Friday, November 4, 2011

The Agony of Da Feet

Even though my broken metatarsal has healed, my feet still have the problems that have been plaguing me for years: arthritis, scars from the joint replacement on my right foot, stiffness in my plantar fascia, and arches that flatten easily and need support. My spending three months wholly or largely off my feet has weakened the muscles that support all this mess, and it’s still hard for me to gauge how much I can do before I start causing pain.

I’m talking about normal activities of daily living here, not aerobic walking and certainly not jogging. I have been walking for exercise a couple of times with a friend, but not yet at a pace that would get my heart rate up. The kind of activity that seems to stress out my feet is having to walk to get somewhere, especially over terrain that is at all uneven. Unfortunately, the results don’t usually show up until a day or two later.

For instance, when we were in Branson, we walked down a long hill to get to what was described to us as an upscale shopping area. I was picturing Rodeo Drive East, but actually it was just the stores I shop in at home. I’m not certain Kirkland’s and The Gap count as upscale, but there was one shop selling high priced hand bags. (I didn’t go in.) At any rate, the hill itself was steeper than I’m used to, living in an area that’s flatter than Kansas, but it was two city blocks, not the side of a ravine, and even climbing back up was easy when I paced myself. I felt happy that I could finally do normal activities again.

Two days later, when I was back at home, my right foot started to hurt. I felt the pain in the arch itself, but if I rubbed along the metatarsal, that triggered a dull pain, and my foot felt the “buzzy” feeling I recognized as inflammation. I was convinced I had broken that foot. 

My more sensible nature made a deal with me. If the foot was still hurting by the following week, I’d make a doctor appointment. One day before the deadline, the foot stopped hurting, and has been fine, with only a few random twinges, ever since.

Last Sunday, hubby and I went to a local fair. The fair, a fundraiser for the Jaycee’s, takes place on a large open plot on the edge of town. The walk from the parking lot was quite a hike in itself, and the walk to the junior rodeo being held in conjunction with the fair was down a slight but bumpy incline with irregular footing, and of course, we walked the entire fairground before taking a seat in the music tent. Still, my feet felt merely tired, not sore, when I got home. So I went ahead with plans to go walking with a friend at the mall the next day, and the day after that I went grocery shopping.

Wednesday my left foot felt sore. The pain was located just below my ankle, but again, the metatarsal seemed like the trigger point and even a small amount of walking around the house caused pain that took a long time after I sat down again to go away. I was sure I had re-fractured the foot.

Again I made a deal with myself: keep off the foot and see how it feels Monday. Today it is back to normal. 

I tell myself it’s normal to feel uneasy after the bad experience I had. Twice now I’ve walked around on broken bones for over a month before getting help. I don’t want to make that mistake again. Another break in the same spot is likely to mean surgery, and considering my experience scarring up after my toe joint replacement, I’d prefer to avoid that. At the same time, the more I stay off my feet, the weaker my muscles will get and that will leave my bones less protected, not more. So I’m like Goldilocks in orthopedic shoes, relying on trial and error to find the amount of movement that is “just right”.

Let's hope the bears don't get me.


  1. I hope your feet feel better soon, as better as they can.

    I also have a lot of foot pain when walking. I'm not really sure why, but maybe it's my shoes. Anyway, I also have flat feet. One thing I have noticed is that my feet hurt less in rollerblades than they do in shoes. Here are my unscientific theories as to why: The rollerblades hold my feet very firmly, and don't allow my ankles to flop sideways, and the feet don't have to move as much. There's no jarring when my feet hit the pavement with each step. The motions are different as well -- instead of picking a foot up and moving it forwards, you slide one foot sideways then move it back to the centre, then slide the other foot sideways.

    I'm sure this won't help much around the house, and rollerblading does have a bit of a learning curve -- it's best to learn on a perfectly flat surface. If you live on a hill, as I did when I was first learning, you'll probably find yourself able to go uphill okay and be terrified at the prospect of having to come back down and not being able to stop. At least, I did. But if you already know how to ice skate or rollerblade, and if your foot pain is similar to mine -- which it might not be, then you might find it easier to rollerblade to the store than walk.

    Aside from that, I can only recommend using ice (ice reduces swelling and inflammation; heat is good for relaxing tight or cramped muscles.) and keeping them up when possible, maybe doing gentle stretching exercises and massaging your feet gently with your hands, if that seems to help. Massage is bad if there is a bruise, sprain, or break, and you shouldn't do it if it's painful, but if the problem seems to be muscle soreness from unused muscles, it can help. Use a light touch and go very gently and back off at the first sign of pain.

    When I was recovering from a bad sprain, I was encouraged to do exercises like flexing and stretching my foot, going up onto tippy toes while holding onto something and then going back down onto flat feet, and also making little circles with my feet while holding my feet off the ground (sitting). This can help get the muscles used to moving again. Take it slowly, though, and stop when it hurts. You can build up more muscle strength over time.

    Standard disclaimer: I'm not a doctor so take all of this with a grain of salt. If your doctor gives you advice conflicting mine, follow your doctor's advice instead.

  2. Thanks for the input. I do have a set of foot exercises somewhere and have been meaning to dig them out. I have been doing some stretching, but I'm lazy about icing them when I need to, also, probably because when my feet hurt I don't want to walk around looking for an ice pack. Fortunately they've been feeling okay the last few days.