Friday, 17 October 2014

Plantar Fasciitis - no fun for two feet!

Insider experience by Easy Living Footwear's Amy Waight


PLANTAR FASCIITIS. Two words that spark dread through the hearts of those poor unfortunates who have had to endure this painful foot issue… Grab a cuppa, it’s time for a story… !!

Generally speaking, I’m the Easy Living office girl – so I’m not always on the shop floor to see customer foot issues on a daily basis – but I certainly know of them, and have encountered a few problem-cases over the years.

Bunions, hammer toes, big custom orthotics, extra-wide feet or swollen ankles – we’ve seen it all in store!! Whilst we “know our stuff” to help each set of problem feet that come in, sometimes we haven’t personally dealt with the problem. So when people would talk about PF (Plantar Fasciitis) issues – my empathy was there, but my personal experience was completely void. I’d heard the name but didn’t understand the condition, it was alien to me – I could barely even pronounce it!! Boy was I in for a rude shock when my own perfectly fine feet decided they were going to tip-toe down the path of pain…. !

Never have I experienced such debilitating, frustrating, painfully-painful-pain in my feet as I have since PF decided to come into my life. I’d wake up in the morning, take one step out of bed, and the pain would course through my feet and body as though I’d just stepped on a floor of broken glass.

And it wasn’t just in one foot either – both feet would echo the pain between them, and trying to walk to the bathroom first thing in the morning was like a walk of torture!! Some mornings my little walk from bedroom to bathroom (which is by no stretch of the imagination very long at all) – would see me in fits of tears, hunched over as though I was three-times my actual age (I’m mid-30s by the way), holding onto the walls as I’d whimper my way down the hallway. I felt old and battered, and was completely bewildered by the pain.My 91-year old very mobile grandpa completely puts me to shame!!

Working in a shoe shop, my footwear collection consists of… well… LOTS of shoes (haha!). I LOVE heels! I wear our products – so the shoes on my feet have been good quality. They’re practical and had never caused me issues in the past. With the introduction of my PF, I was forced out of my heels and into flats, and shortly thereafter went in search of “squishy foot pads” to help alleviate some of the pain in my feet.

Failing that, I took myself off to the Podiatrist, and yep, as I suspected (and as the ladies at work had suspected too) I was indeed inflicted with dreaded Plantar Fasciitis. Whatever THAT was… ?! Time to get my knowledge cap on.

SO, what is this Plantar Fasciitis I hear you say?

To put it in “easier to understand” terms, the Plantar Fascia is the flat band of tissue that runs through the base of your foot, connects your heel bone to your toes, and is what supports the arch of your foot.
It’s connected to the muscles that run right up the back of your leg. When the muscles are too tight (eg: you have really tight calves, or your arches are under strain, etc) – the pain tends to accumulate in the heel, and is more symptomatic with pain/stiffness first thing in the morning when the muscles have been ‘relaxed’ overnight. That heel pain feels like walking on razor blades / shards of glass… until your muscles start to warm up a little and gives the flow of movement back to your feet again.

Generally, it’s caused by straining that ligament under the foot – sometimes through exercise or high-impact activity; being on your feet for extended amounts of time; too much weight on your body, and therefore your feet; really tight Achilles Tendons or calf muscles (just to name a few main causes).

Repeated stress on the ligament can then create ‘tears’ (like any strained muscle), and the inflammation that comes with that irritates the foot – until the muscle has a chance to repair itself. … but being your feet, and given that we have to stand / walk on them – it’s very hard to stay OFF your feet long enough for the inflammation to subside, and give those muscles time to heal properly. … so PF can be quite problematical, and left untreated could lead to heel spurs, and the pain-cycle continues… (… that’s my very un-technical take on it anyway! I'm not a foot expert, I'm just a designer, ha!)

A trip to the Podiatrist gave me some practical tips on how to deal with / manage the pain. These included things like:
  • Rolling my feet over a frozen water bottle, to help with inflammation. The movement up and down the base of my foot was often quite comforting if I’d been on my feet all day and could barely walk!
  • Gently lowering my heels off the back of a step – to help stretch out the calf muscles, and therefore help take the strain out of the arch of my foot. Despite being extra careful not to push too much, this sometimes hurt, but did help to keep flexing that muscle through “rehab”.
  • Rolling my feet over a hard ball (like a cricket ball) first thing in the morning before I’d stand up – to help get that circulation going and warm up the ligaments BEFORE standing and enduring that instant pain.
  • Making sure I have footwear on at all times – scuffs are my new best friends at home!! I used to be an avid barefoot girl, but these days I simply can’t walk around without something on my feet. 
  • And supportive footwear during the day – a MUST – shoes with adjustment and support, stability and comfort.

I did all my “foot exercises” over the course of six weeks, but unfortunately my issues remained. I was advised I was up for custom-orthotics to help with my feet for the longer term – which having dealt with people in the stores with orthotics didn’t phase me, but I was pretty determined to sort this out in the meantime. I just wanted to be able to WALK!!

To my list of “to dos”, I added herbal liniments and magnesium oil for inflammation, which I’d spray on at night to help ease the discomfort, while I was off my feet during sleep. I upped my magnesium and Omega-3 vitamins to help with muscles and internal inflammation, and I’d sit with an icepack on my heels of a night to ease the pain before bedtime. Sometimes an inflammation tablet too if needed, if things got really too painful.
Oh, and I wore joggers with Plantar Fasciitis innersoles inside them (with hard arch support and super squishy heel for softness on the sore spots) for months and months and months - no "normal" shoes for me, and sadly, no heels!

I was well and truly sick of the pain AND wearing those joggers MONTHS later!  I tried acupuncture on my tight calves, and remedial massage as “alternatives” to try and encourage healing. I spoke to people who had PF, had gotten rid of it, asked tips and advice…. And they ALL said the same thing. “Oh it’s HORRIBLE. All I could do was wait it out!”.

… and so I’ve waited it out. I’ve done everything right, I’ve looked after my feet. I’ve stayed off them as much as I can (amidst working OR wanting to go for walks/exercise – and always regretting it after with the onslaught of pain the next day!)

Never again will I look at someone who says they’re suffering from Plantar Fasciitis or sore feet in the same way. The pain is ridiculous, and my empathy levels are well and truly up there for this one!! I sometimes joke that breaking my leg would have been far less problematical!

It’s only in the last few weeks (nine months later) that I’ve been able to embark back into the land of “real shoes” – though my heels are still touchy, and I have to be careful not to overdo it. I opted for much more practical and “safer” footwear options this season to wear to work – and have found a few styles in our Summer collection that are already proving to be my new best friends!

Taos Holiday, with it’s latex cork sole gives me that extra bit of ‘squish’ under the foot, and the wedge heel gives me support under the arch, and a bit of height, which also helps to shorten the calf muscles and take a little strain out of the Planta Fasciia.

Velcro straps across the forefoot help with the swelling, and the ankle strap keeps them secure on my foot. I’ve had to re-learn how to “wear heels” again, so I’m wearing these sporadically whilst I get used to height again!

My others are the Softwaves 62502 sandals, with similar characteristics to the Taos. With a comfort footbed, and small heel (smaller than the wedge, which changes the height up for me from day to day, giving the feet a break).

Velcro ankle strap, and a little elastic for movement on the forefoot. Am finding these a wider-fit sandal, and very comfortable under my ‘sore spots’ on the heel, which is giving me that arch support that I need.

Mephisto Minoa – with latex cork sole, adjustable forefoot and ankle straps, and a well supported arch on a molded footbed.  A hint of elastic gusset on the heel helps with movement.

I have quite a wide foot, and these fit me perfectly!  The adjustable forefoot is great for both narrow and wider feet - having seen a couple of narrow fitters in store lately, it's lovely to see a pair of quality sandals cater for both!!

Mephisto are also one of our top-selling comfort brands - the "gold standard" of superior comfort, and footwear technology.   They tout over 50 years of hand-made craftsmanship for their products, and are one of the biggest selling European footwear brands across the world.  They are certainly one of my favourite brands within the store, and I have quite a few of their styles in my possession.... !!!  Like the pair above, they are just beautiful shoes - and they last!  My previous season Mephistos have been through hell and back, and they're STILL going strong!! They're one of the first brands I go to each season!

Another of my ‘sore feet’ suggestions are the Naot range – which feature an anatomical footbed, with cork innersoles for movement and comfort. Some of the models are orthotic-friendly (removable innersoles), and we also stock innersole replacements. The Naot range are renown for quality leather uppers which last for years, so having replacement innersoles brings “new life” back into a much loved favourite, and are well worth the investment for shoes that fit your feet well!

Having this personal encounter with PF has really opened my eyes to the harder task of “fitting sore feet” – and working at a shoe shop, even WE (the staff) have foot issues to contend with too!   We're just like our customers - we do understand what you’re going through!! For better fitting, comfortable footwear, the ladies in store are always there to help! Our team are trained to help fit you properly, and we’re happy to help guide you through our range to find shoes that will work for YOUR feet.

Sore feet are a common theme for our customers, but if you are experiencing recurring foot pain, please do talk to a Podiatrist / your Doctor to help find solutions. It’s exhausting dealing with pain, and definitely something that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

At this stage, I'm also happy to report that I seem to be winning the PF war!  Changing my sandals and shoes up from one day to the next seems to be working a treat - on top of all my other "processes".  I'm far more mobile, and far less irritable (ha!) than I was, and I'm starting back to my exercise and walks - which was well and truly missed.  It's an encounter I'd love to have bypassed, but I'm certainly taking MUCH greater care of my feet now because of it.  I'll take that as my positive... !!!

Until next time… do me a favour, and put your feet up! Give those feet of yours a much needed break!!

~ Amy   :)

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