For the past year, I have really noticed the effects of the aging process, the biggest change being in my feet. Towards the end of training for Boston, I could barely get through a long run without my feet screaming at me. I knew that I needed to pay some attention to the balls of my feet, but I wasn’t about to change shoes or add orthotics within weeks of Boston. But that resulted in a marathon that broke me. My feet were killing by the 10th mile and the sun was hot; the two were a rotten combination for me and I finished in an hour longer than planned – but I finished. In Boston, that was all I needed to do.
Once Boston was behind me, I started to research orthotics and look for chiropodists in my area. I had orthotics before and hated them; they were heavy and painful to run in as they never seemed to target the part of my foot that was tender: the metatarsals and the midfoot. Adjustments were done but they made running even more painful so, eventually, they were taken out and I only wore my orthotics for work, not running. It wasn’t long before I took them out of my shoe and completely stopped wearing them.
Now, though, I was ready to go back. It had become painfully obvious that I needed some kind of support or padding under the forefoot. I met with a few chiropodists and decided to work with one who specialized in runners’ feet. Over the past few weeks, we have started to find a solution to my aching feet.
The first problem seems to have been an easy correction: my left leg is longer than my right so that my left hip sits significantly higher. Doc placed a heel lift in the bottom of my shoe, between the sole and the insole, to raise my right side. Now my hips are straight, and it makes a noticeable difference in my running as I don’t feel that I am swinging my hips as much.
The sore forefoot is more of a challenge. As it turns out, I have developed mild arthritis in my feet so that is part of the problem. Since there is no cure, I need to find a way to work with what I have so that I can still run. My feet are also concave, not convex like most, as the three middle metatarsals have dropped. The good news is my bones are strong. Other good news is Doc doesn’t feel that I need orthotics because of the way I land when I run – on my forefoot/midfoot.
Week One’s trial was a complete bust. We added some poron to bottom of my insole to try to raise my metatarsals and create some cushioning. My first run (4 miles) went well but my second (8 miles with some speedwork) was a disaster; that night I had such a burning sensation through my feet that I was sidelined and icing them in a bucket of ice water for the next two days. When I started running again, I swapped the insoles for an older pair.
Week Two was better. Doc removed and built more support under the footpad. Every run, from an easy 4 mile run to 9 miles with intervals went as planned, but I couldn’t finish my long run on Sunday; at 6 miles, I was fighting tears and ready to hang up my shoes. I felt broken.
Later that night, I found myself playing teacher. At school, I have to look at the strengths in kids and build on them. Now it was time to do that with me. Even though I have been having some issues, I still ran 28 and 35 mile weeks during these trial periods and my pacing is good. My speedwork is getting better and my leg span seems to be increasing. But on a long run, my feet hurt.
I’m now at the start of Week Three and am only one run in. Today, things were fine. Despite a bit of doubt that kicked in halfway through, I finished my run painfree again. Optimism.
One day at a time, one foot in front of another, I am not giving up and will continue chasing my dreams.
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”