Broken foot strategy

I haven’t done yoga for so, so long, because – specifically – of ligament pain. You try lying down for three or four years[1] and see what happens to YOUR ligaments. I’ve been doing other exercises aimed at slowly increasing the amount of muscle I have, and in the course of it have realised that my body is annoyingly inflexible, and this is affecting how I develop muscle. For a woman who was hypermobile as a norm, this is not permissible. So I’ve just done the world’d most wobbly, brief yoga set. I want to get my ligaments as elastic as they can be, for someone of my age.

I’ve also ordered some Vibram Five Fingers. Everyone I’ve spoken to who owns a set of these is a screaming fan. I don’t mean they’re all “Oh yeah, you must get some, they’re great ya.” I mean they pin you into a corner and talk at you about them for hours and hours and hours. Now, I’m a natural born toe-striker. I’ve never been at home with the “official” human gait. My guess is that this is partly because I have always had issues with my large muscles – the ones in the thighs and the back/abdomen. My smaller muscles seem to sort-of work ok-ish. But the big ones never, ever have, and this leaves me with some interesting weaknesses which applied even when I considered myself fully well.

Back in the day, despite this basic issue with some muscles, I was fairly – though intermittently – keen on exercise. I like it. I especially like running. I like to go late at night, and I like it best of all when it’s raining. I miss it keenly. Even if I can only get to the point where I can run 100 yards and even if it puts me flat on my back for a week afterwards, I want to run again, and that is what I am working towards. Just 100 yards.

So the fact that I’ve broken my left foot five or six times now – usually while running, but the last time, while walking – is an issue. The first time, it took six weeks to heal. The last time, it took nearly two years. (Honestly, you just get used to the pain and stop noticing it.) I don’t want to break that sodding foot again.

My strategy to enable this to happen has several parts. Getting my ligaments elastic again is one of them. I’m also working to put on as much muscle as I can (if I can) everywhere, because muscle acts as a cushion. I’m paying specific attention to the muscles which support the cuff of the hip, the pelvis, lumbar region, and torso, as it is these which – if strong and not tense – give us a healthy gait. I’m working to lose as much weight as I can, so I put as little pressure on my body as possible with each foot strike. Finally, I want to work on beefing up the structure of my feet. I have to get ALL of these issues sorted out before I will consider running a single step.

For exercise, we wear shoes that “cushion” us (they don’t really). They encourage us to heel-strike – and this takes about a third of the natural shock absorption we should have straight out of the equation, placing our feet, knees and back under pressures they’re not evolved for. Conventional shoes come up into the arch to support it and maintain the arched shape, and they constrain the spread of the forefoot as we put weight on it.

Well, the arch of the foot is a sprung shape which helps absorb the shock when we strike the ground. It’s not supposed to maintain a consistent form. It’s supposed to flex. The forefoot is supposed to spread. Combined, the flexing arch and the spreading movement and the structure of the ankle are evolved to spread the impact of a foot strike gently up the leg, taking much of the wallop out of it before it gets to the knee and back. None of which happens in conventional shoes, with a heel-strike. On an entirely personal note, it seems to be the flex of the arch which causes my foot to break. So you might think the answer is surely to wear very supportive shoes, and remove that flex from the equation.

No, that doesn’t work. Several of my breaks confirm this. I’ve done everything short of encase that foot in titanium in an effort to support it.

The main advantage of the Vibrams, as far as I can glean from talking to people and reading a kazillion barefoot running articles, seems to be that they let the foot build up its own natural support musculature. After a lifetime in conventional shoes, the muscles and supporting tissues inside the foot are pretty weak, so you have to go into Vibrams (or barefoot exercise) very slowly and build up their use over a month or two to give your body a chance to beef up your feet a bit, and for your gait to change.

It’s my hope that if I start wearing them for all sorts of things (slowly), I may build up some additional support in the foot to prevent yet another re-break.

Because if this goes again, that’s the end of it, I don’t think I’ll be able to run again.

(Except: this is me. Of course I will.)

[1] Hello new readers. I have ME/CFS.

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About chiller

Rachel Coldbreath spent 20 years working internationally as a technical specialist on large data collections for law firms, before becoming disabled. She blogs on a variety of topics from the news and politics to gardening and how very annoying it is, being disabled. Habits include drilling holes about 1mm away from where they ought to be, and embarking with great enthusiasm on tasks for which she is neither physically nor intellectually equipped.
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5 Responses to Broken foot strategy

  1. elaine4queen says:

    does sound reasonable.

    i am waiting with some impatience for a new gym to open at the top of the road. i reckon if i build muscle i will be able to do more. and have some cushion against pain.

    yoga hasn’t got a wall to hit, though. there’s nothing stopping you becoming more and more flexible over time. the only difference is the starting point. i am disappointingly unflexible now too, but i know that if i start again i can keep improving ad infinitum. i wish i would get on with it, though. it’s hard to self motivate, that’s why i used to do classes twice a week.

    • chiller says:

      Well, I *hope* it works, but only time will tell.

      I’m very motivated with the exercise thing (in fact, one thing I’ve learned from ME is that the days when I don’t feel motivated are the days when I really, really must not do anything, because if I do, I damage myself). I’m just going to incorporate yoga into my mornings from now on. Hope to work my way up to being able to do a class – there’d be no point right now, so I’ll give it a couple of months first, to get my basic coordination and balance working again.

      • elaine4queen says:

        might be worth considering a chi gung class if there is one near you.

        i must admit, i have been rather putting off getting more active. thank goodness for the dog, because i know what this feeling means – i used to stay indoors for days at a time. i am aware that i am fairly active for someone with fibro, and although, like you, i have to be realistic on the day, i am still thinking ‘use it or lose it’ because i know people who have, and it changes what is a chronic ailment into a degenerative one.

      • chiller says:

        it changes what is a chronic ailment into a degenerative one.

        For sure.

        When I was in the relapse-recovery cycle this exactly describes what was happening. I would come out of each relapse with less muscle than I went in with (and I went in with very little after the first massive collapse). Slowly I was becoming more and more disabled. Now I can do some exercise again, I’m mad for it. The trick is in not overdoing it and breaking myself every week. I am really, really bad at that.

  2. elaine4queen says:

    i really couldn’t believe what a massive massive relapse i had moving house. it’s put me back terribly, both physically and mentally. if ten hadn’t been around i have NO idea what i would have done, bar abandoning my home and going to live with my mum. much as i love her, nobody wants that.

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