Monday, August 26, 2013

Foot Pain and the Fashion Girl

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:

Top: Anthropologie
Cardigan: Jigsaw
Pants: Monsoon
Sandals: Mephisto
Bag: Banana Republic


Amber of Butane Anvil said...

Oh Audi - sorry for your pain. I'm so glad you've finally found out the cause, and I admire your strategic approach toward better management and mastery in style (as well as your sweet yellow wristlet / clutch).

In case you haven't already seen this and you find it useful to read others' experiences, Valerie of Idiosyncratic Fashionistas recently wrote about her neuroma:

LPC said...

So very sorry. And yet, hopeful and looking forward to the results of your research. I hate foot discomfort - and I've been shoe shopping with you:). I have begun to suspect that I have some incipient arthritis in my foot joint, and shoes that used to feel wonderful now give me trouble.

I'm even thinking about trying some red boots...

Who knows? This might be the start of something revolutionary. That said, still so sorry you're going through it.

Rebecca said...

Aww, sorry to hear about your situation, but I am optimistic that you can ameliorate the pain with all the plans you have.

And I imagine you ~must~ know of it, but just in case, I'll recommend Astrid's Rabat on 24th in Noe Valley--the best "comfortable" shoe store I've found in the city. Good luck!

Be Fabulous Daily said...

I had Morton's Neuroma a few years ago, and I suspect the potential for it always lurks there. It came when I'd been ballroom dancing for about 5 years, because ballroom dancers dance in 2.5" (or more) heels, the whole purpose of which is to throw you into "forward poise". You can work very hard to resist squashing those little bones by trying to use the inner edge of your foot (putting most of the pressure on the big toe metatarsal) but the best thing for it for me has been going to all flats and to minimalist shoes. (Not those weird toe things though). Also, strength training has helped, specifically a determined program of standing calf raises. Walk barefoot as much as you can. I love fun clothes and style too, but I have to build around flats.

vtmartha said...

Sorry about your foot pain! Coincidentally, I was diagnosed with Morton's neuroma as well last week. While in my case I think the diagnosis is incorrect, I learned a few things. I think you are on the right track. Look for shoes with a wide foot bed to allow your foot to spread. Good luck!

Jean said...

Ugh, that sounds awful. I've also had foot pain for the past month, have tried to ignore it but have a doctor's appointment booked to hopefully find out what it is. Don't think it's what you have though. Good luck though, hope it's sorted soon x

Maryn McKenna said...

Longtime reader, first-time commenter: I love shoes, I travel all the time, I adore to walk, and I have *tissue-paper* feet. Your remark about buying shoes while traveling sounded so, so familiar.

I have been reading this blog for ideas.

spacegrrl said...

i've had a very hands-on physical therapist help me a great deal with foot pain, and she also recommended regular pedicures to keep calluses from pressing on sensitive nerves.

Suzanne said...

I'm so glad you found the problem! I had Morton's Neuroma a few years ago and like you, I treated it with lifestyle (footwear) changes. It healed completely, but I'm still careful to choose shoes with a WIDE toe box, and not wear tall heels two days in a row. This will pass--you can conquer it!

Shybiker said...

So sorry to hear, buddy. But at least you're on track to understanding the problem, which will lead you to solutions. Good luck.

style cassentials said...

So sorry to hear about your feet problem, but I can imagine that it's very empowering that you now know the cause.

I don't have the same level of foot pain, but I have been struggling with this more recently too. It is forcing me to explore more low-heeled options, which is difficult for a fashion lover and a super petite yet curvy girl. Heels are fashionable, they're elongating and slenderizing, yet they are painful.


Patti said...

I'm really sorry to hear about the pain you've experienced for so many years, but can understand what a relief it must be to finally be able to put a name to the problem!

I have lots of foot pain too, and recently listed 11 pair of very cute shoes on eBay because they are the source of so much discomfort. It's sad to part with such pretty shoes.

I can speak from experience that it's difficult, but ultimately so rewarding, to locate shoes that are comfortable. I'm interested to see what fantastic styles you'll discover during your shoe quest.

Annonymous said...

I have also battled foot pain for a long time; mine from Plantar Fasciltis. I totally understand trying to find items in your wardrobe that you also have shoes you wear. Its also a huge struggle to find comfortable that have some degree of style and that are not super picky. That said I have found nothing under $150.00 that frustrating. Some brands that have worked for me:
Ziera (by far the most supportive and comfortable shoes and they actually have style too) Purchased a pair of nude pumps with a heel and wore them for a wedding and didn't die of pain at all...a MIRACLE.

Sheila said...

What a relief to know that it has a name! I have suffered from Restless Leg Syndrome my entire life, but didn't know it actually existed as RLS until about 10 years ago. I thought I was crazy for not being able to control my legs, or to be able to figure out what was wrong with me that I was having that pain.

Thank you for putting the word out there, Audi. I have Morton's toe, so I'm going to check out the link and make sure that I'm making good footwear choices for my feet.

lesliele said...

I have neuropathy in my feet, and I also had a neuroma. The neuroma cleared up as soon as I stopped wearing my Dansko clogs-- the hard insole really aggravated it.

The numbness in the rest of my feet, though, well, I've been successful with SAS birkenstock style sandals. I don't know what I'm going to do this winter when I can't rock the sandals every day. ;-) maybe I'll be the socks & sandals lady.

I'm eager to hear about other shoes you find that help you!

Anonymous said...

The brands that work for me and are wearable (as in I want to wear them) are Think shoes and Fly London.

Martina said...

So sorry to hear about your foot pain, Audi. I sympathize. I don't have any medical condition that I know of, but my feet are just super sensitive and I have been forced to build my outfits around "sensible" shoes ever since I was a teen. In case you're looking for suggestions, some brands that worked well for me in terms of making comfortable shoes that I can bear to look at are Teva, Ecco, and Timberland (I can actually wear Timberland heels, which is a near-miracle). Good luck on your healing journey!

Erika said...

Sucks when bits of your body betray you. I have to wear custom orthotics, sizing up helps, but finding the right shoes and going through the process of replacing much loved ones - yes, that's hard, depressing and expensive.

Fortunately, there is a much bigger range available, and the internets make getting some of them easier. Good luck!

Unknown said...

I am passing through much sorrowful condition after reading about your pain. It is really frightening and terrible, I am praying for you.
physical therapist in bergen county

Foot Solution said...

That's seriously commendable! I appreciate the way you handled your pain. I would advice people with Morton's neuroma not to ignore this pain because the earlier you are diagnosed, the more likely that Morton’s neuroma can be successfully treated without surgery.

Unknown said...

I like your idea of exploring fashion in a totally different way :)

Foot Pain

Unknown said...

HELLO!!!!!!!! OMG I really hope you find some fabulous shoes for those of us with foot problems. I was such a shoe hound and my plantar faciitis has made it impossible to wear 80% of my shoes (apprx 80 pairs! lol). I TOO avoid many of my outfits because nothing matches the shoes I can wear. I agree that barkingdogs is a good website. I have had good luck with Earthies, Orthoheel, and some shoes from the Walking company.