One of the problems I experienced while walking the Thames Path was blisters on my feet. In fact, by the end of each day’s walk, I couldn’t wait to get to our room, take off my shoes and let my dogs rest. Though blister plasters helped the situation, it was still painful and as I look forward to walking the Via Francigena, 1,200 miles long compared to 200 miles, I wanted to be a bit more prepared and proactive in handling the problem.
The low-cut Oboz hiking shoes I chose for the Thames Path walk were professionally fit and a good quality. I purchased a half size larger than normal to accommodate extra heavy socks and foot swelling at the end of the day. I wore Darn Tough merino wool hiking socks and changed them daily. Still, I developed blisters. I determined it wasn’t just the shoes; it’s my feet! I recently purchased a new pair of Hoka One One trail runners for the upcoming trip. The Oboz have several hundred miles on them and wouldn’t make it for another 1,200 miles. I wasn’t confident, however, that just new shoes were going to do the trick.
When we went for our recent annual physicals, David encouraged me to ask for a podiatry referral which I did. I made the appointment and then regretted it immediately. I remembered the podiatrist that came around to the assisted living facility where David’s mom lived in the past. This scraggy, grumpy guy would come in and work through the line-up of old folks who wanted their toenails clipped. Not an appealing thought and so I was ready to ditch the idea. Besides, what could I say to this doc? Uh, my feet hurt and blister after walking 10-12 miles a day? My right foot and leg don’t feel right? And my left heel hurts in the mornings?
With consistent prodding (note: when I ‘prod’, it’s called ‘nagging’), I finally went to the appointment accompanied by David who was sure I’d find a detour if he didn’t come along. Where’s the trust? I was in for a big surprise. The doc was young (not 14... but not 80 either), personable and knowledgeable. He never once made an ugly foot or big foot joke, for which I was thankful. Instead, he patiently listened to my vague complaints, listened to David’s additional comments and then set about examining my tootsies.
It didn’t take him long to figure out that the left heel pain was caused by plantar fasciitis. Perhaps, I used to go barefoot frequently? Well, yeah, I lived on a sailboat for 18 years and even now rarely wear shoes in the house. He offered several stretching exercises to help alleviate the pain and then suggested a cortisone shot as a kickstart to alleviate the pain along with regular follow-up exercises. Though the shot was initially painful, the results were almost instantly noticeable.
After a quick look at my right foot/leg, he asked some pertinent questions. When did I break my ankle? (1995) How long have I had sciatica? (since shortly after I broke my ankle). I’d worn my new pair of Hokas to the appointment. He checked them out and gave them an okay. Once again, he indicated that stretching exercises were the key and suggested that a couple of sessions with a physical therapist before our upcoming hike would be particularly beneficial.
Well, I haven’t gotten to the PT sessions yet, but they’re scheduled. Since we leave in about a month, I didn’t want to waste time. So after a bit of on-line research, I found a few stretching exercises that I thought might help and started doing them immediately … morning and night. What a difference already! We went on a 12.5 mile varied terrain hike at Red Rock yesterday and by the end of the day, my feet didn’t hurt, my back didn’t hurt and no sign of blisters. I may have stumbled onto something here … firm footing for a change.