Last summer, my family and I traveled to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and it was a wonderful trip. Except for my feet. It has been several months, and a foot surgery later, and I am still paying for the damage that I did to my feet.
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What did I do, you may be asking? Step on a piece of glass? Step on a pop-top and blow out my flip flop? Fall off in a sink hole, high on the crystal mountain range? Nope. None of the above. Well, the pop top one was close. (Thanks Jimmy Buffet, now that’s stuck in my head!)
I wore my favorite flip flops. Not cheap flip flops, but some “they must be special and good for me flip flops, because I bought them at the Natural Grocers in Dallas” flip flops. I wanted to be comfy. My feet get hot and I can’t stand to be bound up by socks, so I am a sandal girl. Always have been. Now, Crocs are pretty comfy, too, if you can get past the hideousness of how they look. My “health food store” flip flops were as light as Crocs. They fit better than the old Croc sandals that I had worn out a couple of years earlier, and they were blue. They matched all of my clothes.
What they didn’t do, however, was protect my feet. At all. Not one little bit. Who even thinks about that, though? When you are picking out your travel shoes, are you really putting arch support at the top of the list? I admit it, I wasn’t. But, and that’s a big but, I will from this day forward. That’s a promise.
Candi, the girls and I spent a few hours walking the downtown area of Hot Springs. We visited the park, took pictures by the falls, and toured the old bath house museum. We parked in the centrally-located parking garage, but it was up on a hill. Not a steep hill, but most of the downtown area is at a bit of an incline. We carried several gallons of HOT mineral water back up the incline, and the hill, and I worried that my arms were going to fall off, or my fingers were going to be blistered, but I did not think a thing about my feet. Until we got back to the Air BnB, that is. Oh my goodness. My feet hurt so bad. I could barely pick them up off of the floorboard and get back into the villa. I had to walk on my tip toes everywhere. I was unable to put my heels back down on the floor for the rest of the trip. It was so painful.
I had suffered with plantar fasciitis in the past, but morning stretches before getting out of bed had worked for that, and it did not slow me down at all. Exercises and stretching did nothing for me, this time. The date that I did my feet in was June 24. By the end of August, I was still unable to walk normally, and constant tip-toeing was causing cramps in my calves, and slowing me way down.
I ordered some flip flops (unbelievable as that sounds) from The Healing Sole. Apparently, a foot doctor in Baton Rouge, LA invented them to stop plantar fasciitis pain. They have a lifted big toe area, sink down in the heel, and have a raised arch. They were very stiff and uncomfortable at first, but I was able to “break them in” after a couple of weeks. I wore them exclusively for a while. I was able to walk for an hour or two a day, and return to part time work. My feet never felt good, but the pain was bearable, and I felt like I was doing what I could to care for my aching feet.
I am not one who likes to slow down. I have places to go and people to see. All day, every day, I am on a mission. So, I finally made an appointment with a Podiatrist. Dr. Harvey pointed out the heel spur growing on my right foot. (The right foot was the most painful one, both still hurt.) He said that the spur grows due to pulling from tight fascia, and for most people, a cortisone injection will do the trick. Oh. My. Gosh. That HURT. He must have dug that HUGE needle in my heel for 5 minutes. I don’t know how I am still alive. I know that I did not breathe the entire time. “Give it 3 days.” he said. I did. Nothing. NOTHING.
He also sold me some Spenco orthotics for my Asics walking shoes. I put them in there, and wore them when I didn’t have the special flip flops on. They were tight, my feet were hot and cramped, but I was doing my part to make smart footwear decisions. (I do have some favorite foot-support socks now, too, that I recommend. I love these Heatuffs.)
I went back a month later, hobbling even more than before, and he ended up scheduling me for a plantar fasciiotomy the following week. He said that if he clipped the fascia that it would stop the spur growth, and end the pain. That was September. This is December. My pain has been near unbearable, and in the mornings, I have to use a cane. (Because I wore crappy shoes on vacation. There is an unbelievable moral to this story.) Now, he wants to do a 2nd surgery, more invasive, longer healing time, and file down the still-growing heel spur.
I have spent thousands of dollars on surgeries and Chiropractic care. I have spent weeks out of work. I have spent hundreds of dollars on orthotics and specialty footwear. (I will continue to use these forever, and am sharing the ones that I have some benefit from with you.) All because I wanted to wear flip flops that matched my clothes. I must look like a real idiot, but I know that I can’t be the only one. You don’t want to wait until this hits you, or think that it won’t happen to you, or that your nice walking shoes are enough. This is life changing, and not in a good way. All because I chose flip flops. Unbelievable, right?
Fast forward, just a tad. I am still awaiting the 2nd surgery, probably in about 2 weeks. I still have to use the cane first thing in the morning, and I am still only working part time. I have, however, found some relief. I could cry just writing about it. Thinking that you have become helpless and that you can no longer travel, when that is all you ever dreamed of, makes you a little emotional. At least it does me. What relief, you ask?
Well, probably a couple of things, but no medication has even given me a moment’s relief. Niacin, seems to be reducing the inflammation, but the most relief that I have had has been from shoes. Good shoes. Imagine that, right? (If you are interested in the Niacin protocol, and the flushing aspect, let me know, and I will be happy to share what is working for me.)
Arcopedico’s PR people sent me some information on their shoes, and how they are good for travel, in case I was going to be writing a travel post about clothing and shoes in the near future. I had never heard of them. (Sadly.) I replied that I was about to write this post, and would be happy to include their shoes, if they wanted to send me a pair to try. They agreed and let me pick out any pair I wanted. (I will always be honest about my experiences, good or bad.)
I really, really wanted to try the Luana boots. They were so cute. But, it was more important for me to find an every day shoe that I would truly purchase for myself to wear on summer trips, that I could wear with shorts, capris, skirts or pants. A sensible shoe. So, I picked out the Town. I didn’t pick them for their beauty, but for the potential function and protection of my feet. They got here in about a week, and were actually cuter than I expected. Something that I would wear all of the time, if they provided any support at all. Oh my goodness. I am telling you the truth when I say, I have not taken these things off since I got them. I will probably have them ruined with paint any day now, like everything else I own. They are so comfortable!
I feel like I am bare footed when I have these on. They are lighter than my Crocs. Lighter than my old flip flops. My feet do not hurt when I have them on!!!!!! I don’t know how to explain it, exactly. My feet feel supported. They feel stable. They feel cushioned. They feel good! I woke up from a nap today, and realized that I still had them on. ( I always take my shoes off at the door!)
I am about to order those boots I wanted. I am so excited to be walking semi-normal, without excess pain, and being hopeful enough to plan next year’s adventures! (FYI, these shoes are not cheap, and I don’t make a commission off of them or anything, but I did absolutely want you to know that they really DID/DO make a difference for me. Heck, I paid $100 for the dang Healing Sole flip flops. The Arcopedicos are 100% worth every penny, whether you already have foot pain, or just want to prevent it from happening to you. You smart cookie, you!)
One last tip. I pack my shoes in my suitcase, on bottom, inside a Wal-Mart bag. I have used disposable shower caps to put them in before, but the t-shirt bags from the grocery store or wherever, keep your shoes protected, and keep the nasty off of your clothes.
Now, let’s go somewhere! Woohoo!