Journal entry 032912: About my feet

My feet are flat on the bottom. They’ve been that way for as long as I can remember paying attention to feet. This condition is often referred to as fallen arches, but my arches never fell. To quote Lady Gaga, I was born this way. I inherited my non-arched feet from the Simpson side of my family.

As a kid, my feet never gave me any trouble, but I wasn’t an athlete so maybe I didn’t put them to the test. Like all boys growing up in a small town, I spent a lot of time walking and biking and I don’t remember my flat feet ever being an issue. I seldom went barefoot and I don’t remember wearing sandals. In fact, I doubt I even noticed my feet until high school when someone, probably a girl, said my feet were weird.

There was a time when flat feet would have kept me out of the military, which would’ve been handy had I been six years older in 1968. Army doctors assumed flat feet would break down from all that marching, yet I have logged 36,900 miles on my feet since I started running in June 1978. Apparently, flat feet weren’t as fragile as the army thought. My feet have never hindered my running as long as I didn’t buy shoes with high arch supports.

My first official running shoes were a pair of Brooks Vantages that I bought while I was in college. They had a solid rubber wedge on the outside of the heel designed to prevent over-pronation, a common condition with flat feet, but they made my feet roll inward. I used to put padding under the inner sole to level it out. After that, I started wearing “neutral” shoes, and they were almost always New Balances.

The only trouble I had with my feet happened during my first attempt at the White Rock Marathon in 1985, when I had to drop out of the race past the halfway mark due to plantar fasciitis pain. I was wearing Etonic Stabilizer shoes. I changed back to New Balance when we got home and quickly recovered. I haven’t had that problem again.

I don’t remember the first time I lost a toenail from running, but through the years, I’ve lost at least one toenail from every toe on both feet. There have been times when I’ve been missing more than one or two at a time. (I used to keep them in a small plastic bottle, as trophies, until Cyndi’s pestering convinced me to throw them out.)

For a while I got blisters between my toes whenever I ran long distances, but I defeated that with toe socks. Now, I wear toe socks whenever I run or hike. They are more comfortable than I would’ve guessed and they’ve stopped almost all my blisters.

I have bunions on both feet, but especially on my right foot. I jammed my right big toe on a rogue tree root while running up Esplanade Boulevard in New Orleans in 1990 and I suspect it eventually produced the bunion. It has occasionally hurt through the years but I just put up with it.

The most pronounced problem I have today is on my right foot. The tendons to my toes have shrunk with age and were possibly damaged from some long-forgotten injury, and that has pulled my toes over to the left. The first toe turns almost at right angles, especially after a long run, and the bunion pushes my big toe under the crooked first toe. It is a mess, and I’ll admit here in writing that it looks creepy. I seldom go barefoot because of it.

For the longest time those weird toes didn’t bother me when I ran or hiked or walked, but lately they have started to ache. I tried to treat the condition myself using any alternative medicine techniques I could find, including stretching, shoe inserts, and toe spreaders. But once I saw the x-ray images of my foot and how the bones were displaced I realized the futility of my home treatments.

So tomorrow (Friday) I am going under the knife. Pain management is no longer satisfying. I’m tired of “making do” with my feet and I want to fix the problem. Dr. Brad Glass will perform the surgery, and his diagnosis uses phrases like “Overlapping HT Deformity,” and “Hallux Limitus.”

My perfect plan for my own life is to be better than ever after the surgery, which means faster, smoother, and pain free (at least, from the knees down). I can’t wait.


QUESTION: What pains are you putting up with? Is it time for action?


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32


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