Tuesday, July 25, 2006

First trip to the Podiatrist

Haven't posted in forever, so here's a big 'un...

Yes, I'm clearly getting old, 'cause I had to go to the podiatrist today. No, he's not the one with the rubber glove and the KY, that comes after I'm 45, I think. He's the guy with the foot models and lots of shoes all over the office.

So the story goes something like this: Back when I was a kid I was prone to do stupid things like jump off monkey bars. One day, playing tag on said monkey bars, I violated rule number 1 of bar tag, "no touching the ground." Then I violated rule number 2, "don't get hurt." See, in a dodge to avoid being tagged I jumped backward off the bars and, to quote my current self (since I'm sure I didn't use such words at the tender age of 10 or whatever), "twisted the shit out of my ankle." Like to the point of requiring a cast.

So, fast forward about, oh, 25 years or so and it's 2000. I've had weak ankles on both sides pretty much since the Bar Tag Incident and, being a relatively smart and financially independent person, have purchased a pair of industrial-strength ankle braces to wear while playing softball. These are the good ones...steel ribbing, laces, they look like thoroughly unsexy ankle corsets. I'm playing a co-ed game and hit a weak line drive to the outfield. Being an idiot, I attempt to stretch a single in to a double, then decide to slide far too late.

The result? Well, as your basic physics text book will tell you, a body in motion will want to stay in motion. And, as a corolary, mass plus velocity equals pain. Especially when the lead foot hits the base, the cleat grabs the base, and the mass of the body continues to slide past the base, folding the ankle over.

Thanks to the ankle corset nothing broke, but I did have another case of "sprained the shit out of the ankle." No cast this time, but it never really healed completely. Or, rather, it did but was weaker than before.

Fast forward another 6 years and, as you are no doubt aware, I'm now in Marathon Training mode. As the milage increases I realize something interesting: when I run on the right side of the road my right ankle (the one that was hurt in 2000) starts to ache after a mile or two. If I run on the left side of the road it doesn't. It doesn't take a master's degree in rocket surgery to realize that the road is humped, and when I'm running on the right side the road is sloping down to the right, subtly rolling my ankle outward, the direction of the injury. On the left the ankle is rotated inward, which doesn't hurt. Naturally, I begin running exclusively on the left side of the road.

Unfortunately, while that plan is great for training, I can't guarantee that during the 26 miles 365 yards of the Portland Marathon I'll be able to exclusively run on the left. So I check with a friend who's also a runner, she says "you should get Orthotics", and voila I'm in the chair having my feet examined.

To the doctor's credit, he didn't say anything about all the gnarly calouses and excess skin on my feet. He did, however, say "yeah, you need orthotics, and it's going to cost you about $500." Swell.

He did, however, explain my new and previously mysterious foot pain! Ever since going to Cub Scout camp a couple weekends ago (after running 12 miles one Saturday morning I packed up the boy and headed off for 4 days in the woods with a bunch of 8 - 10 year-olds) I've been getting pain in my heels and along the outside of my foot. It's at its worst the day I run (especially on days I run before work, where I can't just sit on the couch with my feet up), and I noticed that the outside of the foot hurt if I tried to do things like open a drawer with my foot (what can I say, I don't like to bend over...). Well, as the good doctor explained, there's a big ol' tendon that runs from the heel up to the tarsal or metatarsal that keeps your foot in place, and I've been stretching it out. So it gets sore. Which means...I need orthotics.

Amazing how it all comes back to the $500 foot gear...

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