I can’t remember exactly when my feet started hurting: 10 years ago? 15 years ago? I went to see a doctor, he told me to get insoles. I honestly can’t remember how much that helped, but, having the interests I do, I fairly quickly went in a different direction, looking for thin-soled shoes and reading about ways of walking.

I still feel that there’s something to that latter approach? Like, I keep my shoes off at home and, much of the time, at work, and my feet never hurt then. I’m not going to say that that’s compelling evidence, because it’s not like I’m actually doing much walking at home or at work, but still: why wouldn’t our bodies have evolved to have feet that work for walking without help?

Having said that, though, I’m not using thin-soled shoes right now. I used Softstar shoes for a while, but when they changed their sizing for the third time, I got tired of them; also, the shoes wore out in something like three months, and weren’t cheap enough that I didn’t mind. (And the fact that I really could tell when they were wearing out is evidence that thin soles could be a problem, that padding is actually useful!) And, in terms of reading about ways of walking, I found it surprisingly difficult to find advice that I trusted and could actually carry out in practice.


So then I tried regular running shoes. The main problem that I ran into there is that they didn’t seem to fit right; eventually I went to a store that spent a little more time with me, and put me in quadruple-extra-wide New Balance shoes, and that solved the fit problems; I guess I have wide feet! And they also put me back in insoles, which didn’t seem to be hurting either.

That was a little more expensive than I would have liked, but that first set of New Balance + insoles lasted for a year; so that’s a lot cheaper than replacing Softstar shoes four times a year. The problem is, that turned out to be a total fluke: now I feel lucky if my shoes are lasting six months. So what happens is that my feet start hurting a bit, I spend a week in denial and bargaining, and then it’s time to get new shoes again; a little annoying, and a little expensive.


To some extent, the annoying part of that is on me: my reaction isn’t really helping me, I should just get past that and accept that, as soon as my feet give me a twinge, it’s time for new shoes. And sure, foot pain is no fun, but it’s a problem that I can solve with money, and an amount of money that isn’t at all unmanageable in the grand scheme of things; if we think about it in medical terms, it ends up being something like a once-a-month $40 copay for a drug, which I don’t like but which I’m fortunate enough to be able to deal with fine.

But I also kind of feel like the pain is telling me something? Like, my shoes wear out in a very particular way, right under the base of my right toe: that’s probably a sign that I’m putting pressure there more than is healthy. And also I used to pronate a lot; doing Tai Chi has helped me be aware of my weight distribution in a way that I think should let me solve that problem; maybe I can apply that awareness to this problem too.


In other words, one way to think of this pain is that it’s a virtue in disguise: pointing out a real pre-existing problem that I can solve in a more fundamental way with the help of feedback from pain and that I can work around with money while I’m working on getting a better fix in place. One comparison here is to my knees: my right knee isn’t bad, but it’s more like 80% healthy than 100% healthy, so it sometimes hurts when I’m doing Tai Chi; but the answer there is always “shift your weight from your knee to your kua”, which is better behavior whether or not my knee is giving me a twinge. So, in some sense, I wish my foot pain were more frequent but less severe: as-is, I don’t get feedback from pain until my shoes are seriously weakened, at which point just shifting my weight isn’t good enough, because the shape of my shoes is already messed up.

So I’m trying to be more aware of my weight distribution when I’m walking, even with new shoes: where the weight lands when I roll onto the front of my foot, where the weight lands when my foot hits, and how hard my foot presses into the ground in both situations. I’m currently not getting immediate feedback from pain, which is too bad, but hopefully I can still use the past feedback to alter my behavior. And hopefully that alteration will actually turn out to be beneficial: beneficial for my feet, beneficial for my wallet? I certainly feel better when walking this week than I sometimes have, like I’m landing lighter, so that’s good.

I do feel like I it’s time for another experiment with thinner-sole shoes, though. I bought some shoes just to use for Tai Chi, but that doesn’t solve the walking problem; I’m kind of thinking that, the next time I need to replace my walking shoes, I should try out Chuck Taylors…

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