The Road to Recovery?

Thursday 11 July. Well, it seems as if I may have found a solution to my annoying foot problem/pain. Yesterday I made a 100 mile round trip to visit Andrew Stanley at the Rebound Clinic in Settle. As well as being a podiatrist, he specializes in diagnosing and rectifying lower leg and foot problems. I spent over an hour with him during which time he carried out a thorough physical examination of my feet, legs & posture. In addition he had me walking/running on a treadmill both in bare feet and in corrective shoes whilst he made a video to assist with my gait analysis. Most people walk with their feet splayed to some extent; normally at five to one. I’m well past ten to two and heading for a quarter to three. You could say that I walk like a duck! The cause of this abnormal gait is flat feet which lead to over-pronation and pressure on the metatarsal heads. This is what has been causing me all of the pain, particularly in my middle toe on the left foot.

Having identified the problem, Andrew made me a temporary set of insoles which raise the inner arch of each foot and provide additional support just behind the metatarsal heads on my left foot. I need to wear these for 6 weeks and then to visit Andrew again for fitting of a more permanent insole. He took an impression of both feet by having me stand on a block of something which had the consistency of a substance somewhere between foam rubber and a blancmange. From this he can make a replica of my feet and insoles to suit. The first visit cost me £120 and there will be a further £230 to pay when I collect the permanent insoles. This is a high price, but if it gets me walking again then it will have been money well spent.

Andrew also suggested that my boots were too constricting in the toe area and that I should consider buying some Keen boots which have a squarer and roomier toe box. He also suggested that I should buy some Birkenstock sandals for wearing around the house. Finally, he gave me some exercises to do and recommended that I should soak my feet in hot water for 60 seconds and then in ice cold water for 60 seconds. This should be repeated 6-10 times.

Acting on Andrew’s advice, this morning I drove into Ambleside where I bought a pair of Keen boots, a pair of Keen walking shoes, some Birkenstock sandals and just for good measure a new walking jacket. The total cost £477 pounds. Who said that walking is a cheap hobby? The Keen boots/shoes are “ladies” as men’s only go down to size 7 and I needed a size 6.

Kitted out with new boots & insoles, all I needed to do was to put them to the test. I decided on a 5¾ mile walk with 1,300ft of ascent starting from Tarn Hows. It followed the route of the Cumbria Way until Hodge Close quarry where I turned off to cross Holme Fell and back up Tom Gill to the car. The new walking kit was comfortable from the start but felt a little odd as I was no longer walking at a quarter to three but more like five to one with my feet pointing straighter ahead. My legs and knees felt a little odd as they adjusted to the revised gait. The toe was still mildly discomforting for the first half mile or so but wasn’t anywhere near as bad as before. Towards the end of the walk my metatarsal heads were a little sore but there was no discernible toe pain. My conclusion is that the corrective footwear has done the trick and I can now look forward to relatively pain-free walking. Minor adjustments to the insoles and use of a custom made orthotic should be the answer.

One walk isn’t really an adequate test but at least there’s hope and I’ll try out the Keen shoes tomorrow to see if they are equally as comfortable as the boots. There is still hope that I’ll be able to make it to Northumberland & Hawes in August.


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