Thursday, May 15, 2008

The official diagnosis. Or rather, diagnoses.

I finally went to the podiatrist last week, and - I'm sure you were all on tenterhooks - she didn't mention weight at all, even though I was wearing shorts. Which Mum said she wouldn't. Mums are wise.

The short version: I have the feet of a baby. And I do need orthotics. I'll get them in a couple of weeks.

It seems I'm significantly hypermobile (though still not so bendy as the siblings). That means that my ligaments are stretchy rather than taut, so my feet don't support themselves, which is why the arches are flat. Also, my knees bend backwards and have a tendency to "lock" when I stand. I've always known this, but apparently it is very bad and I mustn't do it.

When babies are born, their feet are flat and tilt outwards a bit. (Imagine a baby's feet dangling as you pick it up.) As children grow, their heels and the balls of their feet tilt inward and downward, leaving the arch of the foot higher by comparison. But my feet didn't make it all the way, so that effectively leaves me with feet that are still tilted, and which roll in when I stand, causing me to overpronate. And that's what's causing the pain.

As a secondary result, my big toes aren't working properly because they're at the wrong angle.

The podiatrist was very thorough. She examined my wrists (to see how bendy they were), the pattern of callouses on my feet, and the way I stand; she got me to walk up and down for several minutes; she drew lines up the backs of my heels and calves and examined the angle at which my foot rests. Somewhat worryingly, for my foot to be at a natural angle, I'd have to tilt it outwards far enough that none of the toes rest on the floor. The orthotic inserts will fill in that gap so each foot is level.

They'll be made of polypropylene (which sounds a little sweaty to me, but there we go) and I'll get them at the beginning of June.

I also have exercises to do: calf stretches (familiar to the runners among us), balancing on tiptoe, standing on one leg (well, one at a time) with my eyes closed, and walking around on my heels. This last makes me feel, and no doubt look, very silly.

But it's doing something! My feet don't hurt when I get out of bed in the morning any more.


Jeni said...

It seems we have much in common with the hypermobility thing! I hope the orthotics help the pain. The other thing I've heard is to trace the alphabet with your toes every night. That might help too. :)

Tanya Brown said...

This is great news, after a fashion. Perhaps it wasn't your goal in life to be extra bendy (an image of a flamingo is coming to me for some reason), but having an approach to try and a lessening of pain is a good thing.

K said...

Jeni - that's a new one on me!

Tanya - A flamingo! My legs aren't, alas, quite as slender as theirs. Although they are good at standing on one leg, it's true. Maybe that's their secret.

I don't really think of myself as all that bendy, really. As previously mentioned, my sibs are much bendier, and when I was little and going to ballet classes and so forth, I thought I was positively inflexible.

But yes, it is good news that there's something that can be done.

Isabelle said...

Ah, my little babyfooted daughter! Glad things are moving along.

Loth said...

Mums are indeed omniscient. Your mum in particular!

Brilliant to get a diagnosis and hope the orthotics work. I must say that your description of your examination had me shuddering. I have a "thing" about feet and can't stand anyone going near mine. I can barely stand to go near them myself!

Lauren said...

Bit of a lurker here, but as a fellow flat-footed and slightly plump Edinburgher, I couldn't resisted posting this time. (And whether this proves my sanity/respectability or not, I happen to be a PhD student about your age who has spent much time *using* archives, and is equally book-a-holic. And musical.)

Anyway, I have absolultely no arch on either foot (I am a podiatrist's dream/nightmare case - I'm always off their charts), and have been wearing gigantic orthotics since I was a miniature 8 year old (so also not a weight thing.) I've also ended up on crutches several times, so it's not something you want to play with.

Anyway, my point: if you're a first-time orthotic wearer , you'll probably be in for a nasty surprise. Especially if they're full-feet. Because they don't tend to fit in average shoes at all. You need something with a removable insole and a deep heel (even average trainers don't always do the trick), and quite possibly dressier shoes that lace or strap.

This is both sad (I mourn all the shoes I couldn't wear over the years, plus those I bought and which tore my feet to bits), and expensive, because the shoes which meet these criteria are pricey. Ecco is good, and various other European brands like el naturalista (I feel Rogerson's Fine Footwear on Rose Street should introduce some sort of loyalty card for me!)

The upside is that inserts make a great difference to one's feet, and make it possible to do lots of fun things like run and cycle. (Er, maybe not so much fun - I prefer swimming myself.) And the footware misery is solveable if you throw money at it, unlike many of life's other problems!

Sorry for this lengthy reply from a stranger, but I've spent enough time in tears in shoeshops to want to prevent others from the trauma!

K said...

Hi Lauren - nice to meet you, as it were.

Yes... I'm aware of this possibility. I don't yet know whether the orthotics will be full- or half-length, but the podiatrist did say that they may not fit into my beloved Doc Martens. Which will be a pain. Right now I'm really most concerned about not being able to wear sandals, since I hate wearing socks and proper shoes when it's hot.

I do realise that I'm probably not going to be able to wear pretty shoes every day, any more than I could before. But my sister (who's also been wearing orthotics since she was a kid) points out that when she wants to wear unsuitable, orthotic-incompatible shoes for a few hours for a party or whatever, she does. She just doesn't assume she's going to be able to walk any distance in them.

My dear husband is not going to be pleased to hear that I need to buy expensive new shoes... but I haven't bought ANY for six months, so I've got to be due some new ones, right?

Lauren said...

Has to be one advantage of being single - no-one to keep an eye on your shoe budget! Though I'm fairly sure my PhD funding body wouldn't approve...

Regarding sandals, if you ever find a pair you can wear with orthotics, do let me know. I've been trying for decades. Best case scenario for me at the moment is something broad and supportive worn every second day at most. I have the Primo sandals from Ecco in blue, and they are, um, sensible. But they keep my feet in one piece. (I've torn tendons with sandals that were too flat in the past.) They also fit orthotics if yours turn out not to be too large - alas, mine are enormous. Mephisto and Josef Seibel may also be a possibility.

To finish, growing up in Sydney, the non-trendy shoe thing never bothered me. As a working adult, I could suddenly understand the peculiar habit of the female city workers to wear business suits with trainers on the bus and carry the heels. So for the fashion-conscious orthotic wearer who wants to look good and still walk long distances, my advice would probably be: take it as an excuse to buy a really cool bag to carry the extra shoes!

Likewise nice to 'meet' you, by the way. And I'll try to comment on other posts too, so it doesn't seem like I'm some sort of weird foot fetishist. (I'm not! Really!)

K said...

Torn tendons! eek! I've never done anything that bad to my feet, so presumably I am getting off fairly lightly. (I have damaged a tendon, but it was in my thumb.)

My current default sandals are Clarks (flat, broad, comfy) but sadly they're slingbacks... Thanks for all the recommendations, by the way. If I do end up needing to do a major shoe shop, I will definitely blog it.