The Orthotics journey

It’s been a long long journey to get to where I am now, but I wanted to share it, in the hope that others won’t give up on the process.

My orthotic journey goes back a few years. Quite a few. I never really thought about my feet until I started running. Well, you don’t, do you? I have always had weird bones sticking out in places where other people haven’t, I have always known I have very flat feet, so what? I kinda have two ankle bones on the inside, which made it difficult getting shoes when I was a kid, extra bits sticking out and all. My parents and my sister have always made fun of what they called my ‘bobbly toes’ but, who cares, I wear shoes, you don’t stare at peoples feet, do you? Its only now I know why.

The first time I considered orthotics was around ten years ago. There were some cheap ones on offer in Clarks, metal plate type things, off the shelf. Hmmm, ok, ish, well, I got bored of them, didn’t really see the point.

The next was at the ideal home show a number of years ago. I was getting achy feet when I walked distances, they promised all sorts of magical things they could fix, all I had to do was walk across this plate. Well, ok I thought, so I did. Oooooh you have very flat feet… bla bla bla and they told me I definitely needed them. Well, they blinded me with science, talked about foot imprints, and stuff, and said they would post them out.

When they arrived, they were hard stiff plastic, with a soft covering, and about 2/3 of the foot long, stopping just before the metatarsal. It took me ages and ages to get used to running in them (yup, I have now found running, and am at the start of my weight loss journey) and they constantly gave me blisters on my arch. Blisters were nothing new, I constantly have got blisters on my instep when I run. I have to wear compeed all the time during training, and use lots of Vaseline and crossed fingers during races! I persevered for a bit, but the aches from wearing them started to bug me and didn’t go away so I gave up and put them in the cupboard.

A few years more pass by, and to be honest I can’t remember why I resurrected the idea. Perhaps it was more pain; I think perhaps it may have even been knee problems, which the physio blamed on my feet. Anyway, I went to a local podiatrist. Again, they oooh and ahhh, look in wonder and tell me how crap my feet are. This time my feet are cast and moulds are made from them. I feel a bit more positive, maybe these ones will be proper ones? When they come, they are again hard plastic, with a soft covering, but are the length of my foot. Again I’m told it will take a while for my feet to moult to them. So off I trot, but as before, blisters, pain, aches. I really did try, and went back loads of times to the podiatrist. In the end they got fed up with me I think, and refused to communicate any further. The blisters were blamed on the foot rubbing against the edge of the orthotic, extra bits were added, nothing. Still rubbish. I had got no where and wasted yet more money (and believe me they weren’t cheap!)

So, many years go by, and another set go into the cup board. I got a gait analysis at the Sweatshop, bought the best and most supportive trainers on the market, (which for my feet turned out to be Asics gel foundation) and thought screw sticking stuff in my shoes that clearly wont work. I’ll manage.

And manage I did, for a number of years. Thought nothing more till this summer, I developed excruciating pain in my foot. I went to my trusty physio (yes, I know, they don’t do feet!) He said oooooh, you have very unusual and flat feet.. bla bla bla. I think you should see a podiatrist. YAWN!!! What again. Never. I made an appointment. I have to be honest, I cancelled it, and gave an excuse. But, the pain didn’t abate and soon I could hardly walk. I had the European championships coming up really soon, so I thought I had better do something.

I went to see this guy, Steve, that I was recommended. Ooooh hes the best in Northamptonshire, etc etc. I was told. Hmmmmm forgive my scepticism, given the journey so far. But, I gave the guy a chance. He turned out to be a very clever chap, very informative, very very very helpful and accommodating, and explained things in great detail. After a lengthy trip to see him, (and a long appointment with the podiatry school students, during which I learned TONS about the foot anatomy!) I discovered all sorts of explanations as to the problems I have encountered all these years!

The ‘extra ankle bone’ turned out to be a result of extreme pronation, over a number of years, making the bones just below the ankle protrude more than they should. The ‘bobbly toes’ were as a result of the fact that there was no stability in my foot, overflexible joints, and no arch, I have been ‘clawing’ at the ground all my life, in order to maintain balance. Gosh, it’s a wonder I can even stand up I thought!! So, there started the next chapter!! This time, he explained how the foot is a flexible complex joint, etc, and you don’t want HARD orthotics, the stuff needs to flex if you are going to run on it. I was still sceptical, but things were looking up. At this stage, the European champs were in two weeks, and I still count walk, and had stopped running completely. He said I shoudlt race. Pah!! I don’t do all that work for nowt!! Fix me… please? He added some temporary spongy bits (lots) to the underside of my trainer insoles, and sent me away to try it.

I apprehensively hobbled out the door. First run in a few weeks. After I managed to extend the limp to a jog, it eased. By about a mile down the road, I no longer had pain. I gotta say, I was pretty flabbergasted!
I did the Euros anyway, (hurt like hell but what the heck!!) and went back the next week. I have to confess I expected a foot cast. He took the insole away (with the bits stuck on) and came back a moment later saying, done… they will be in the post in a few weeks. ??? That Easy!??

When they came, I could wait to try them. This pair were like a full trainer insole, thin, bendy, rubbery, but with lumpy bits moulded into them to match the contours of my feet. I ran in them. Yep, blisters on the instep. FFS!! I called him and expected him to say yes, feet need to adjust… no…. come in immediately they obviously need adjusting. Really? And back I have been, many many times over the past few weeks, lots and lots of minor adjustments. I did actually think that I was destined for blisters, even with these ones.

BUT.. the difference with these over all the others I have had? They didn’t hurt at all. They felt odd, yes, but no aches. After he was done adjusting them, saying the blisters were because the foot was slipping in the shoe (not enough arch support) I ran last weekend. 5 miles, no compeed (but did take some in my pocket, because I was convinced I would need them!). 5 miles. No blister, no plasters. The first time, ever in my life I have run without getting a blister, and without needing a plaster. I was Sooooooooo exited!! I ran again today, and still no plaster, no blister, no aches.

It really did work. I cant believe it!! I have been told that with my foot in the ‘better’ position I should now have a more efficient and biomechanically correct drive off the first metatarsal, like I should have had all along, which has only got to be good, for a runner, I think?
I am SOOOOOO excited and pleased I persevered to get to this point. I can’t recommend him enough. If you are going to try orthotics, make sure you go to a sports podiatrist, and DO persevere and pester them. It WILL be worth it in the end.

And the pain? Almost all gone. YAY!!
Steve Avil can be contacted through the contacts page on my web site contacts 🙂

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