My feet hurt. I'm not talking about the sort of general soreness that comes with a day spent out walking, I'm talking about crippling pain that leaves me limping and near tears, flagging down a cab when I could easily walk the distance. It has taken me a long time to admit this.
Within the last year I've noticed that I:
- almost always buy shoes while traveling, not because I need new shoes or even want them, but because the pain is so bad that I can't imagine getting through another day with the ones I brought.
- walk partway somewhere only to have to stop and grab the bus for the rest of the trip.
- kick off my shoes at my desk, and even pad around the office in socks at times.
- bypass many wardrobe options simply because I don't have comfortable enough shoes to wear with them.
- shy away from about 80% of the shoes in my closet, even if they've been fine before, because my feet have gotten too sensitive to be trusted in all but the most reliable of pairs.
As you might imagine, the last 2 items are pretty dire for a gal who loves clothes and shoes, and has a giant wardrobe full of both. But lately the pain has gotten so bad that I decided to get serious, come what may, and I'm seeing it as a whole new fashion challenge that I CAN master.
This problem didn't just spring up overnight; it's the culmination of many years of intermittent pain that has always been difficult to pin a cause to. Shoes that were tried and true will suddenly cause searing pain; sometimes they'll be great for a few hours and leave me wincing by the end of the day, and sometimes I'll get off to a bad start and the pain will work itself out after awhile. It's one thing when a particular pair of shoes is the culprit; with me it can be any of them, at any time. For many years I could suffer one day with a challenging pair of heels and then recover the next by taking it easy in low-heeled boots, but over time the pain has gotten more intense, more frequent, and much, much harder to recover from.
Recently I dove in and did some serious research, and finally managed to determine what it is, though I've seen multiple doctors about the problem without ever being able to get any specific diagnosis. It's called Morton's neuroma, and basically it feels like the metatarsals between my third and fourth toes are grinding against each other every time I step down. Sometimes by the end of the day, the pad underneath the ball of my foot will also be burning with pain. Sometimes heels seem to exacerbate the problem, sometimes it's flats. It isn't just one foot either; sometimes it's the left and sometimes it's the right, though mercifully it isn't ever both on the same day.
Here's what's strange: I've lived with this for years, but somehow just knowing that this condition has a name gave me an incredible feeling of power over it. If it exists, I can fight it. If it's real, I can kill it. It's not a bizarre deformity, I'm not an anomaly; it's a named condition that is not deadly, and therefore it's surely within my power to conquer it.
I have carefully formulated a plan of attack. Certain things have helped me before: shoe inserts, reflexology, yoga, acupuncture, and of course, the right shoes (though to be sure, they are terribly hard to find -- at least ones I can stand to look at). A significant change must come to my shoe collection, and it will certainly involve the painful culling of some beloved pairs. I've been researching the brands that will work for my feet and have tracked down some inserts that specifically target this condition (which is a whole lot easier now that I know what it is); I've ordered some topical pain relief/anti-inflammatory creams and I've gotten myself a pair of toe stretchers; I will step up my visits to the acupuncture therapist and I will schedule regular foot massages; I am doing yoga to help with circulation and flexibility, and I will structure each day so that I have some time to put my feet up and let them recover and heal. Finally, I've started a journal to help me track which pairs of shoes I wear each day, how much I walk, which treatments I try, and the level of discomfort.
Sadly, not a journal about all the delicious bread I've eaten.
I'm hoping this will be, if not necessarily a fun journey, at least one that lets me explore fashion (mainly shoes) in a different way. With discipline and commitment, I know I can regain some sort of control over this aspect of my health and learn to manage it more effectively. Ultimately I'd like to do this without without having to go the extreme route of cortisone injections and/or surgery. The real question is, can I do it without having to resort to wearing orthopedic shoes? That, of course, remains to be seen.
. . . .
In case you're wondering, the shoes pictured here are the most recent of my desperate travel purchases. They turned out to be an excellent buy, and have been a staple all this summer. Here are the outfit details:
Bag: Banana Republic