Baka flat-footed!

I still remember an old commercial for Combantrin in the Philippines where two mothers were chatting to each other in a park while watching their kids play. One of the boys fell down while trying to chase the other kids and the camera focused on the mother of the boy. The conversation between the mothers went roughly like this:

Mother 1 (to boy who fell down): Oh no, you fell down again!
Mother 2: Does he always fall down?
Mother 1: Yes, I don’t know what’s wrong with him. Maybe he’s flat-footed.
Mother 2: Maybe he has worms?

The ad was for worm infection medication Combantrin, but that was the first time I’ve heard that being flat-footed could affect the way someone runs. I looked at my dad’s flat feet then and thought that perhaps the reason why I’ve never seen him run is that he couldn’t do so without falling down. I didn’t think anything much about it after that and have believed the “flat-foots can’t run” theory until early last year when I found myself sitting in a podiatrist’s office.

I started visiting a podiatrist when I started noticing that I’m constantly having arch pain in my right foot. During my first appointment, the podiatrist took some measurements (shoulders to foot, waist to foot, foot width and length) and had a video recording of my stride while I was walking on a threadmill. There were also questions about my physical activity (Have I taken up a new sport lately? Nope. What kind of exercise do I usually do? Jump rope, at that time. Do I usually fall down? Yes, I’ve had several episodes of twisting my ankle) and the type of shoes I wear (Do I usually wear high heels? Er… nope. I usually wear sandals or runners. What kind of footwear do I use when I’m at home? Thongs (flip-flops). Do I usually walk around barefoot? Sometimes.) She also had me lie down on a bed while she inspected my foot, pressing on several points in my foot and asking if it hurts (no, actually it felt good, like having a foot massage).

After going through my (foot) history and poking, she concluded that a). my left leg is slightly longer than my right; b). although my feet have normal arches when I’m sitting or lying down, it collapses once I put my weight on it; c). I’m an overpronator which means that my feet rolls inward too much when I walk, leading to a condition called plantar fasciitis, where the thick fibrous tissue in the bottom of the foot becomes inflammed, thus causing arch and sometimes, ankle, knee and back pain; and d). I’ll need to change my footwear (no heels higher than 2 inches which may cause further stretching, no open-heeled shoes making my foot slip and slide, no walking barefoot since my foot won’t be getting the support it needs). She also prescribed me a gel called Voltaren to soothe the pain in my foot. I was then given a print-out of some stretches and calf exercises I should do several times a day to relieve the tightness of my muscles, a symptom of this condition. She also told me that I should fill a water bottle with cold water and roll it under my foot to keep down the inflammation.

Next, I was given a pair of wedges to insert in my shoes to see if that would solve my problem, I think the wedges were of different thickness so as to compensate for my mismatched leg lengths. I went home and inspected each pair of shoes, analysing which ones to chuck out or keep. Not many survived the culling. The next day, I inserted the wedges into my shoes and went about with my usual business. I didn’t feel any different and the pain was slightly alleviated. I didn’t feel any soreness until the next day. I was sore all over, it felt like a had a fight with a brick wall and lost. A quick call to the podiatrist assured me that this was normal, it was just my body complaining and trying to adjust to the presence of the wedges.

A couple of weeks passed and I’m back in the podiatrist office, with her asking if there were any improvements with my foot. Well, there was some improvement but the pain didn’t exactly go away either. She asked if I did all the exercises she recommended, applied some of the gel and did the water bottle thing. I said yes and she wrote down some notes in my record. I was then given a different set of wedges and told to come back after several weeks. This went on for some time with her giving me wedges of differing thickness and me always going back to report that the wedges aren’t doing anything. She soon gave up on the idea of the wedges and told me to move on to prefabricated arch supports available in drug stores and sporting goods stores. I did just that and also bought a pair of motion-control running shoes (Saucony). I used the runners with the insoles and although the pain started to fade away quicker and only comes back after several days, I still long for the day when I won’t have any pain at all for weeks or months. I was advised by my podiatrist to go back to her office for a fitting for a pair of custom-made orthotics but since we were about to move to Melbourne then, I thought it better to wait until after the move to do the fitting.

Hunting for a new podiatrist in the Yellow Pages, I booked an appointment in a clinic in the city. Since I already have an idea of what to expect and have already tried almost anything under the sun for my troublesome foot, I had both my feet encased in plaster (to get an impression of each foot) on my second consultation. The plaster impression was then used to create a pair of quite expensive custom orthoses I now use inside my shoes. The orthoses aren’t a fix-all since I still get aches and pains from time to time (like now) but at least the painful episodes are now far between. I still can’t do high heels nor open-heeled shoes and only walk barefoot for a couple of steps from the clothes hamper to the bath everyday.

I’ve asked the podiatrist (both the old and new) as to why my feet suddenly decided to complain after all of these years of walking the same way or why the pain is usually worse in my right foot and rarely affects my left foot. Their answer ranges from hereditary to advancing age (does this qualify me to be called a geriatric now?) to blaming high heels (which I don’t get since I’ve only had one pair of shoes in my life that would even qualify as high heeled – a pair of Rockport wedges with a 3-inch heel).

I guess in the end they don’t really know and it doesn’t really matter, all I need to care about is to prevent further pain and lessen its impact whenever it comes. The arch of my right foot throbs, my ankle hurts and the inside of my knee feels like it needs a good snap. It’s been 3 days since our 2-hour walk in the park and you’d think that I should have recovered from it by now. I guess it’s time for some wall-pushing exercises, pain relief gel and cold water bottle for me.

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Published in: on June 8, 2005 at 6:30 pm  Leave a Comment