The backstory is that I'd already made an appointment with my orthopedist for a "state of the union" checkup before I really got into running longer distances in preparation for the Houston half marathon in January. My right ankle went through about a month over the summer where it was hurting, and my left foot was always sore thanks to plantar fasciitis, plus I was a little worried that I might be dealing with some Achilles issues, so I made the appointment.
And then I went to California, where the weather is beautiful and the scenery is gorgeous and going for an evening walk was wonderful. Well, after several days in a row of a lot of walking (the evening walks alone were over four miles each time), the top of my left foot started hurting so bad that I couldn't bear to even think about lacing up my running shoes, much less going for a walk. The pain was radiating over the bony top of my foot down to my toes - I was taking Motrin and Tylenol like crazy, because we had things to do and I didn't want my foot pain to stop me! Luckily, my ortho appointment was just a few days after I arrived back home, so I figured I'd get some relief soon.
I really like my orthopedist - it's the same doctor who finally got my right ankle fixed up after I injured it in 2011. He's a former runner, so he understands our mentality. Other doctors might advise their patients to quit running altogether, but my ortho knows that's not going to happen until something cracks and falls off (and even then, most of us will keep trying to run).
Anyway, X-rays were taken and the good news was that nothing bad has happened to my ankle. He also said that my Achilles pain was really just pain connected to the plantar fasciitis, which was also good news - well, better that than to blow out your Achilles tendon. Now, the PF? That has gotten worse - I knew, based on X-rays taken in 2012 that I had a pretty good bone spur happening on the bottom of my left heel, but it's become even more pronounced and hook-like. Lovely. The top of my foot pain was caused by an arthritic bone spur, which, thanks to all the walking I did, irritated the nerve that runs across that area, and that's why it was hurting down to my toes.
My doctor suggested custom orthotic insoles. Well, at first he asked how much longer I was going to keep running, but when I told him that this had become bad after a summer of short runs (almost none longer than three miles) plus a lot of walking while on vacation, he understood that I wasn't overdoing it - I really was just living a reasonably active lifestyle. So his next thought was to try and support my arches, which are high, with the orthotics. I was game - heck, when walking makes me hurt, it's time to try something new. I was a little concerned about the cost, but as it turns out, they were quite reasonable - only $100. The orthotics at the running store cost nearly half that, and they aren't custom, so I felt like I had to try them. Side note - I'd come home from California intending to order a pair of Birkenstock sandals, which cost - you guessed it - $100, so I got the orthotics instead.
I wish I could have taken pictures of the fitting process for the orthotics, but it wasn't appropriate to whip out my phone and start clicking away at that appointment. I went to a physical therapist who specializes in fitting patients for orthotics - he watched me walk back and forth a couple of times, then assessed my feet, and then brought out what looked like a pizza box, but inside, instead of a delicious pizza, was foam. He fitted each foot while I was sitting down, and then sent off the box to have the insoles made. A couple of weeks later I went back to pick them up and have the physical therapist check the fit, and I brought home these:
I'm calling them invisible shoes, because they are taking the place of the shoes that I really wanted.
I was advised to wear them for a couple of days, increasing the amount of time as I wore them, but if my feet felt good then I was fine to run in them. So I did that, and I wore them for our 3.1 mile Panqueque race. I felt great while running in them, but later on that day, my feet started to feel very tender, almost like they were bruised on the bottom. It got fairly painful, and I didn't help matters when I dropped a jar of pickles on my bare foot that afternoon. But even with that mess, the bottoms of my feet just plain hurt.
I didn't wear the orthotics again until Monday, when I ran two miles. Feet hurt. I didn't wear them again until Wednesday, when I ran two miles. Feet didn't hurt - yay! So I'd say the worst of getting used to them is over; now it will be interesting to see if they do what they're supposed to, which is to help stabilize the motion of landing, which in theory should help my ankle, and also help relieve/heal the plantar fasciitis pain.
Oh, and as for the arthritic bone spur (or midfoot arthrosis, as the official diagnosis says), that's a problem. My doctor said that may be the thing that ends my running earlier than I'd like, but that's a bridge I'm not willing to cross, much less approach, right now. In the meantime, he will be giving me a lidocaine shot into that spot soon. I'm looking forward to having a needle stuck into the top of my foot, that's how much it hurts.
I wish I didn't belong to the degeneration generation. I would gladly turn in my membership card, if only I could find someone in charge. For now, I'll just keep doing what I've been doing and cross my fingers that the orthotics make a difference in how I feel.