25 September 2016

Experiment with feet

I remember hating museums when I was a small kid. They always involved standing still, pottering a bit to the next exhibit, and then standing still again. It hurt! I figured that was normal; everybody else must just have been hiding their pain.

I later found out most people can potter and stand still for extensive periods of time without hurting. Now that would be nice! I wanted that too. I entered the medical circus and was prodded, scanned, injected, electrocuted, and operated on. Nothing worked. Then we went for fighting symptoms: I got orthopaedic soles. That made things a whole lot better. It just meant I had to always walk around on shoes about two sizes too big. 

Fast forward some ten years. I discover running. I run without orthopaedic soles, and pretty much get away with it. If I run far it still hurts, but that's reasonable. But then Istart running on my forefoot. That is a game changer. I can run and run without my feet protesting! Clearly, this way of running somehow avoids the problem I have. I happily run a half marathon without foot issues. Even the full marathon was no problem. So these feet of mine work, if you use them the right way. At speed I can do that, but shouldn’t it be possible at a modest pace? At the least, it’s worth the try.

I'm not sure what the difference is, really; but there are some clues. I have fairly high arches and short toes, so my weight rests on only a small part of my feet: the ball and the heel. Unless I wear soles; these distribute it over the entire foot. But clearly there is another way. Walking (for me) is a rather passive way of moving, while running isn't; I sort of hang in my muscles, rather than leaning on my joints. My toes are actively involved, and I suppose that's what they're for anyway. Could I walk in a more muscular way? Would that be as effective as spreading my weight over my entire foot?

My most often worn shoes, with my foot for comparison; the size difference is caused by the sole on the left

 If I stand still (or sit, in order to take a pic) my toes barely touch the ground

 If I'm on my forefoot my toes get some action!

One day I decided to buy a pair of low hiking shoes in my own size. It was time to try this out! And then, when I knew I would have to be in Blaenau anyway, I decided to go for a walk above the mine, rather than in it. And do I did! 

I tried to walk a bit like I run: on tiptoe. That’s a bit weird at walking pace. I tried to use my toes as much as I could: make these muscles work! And I also tried turning my feet in a bit, as I know I do that when I run. 

Did it work? Well, to a certain extent! It did feel a bit sore, but in the end I spent 80 minutes on my feet, and “a bit sore” is then actually a massive success. I’m going to try this again! It would be so nice to not need these soles. I have very little to lose and all to gain! I suspect it’s using the feet too passively puts too much strain on the joints, a bit like running with a heavy gait puts too much strain on your knees. Make your muscles do the work your joints would otherwise end up doing and you’re laughing! Stay tuned, this experiment is ongoing!

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