I have always loved physical activity, especially when it involves being in the outdoors. During the years that I attended University, it was built-in to my daily life. I worked out, I ran, I hiked, I rock climbed, and when I wasn't riding my mountain bike, I walked everywhere - no matter what the weather or season. My primary source of transportation was human powered, in the beginning by necessity, and after I got a car, mostly by choice.
All of this activity meant that I spent a lot of time on my feet. When it came to purchasing footwear, I aimed for quality. I assumed that if I went to reputable stores, purchased reputable brands, and wasn't afraid to spend good money, I would be making the right choices. I listened to the advice of sales people who explained to me why I needed certain types of cushioning, support, motion control, and other footwear technologies. These people were experts, they were athletes working in the business because they loved the sport - I had no reason whatsoever to doubt their reccomendations. I purchased all my footwear this way: my athletic shoes, hiking boots, and casual shoes. The companies who make the footwear know what they are doing right? I was convinced that the name brands could justify higher prices because they had better technology and spent more money on research.
Despite my quality footwear choices, I began to experience some problems. It started out very gradually as sore achy feet. At the end of a day, I would take off my shoes and have to spend the rest of the evening taking it easy as my feet recovered from the day's activities. As the soreness began to progress I found myself having to continually beg my wife for foot massages to aid in the recovery process. I assumed that this was the price to pay for having an active lifestyle. I remember often thinking to myself "good thing I have decent footwear, otherwise things could be a lot worse!". Around this time I started experimenting with purchasing wider footwear in an effort to reduce the soreness.
The first serious problem cropped up one weekend when my wife and I were on a camping trip in the Rocky Mountains; this weekend changed everything for me. The day began with us going for a hike. We didn't get much further than a half-mile before I started to feel pain in my left knee. Within a very short period of time the pain had increased to the point where I I decided that we needed to turn back. This was devastating for me, it completely ruined my weekend. From that day forward I couldn't walk or run for any significant distance without pain.
A visit to the doctor the following week provided me with an official diagnosis: I had Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) and was referred to a physical therapist. Through a variety of treatments and exercises, the physical therapist was able to help me reduce the pain, but not eliminate it. Specialized computer equipment was used to analyze my gait by measuring the pressure exerted by my feet on the ground. Through this process it was determined that my problem could be corrected by purchasing custom made orthotics. Although the orthotics were very expensive, I decided to go ahead with it because I really felt I didn't have much choice. My body had a physical defect that needed correction.
In the end, the orthotics did help, but didn't solve the problem. I had to be very careful how much activity I did because the pain would begin to return if I did too much. My feet also continued to experience soreness despite the fact that I was less active. My fitness gradually began to decline and I started gaining weight.
Over time I discovered a sport that didn't seem to bother my knee: cycling. Craving some form of physical activity that I could sink my teeth into, I purchased a road bike. In the beginning I rode for fitness and recreation. After seeing that my knee was not causing me problems, I decided to train for competition. I really enjoyed cycling, and was very happy to have discovered a sport that didn't make my body hurt.
About a year later, a new problem began to emerge. I started to develop a "hotspot" under the pad of my left foot. As time went on it continued to get worse, to the point where it was persistant and often had me limping. After doing research online, I was able to diagnose myself (with reasonable confidence) with Morton's Neroma. Again I attempted to fix the problem with orthotics and again I saw only marginal improvements. It got to the point where I had to always be wearing shoes with expensive orthotics to control the pain (kind of like a drug). As if the problems with my knee and my feet weren't enough, I also started to develop some pain in my lower back.
I felt like I was falling apart and I didn't really know what to do, nothing seemed to be working. That was the point when, through what I would consider a tremendous blessing, I stumbled across the idea that it might actually be my footwear that was causing all these problems. I began to research and test things out using this idea as my central premise. Now, several years later I am able to walk, hike, run, skateboard, cycle... you name it, pain-free without high-tech shoes, insoles, or orthotics. I also discovered that these principles apply not only to sports, but every-day normal living as well. If you or someone you know suffers from foot, leg, knee, hip, or back pain there is a high probability that these principles could be of great benefit, no matter how active you are.
I am not a medical expert, nor do I claim to be one. I am a computer geek who also happens to love learning about our bodies. I also don't claim to have all of the answers. It is my desire to share what I have learned and how it has helped me, with the hope that it might be of value to others who may be suffering with similar issues.
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