From the Blog

My Feet Hurt

A few days ago, I posted a status update on Facebook: “Reading up on flat feet. I’ve had flat arches since junior high. We’re walking a lot more in Astoria, and my feet start aching after only a mile. I’m too young to be an old lady.”

You see, I have no boundaries. Somehow, I think I need to share the status of my feet. My feet are important to me. I’ll tell the whole damned internet all about me and my feet. We need a lot of attention. This isn’t even the first time I’ve written about my flat feet. And for the record, I still don’t have cankles.

But my feet do hurt. My calves and knees, too. We ended up having a great discussion on Facebook about what to do, and what not to do about flat feet. In some of the reading I’ve done, I learned that some people believe you can rebuild your arches by wearing less supportive shoes. In this line of reasoning, the inserts and supportive shoes keep your foot from supporting itself. You can regain strength by removing the support. It seems to work for people. I even called it a “barefoot cult.” They are really into it.

Then there are a billion other people with products of all kinds. Liquid inserts! Funny shoes! Rolly massagers for your feets! Detox foot baths! Stiff plastic orthotics that will make you feel like the mob broke your knee caps!

I’ve had flat feet since junior high, and I’ve always gone the supportive shoe route. We’re walking a few miles a day, and I get odd pains within 15 minutes of walking. Across the outside top of my right foot, leading up to my ankle, for one. The ball of my left big toe. The top of my calves, just below the knee. And by the time we’re done walking, it’s all the usual bone creaky fatigue and tightness in the Achilles. Since we’re walking everyday, there’s less time for recovery. I feel it all again in the first few steps getting out of bed in the morning.

The bummer about fallen arches is that they don’t get better with regular use. Any other part of your body builds strength and firms up with regular exercise. With flat feet, they don’t get better. And like someone who is short sighted, wearing glasses doesn’t make their eyes better, it just allows them to see. I wear supportive shoes and inserts just to walk a couple miles. In my experience without them, the pain is immediate and more intense, with a much longer recovery time.

I haven’t been to a podiatrist since junior high. Now with our lovely $5000 deductible, whatever medical attention we seek comes out of our pocket. So we are saving the $5000 deductible in case we crack our heads open, and will forgo any sort of low grade or non emergency trips to the doctor. By the way, that’s exactly what they mean when they say “have some skin in the game.” By having such a “consumer driven” (more expensive) plan, we can “choose” not to go to the doctor, because it’s our own money we are spending. “More skin in the game” means you pay more and get less. I’m not sure why this hasn’t been clarified by our leaders.

I digress. I have flat feet, and being on a budget, it’s unlikely I’ll be able to go to a doctor. But there’s always Dr. Google! I can read up on all the quackery and be an “educated consumer!” Trying the primal/barefoot route would take years of transitioning, and lots of dedication. I’d be willing to do it, but I’d actually like to talk to a doctor about that and see what they think. I’m researching stretches, exercises, yoga, and whatever else might help. I can do all of that on my own and it’s free. In the meantime, I just want to go for walks and not feel like an old lady.


  1. I have had flat feet all my life, too, like Fred Flinstone flat, and shoes with pronounced support kill me, my feet, and even my back. I’ve found two brands recently that are amazing on my feet and don’t make everything hurt when I do a ton of walking – Keen brand, and Fit Flops. Fit Flops are supposed to be supportive in another way, for toning butt and legs, I think, but are SO comfortable for a lot of walking.

  2. Meredith says

    You just might not be used to this kind of activity every day and those aches and pains (besides the flat feet pains) are adjustments. Maybe try stretching before and after going out. My usual aches and pains have gone down since I got used to running, but now I get other (more serious) problems if I’m not careful.

  3. zoe baily says

    Hi Heather: find a good podiatrist, it will change your life. Lots of advances made in recent years. Pain free walking is worth any amount of money.

  4. @cathy, I do have some Keens and I do like them. Nice roomy toe box. I add inserts for more arch support. I do need a better sandal solution as it warms up to 65 degrees on the coast.

    @meredith, Some of the soreness is certainly from “lack of use.” I’d like to think it will get easier with our regular walks, but in the past week or so, I’m getting more sore and it’s lasting longer. So I want to continue walking, but augment with stretches and strength building for my feets. I don’t think walking alone is going to do it.

    @zoe baily, I’d actually love to go to a medical expert and see what they say. Not a gadget sales person, not a quack, not a shoe store, not someone with a fad solution. I’m sort of kicking myself for not going to a podiatrist while it was covered. But you know what might have happened? It might have made it harder to get individual coverage once we left our jobs. Doing your own research can be hit or miss, and it’s amazing how many conflicting opinions there are out there. I’d love to go to a podiatrist.

    Oh! I forgot to mention as I wrote this, my husband says he will divorce me if I start wearing “those funny shoes with the individual toes.” Sigh. “What’s more important, your sore feet, or your marriage?”

  5. Podiatrists will likely have different opinions depending on what school of thought they subscribe to.

    I’ve got flat feet, and I’ve been to many, many podiatrists too. They all tell me something different, so I’ve just had to go with what works for me. The best thing I’ve ever found? Standing Toe Up Achilles stretch. Maybe it works for you, maybe not.

  6. Thanks @Mary Sue, those were just the kind of stretches I did while waiting tables. And that’s just where it hurts, in the Achilles and at the top of my calves. I have been doing those again now that we are walking regularly and my feet and calves hurt pretty much all the time.

    And separately, an update: Socks make a difference. I wore cotton socks with terry cloth interiors yesterday and my feet huuuurt after. The socks felt like sandpaper at the end of our walk. Today, I wore soft cashmere (?) socks that usually stay in the dresser because they feel too “dressy.” I wore them with my waterproof Keen boots today and my feet felt sooo much better. Socks make a huge difference.

  7. I’m just going to continuously update this post with the status of my feet. I took a break from walking yesterday, more out of laziness than pain. Though I did have the usual “next morning” aches in my feet.

    I woke up this morning, and my feet are STILL sore, after not walking for 48 hours. I’m not running marathons! I’m walking 2 to 3 easy miles a day! But my stoopid feet hurt!

  8. Another thing I am realizing, these easy walks, two to three miles, not strenuous, mostly flat, are making my restless legs worse. Especially at night. I twitch a lot while sitting, too. Like right now.

    I need to be shot like a horse.

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