

I'd almost forgotten that I had plantar fasciitis (pf) a couple of years ago.  That was some pain.  There's a whole story about how doing nothing about it for months only served to drag out my own misery because of my mysterious need to avoid asking for directions help, but that's actually a very long and boring story that won't be told.  Imagine it.

Fast forward two years, and my feet don't hurt.  The insoles/arch supports that the doctor told me to buy have long ago done their magic, and despite ignoring my doctor's other advice to never go barefoot and throw away all my shoes that aren't extremely supportive, I'm actually better now.

As I stood at the back of the room during a standing room only meeting today, my feet ached again.  The arches ached, and whether it's my imagination or real, my heel ached, like it did back during my plantar fasciitis days.  I looked down at what I've long considered my most comfortable pair of shoes -- a pair of perfectly fitting dress shoes with my orthotic insole/arch support installed -- and wondered what happened.  This is how I felt the day before I got the insoles!  Hmmm

Over the past two years, I'd done a lot of stretching and foam rolling, but God knows I could have done even more, and not just stretching and rolling the feet and calves, either.  As my friend Bill Hartman once showed me, we are connected, from the toes to the eyebrow on the opposite side, like a big X, stretched diagonally up the leg, diagonally across the back, and up the neck, then over.  I think if you tickle my foot, my opposite eyebrow will raise...  Try me?  No?

So, many months of taking care of tight and short lats, hamstrings, calves, traps, and all the other muscles that I've only heard about, and I'm a long way toward better.  Once my pf pain was gone, a gradually wore lower and lower heeled shoes, with less and less support, until eventually I was comfortable, for the first time in my life, in Converse All-Stars.  Eventually, I even added a pair of Vibram Fivefingers to my shoe rotation, and my arches have never been happier.  I'm barefoot most nights and a good portion of the weekend, and I haven't worn even my Nike Frees in a year (too much heel and too much bounce).  I train without shoes where I can get away with it, Chucks when I can't go shoeless, and Vibrams when I really want that grip.  I still have to wear dress shoes during the week, but they are off when I hit the front door.

I seem to have taken the opposite advice from what tends to get tossed around as cures for plantar fasciitis and all I can say is "it worked for me."  Yeah, "it worked for me" is the famous "proof case" on the internet, sure, but I have a lot of smart people on my side telling me it's the right side, and with the alternative being shoes with huge springs in the heels...

or surgery...  I'll pass!

I don't think the solution to curing (or keeping you from) plantar fasciitis is in Z-Coil shoes or Nike Shox, but instead it's in getting up off your butt so your hamstrings and lats aren't continually shortening and tightening up.  Do some daily stretching of what's short and rolling out your knots, and perform exercises that aren't putting you into an even worse condition.  That means not focusing on mirror muscles, and actually cutting back on the bench press.  You need to shift some of that work toward hitting the back and backside of your body hard.  We all want to look good in the mirror, but don't we also hope that someone's giving us a good second look as we walk away from them?  You gotta leave a good impression, so do some more deadlifts rows, and chinups, too.

As to a shoe prescription, it's not about a specific shoe.  We live in the real world, and you might (like me) have to wear the uniform.  My uniform comes with dress shoe heels.  What can you do?  Just do your best to minimize the overly supportive shoe's effects on your body. Don't wear them as often as you can.  Take them off at home, and walk around.  Don't just kick them off and sit.  That does nothing to stretch things out.  Walk and use the muscles in your feet.  Often.

I love my red chucks

On the weekends, drop the cross trainers for Chucks or some other flat shoe.

my next pair of vibram fivefingers
I really love Vibram Fivefingers.  I have the Classics now, and plan to by the ones above at some point.  Talk about comfortable.  They are IT, but I'll admit they are extreme.  You don't need to go that far if they aren't you.

To net it out...
  • Minimize your heel time, taking those shoes off and walking around as often as possible
  • Maximize your barefoot walking and standing
  • Wear flat soled shoes whenever possible
  • Move around a lot to make up for all the seat time
  • Exercise your backside more -- more deadlifts, more rows, more chinups, etc.
  • Stretch and foam roll what's tight and short, from the bottom of your feet, up through your calves, hamstrings, lats, and up to your traps.

Monday night, shoes off, and all is good.  Turns out my feet were only really tired.  Achy from a day of standing more than usual and a weekend of heavy sandbag slinging, snatching, and sled dragging, much of it in barefeet in the back yard.  Even in good shape, your fee still hurt when overused.  Add on a heavy Monday of standing on concrete floors, and insoles or not, there's going to be an ache and a pain.

I used to love my dress shoes, because they were the most comfortable shoes I wore, but no longer.  Too much heel and too much support.  Rumor has it those crazy Europeans have dress shoes with low heels?  That would be great, if true...   But, I still think I'll be happy to take them off at night.


1 comment:

  1. Great post there, I like your post it is so interesting. Keep up the good post.


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