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Bicycle safety for giraffes

This week I visited the orthopedist for my final check up on my stress fracture. Even though I had been back to barefooting for the past three weeks, I grabbed a pair of shoes as I walked out the door, thinking that if I showed up without them, I’d get a lecture from the doc. Well, I ended up getting a lecture, all right… For wearing shoes, or at least the wrong kind.

The stress fracture appears to be completely healed and I would have canceled the appointment and saved the $35 co-pay except that I am still feeling a little bit of tenderness in the joint at the base of my baby toe. (This is a pain I started feeling after moving from the boot to the orthopedic sandal. It is a pain that initially had me panicked, thinking that my stress fracture was not healing.) When I told the doctor about this tenderness, he looked at the shoes I was wearing—black, open-toe flats—and had me step barefooted on a piece of paper so he could trace my foot. Then he picked up my shoe and compared it to his outline. My bare foot was significantly wider than my shoe and thus began the proper footwear diatribe.

He may as well been lecturing a giraffe about the importance of bicycle helmets. His speech was totally irrelevant to my situation and there was only so much I could take. Finally, I interrupted him with my confession: I don’t wear shoes. I only put these ones on so you wouldn’t reprimand me. Apparently my plan backfired.

What do you mean you don’t wear shoes?

I mean just that. I don’t wear them.

Then, after a long pause and with an absolutely bewildered look on his face, he told me that I had a bit of inflammation in that joint, likely caused by my gait change while wearing that stiff-soled sandal.

While the pain is still present, it has steadily decreased since I ditched the sandal and returned to barefoot life. He said as soon as the tenderness is completely gone I can ease back into running. And with that, I dropped my no-good flats into my purse and walked out of his office in my bare feet, hoping never to have a reason to return.

Kids of Walmart

If your kid comes to my house and takes off his shoes, don’t expect Barefoot Lady to bother putting them back on before she takes said kid with her on an errand. I’ve always wanted to get on the People of Walmart blog, but this picture is probably not going to make the cut. They have high standards over there. At the very least you need a totally awesome mullet and/or rippling cellulite spilling out of a mini-skirt. I’ll be working on the mullet.

Barefoot friends

I’ve had some friends text me pictures of their barefoot experiences. I love seeing others buck social norms by going barefoot in public, too.

The feet belong to my teenage niece. The floor tiles belong to 7-11.

This cute guy belongs to a friend of mine who has gone out to lunch with me and my bare feet so many times that when her son decided to go barefoot to a restaurant, it was no big deal.

 

Good news from the doc

If you followed the comments in my last post, you met my dad. Here he is with me and my oldest son at Pearl Harbor. He is a great dad, Asics Gels, notwithstanding. 😉 Here’s a glimpse of my footwear for the next four weeks. Also, FYI, shoes are required at Pearl Harbor.

So, I am a hypochondriac. After feeling pretty good for most of my Hawaii trip, I freaked out when I started feeling pain again. Then I went into panic mode after researching my symptoms online, believing  I would be crippled forever, or at least immobile for a very long time.

Yesterday, I went to the doctor who brought me to my senses. First, I was wrong. I did not have a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal. It was at the base of my fourth. This was confusing information for me because the pain that began after doing all that walking in Hawaii starts at the base of my pinky toe and shoots down the lateral side of my foot—the area of the fifth metatarsal.

“Are you sure it’s the fourth and not my fifth?” I asked him. He got out my MRI results and showed me. Yep, there it was at my fourth metatarsal, an area where I no longer feel any pain. I explained to him my symptoms on the lateral edge of my foot and asked him what was going on there. He wasn’t sure, but suspected it had something to do with how I had been compensating for the initial injury.

In any case, he told me to get out of the boot and off the crutches. He put me back into the orthopedic sandal, encouraged me to swim and bike, and gave me some strengthening exercises to do each day. I see him again in four weeks. If I still have that pain on the outside of my foot, he said he’ll run more tests, but he suspects I should be feeling back to normal by then. Hooray!

Of course, he also told me not to even think about running until I can walk three miles without any pain. I’m OK with that. Right now, I am just grateful for a positive prognosis and the clearance to be walking at all.

And the take home message for you folks: No good comes from Googling your symptoms online.

 

Aside

Still booting it…

Six weeks ago today I was sitting in an MEA Clinic getting fitted for a boot. A week later, I visited the orthopedist who told me my recovery would be about four to six weeks. Tomorrow, I see him again and I am certain it will only be bad news.

Aloha Mr. Pain!

I’m with my brother at the top of Diamond Head. I usually wore a flip flop with my orthopedic sandal but as I was leaving, I grabbed the left flip flop instead of the right so hiked with one bare foot.

I was so good staying off my foot for the first four weeks, but around four weeks I headed off to Honolulu for a vacation with my family, parents, siblings and their families. We were celebrating my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. My doctor had given me an orthopedic sandal to wear to the beach as an alternative to the boot. After a day or so in Honolulu, I switched to the sandal and after about three days I ditched the crutches. I felt pretty good and managed to walk around and keep up with my family. I hiked up Diamond Head with that sandal and even took surfing lessons with my oldest son, but at the end of the 10 days, I was hurting again. By the time I was home, I realized that I had undone any healing I had accomplished during those first four weeks. I put the boot back on and returned to the crutches.

I am depressed. When you have an injury and you are depressed, no good comes from reading WebMD and related sites. I read about folks with similar injuries who required surgery, spent 20 weeks or more in a boot, and ended up with bones that deadened and caused a them a lifetime of problems. To top it off, I have begun to notice a similar pain in my right foot. Probably from all the compensating I have been doing to stay off the other one.

Pregnant with grief
I feel hopeless and I hardly leave the house. It’s not just that it takes great effort to go anywhere with this boot, it’s also that I hate the attention that I get clunking around on crutches. It’s like when I was pregnant and strangers asked me when I was due and what I was having. They meant well, but questions grew tiresome. Now I get, “what happened to you,” “how’d you hurt your foot,” and “how much longer do you have in the boot.”

Actually, being pregnant is worse. No one has yet to come up to me and pat my boot. And nothing felt worse than a stranger telling you that you like you’re about to pop when you still have another three months to go. Grrr! I did have one guy at Kroger stop me and tell me about his brother who was 40, broke his foot, got a blood clot and died. Seriously? That’s like telling a pregnant woman a horror story about your cousin’s stillbirth.

Living through my kids

Enjoying some shaved ice on the North Shore in their bare feet.

Since I can’t be barefoot, I have been barefooting vicariously through my kids. They’ve hardly worn shoes at all this summer—something I was never allowed to do when I was their age. Even some of their friends have gotten into the act. Being barefoot is what summer is about. And their little muscles, bones and ligaments are reaping the benefits. I hope the strength, flexibility and balance they are gaining by being barefoot now will help keep them from having foot problems as adults. I know that if I had spent more time out of my shoes when I was younger, I wouldn’t be dealing with these stress fractures now.

 

Actually, this boot was not made for walking

Confirmed by an MRI: I have a stress fracture. I am one week into my four to six week sentence in this blasted boot. The doc also wants me to walk with a crutch or a cane on my right arm and to basically stay off my foot as much as possible to let it heal. It’s summer. I have three kids. I miss running and moving and teaching fitness classes. I feel “flabby, fat and lazy*.” And I am going nuts!

This boot, of course, means I have to wear shoes, or more appropriately, a shoe. Will my soles go soft in the next six weeks? Will I be back to square one when it comes to barefooting? I will most definitely be back to square one when it comes to barefoot running. I’ll have to start out slowly and build up my mileage again, with 10 percent increases a week at a time.

So, is my barefootedness the cause of my injury? Well, lots of shoddies get stress fractures, too. Particularly women. I believe I fell victim to what is known in the barefoot running world as: too much, too soon. I was just doing too much, too fast and not giving my body adequate rest in between. So my friends, five weeks from now when I am back to barefooting, please help me remember my limits. Because I don’t want to be back in this boot ever again.

*Can you name the Disney song that contains that line?

 

Swim. Bike. Hobble.

 photo 009_zps9b8e9bd1.jpg
I am a triathlete… Barely. I finished the 2012 Heatwave Classic, competing in two of the three events in my bare feet.

Swim
I am also directionally-challenged. I walk into a store at the mall, walk out, and can’t remember which way I was originally headed. So you can imagine how difficult it was for me to stay on course in this open-water swim. I never realized how much I depended on that black line at the bottom of the swimming pool until it was gone. To keep from getting totally off-course, I swam a few strokes and then came up to make sure I was still headed in the right direction. Yet, somehow I still managed to swim past the buoy. And if the gators were swimming with me, I wouldn’t have even known. The water was so murky I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.

Bike
Really, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect for a bike ride on the Natchez Trace. I don’t know how we lucked out this year. The Heatwave Classic is named such for a reason. Last year they were riding in triple-digit temperatures.

Hobble.
If I didn’t have a stress fracture before I started the race, I am pretty sure I have one now. My foot has been bothering me for the past two months. I noticed it a little right before the Warrior Dash, but it didn’t really slow me down during that race. I had been trying to rest my foot as much as possible since then, while still teaching boot camp and spin classes, but I just knew it was going to cause me trouble during this race.

I packed my Nike Frees and planned to wear them, but when I transitioned off the bike, I got so excited to start my run that I didn’t want to stop. I hopped off my bike, threw off my helmet and cycling shoes and started running. I felt fine the first mile. I started hurting a little at the second mile. I was still able to fake it at mile three, but by mile four, I had to walk. I was limping by mile five and did my best Quasimodo impression from there all the way across the finish line. Monday morning I’ll be calling the orthopedist.

Was it worth the finish? Probably not. But will I do another triathlon and will I continue to run barefoot? Yes. And hell yes… After I heal, though, of course.

Pre-triathlon jitters

We spotted this gator off the Natchez Trace where I will be riding tomorrow

I keep having these dreams. I show up to my first triathlon just minutes before it is supposed to start and realize I had forgotten to bring something pretty important—like my bike. At that point I notice that my 3-year-old son is with me and there is no one to watch him while I race. I put my son in the car and hurry back home to get my bike. When I get home (which, of course, is not my current home, but my childhood home) there are all these people around asking me questions and otherwise preventing me from loading up my bike and returning to the race. When I finally get back to the race, I realize that I left my swim goggles on the kitchen counter. And then I wake up.

I don’t need my psychologist husband to analyze this dream. It’s all about my anxiety for tomorrow’s race, the Heatwave Classic. It’s a half-mile swim in a gator-infested reservoir, a 24.5-mile bike ride on the scenic Natchez Trace and then a 10K run on a multi-use trail. As if a nagging injury that has kept me from running the last six weeks wasn’t enough on my pre-race nerves, I am now dealing with a cough, sore throat and achy head.

My goal: cross the finish line before it gets taken down. I’ll bike in my cycling shoes, but the swim and run I plan to do barefoot. Although, I am contemplating bringing a pair of Vibram FiveFingers just in case. I haven’t been running since the weather heated up, and  I don’t know how I will handle the hot pavement.

The race starts in less than 22 hours. Until then I will be pumping fluids, icing my foot and hopefully getting a nice dreamless sleep tonight so I wake up feeling a lot better tomorrow than I did today.

A fuss over my feet

After five months of living almost exclusively barefoot, I had my first real run in. On Memorial Day we drove an hour and a half to the Mississippi Choctaw Indian Reservation. Our minivan was packed with our family of five plus two friends of the kids. Five out of the seven of us were barefoot.

Barefoot friends on crazy casino carpet.

Of course, there’s not much to do in Choctaw but gamble. If you know me, I’m not much for cards, but I’m all about food. With five kids in tow, we hit the buffet at the Pearl River Resort which claims to be “Vegas with sweet tea.”

We happily dropped a wad of cash so that all seven of us could get our fill on food that had been sitting out all day under heat lamps being handled by countless strangers. Pizza, corn dogs, French fries, onion rings, soft serve ice cream with Oreo cookies to spoon on top… The kids were in heaven. But we were stopped before we could even pick up a tray. You can’t go up to the buffet without shoes, we were told.

Now for you shoddies reading this, I want you to really stop and think about how our feet could have potentially been a health hazard to that food sitting under those lamps. Please note, we were not serving ourselves with our feet. Our feet stayed on the floor just like all the shoed feet in the restaurant. Our feet had no more germs on their bottoms than the soles of the shoes worn by the other patrons. If anything, our feet were cleaner. So, could you think of any reason why we shouldn’t have had the right to choose our own foot attire, even if our choice was no attire at all?

How could anyone turn away these sweet feet?

Undetered and with two pairs of flip flops among us, we took turns at the buffet line. Then we were approached by a manager who told us they’ve never had anyone come in barefoot before, but she didn’t think it was allowed. She said she was going to double check with security to see if we could even finish our meal. A few minutes later, a security guard came up to our table, told us that we could stay but that they’d be watching us on their cameras to make sure we left immediately after our meal and that we didn’t return until we had on shoes. His reasoning? There could be broken glass on the floor and it was a liability issue for the casino.

Broken glass? Did this security guard just admit to working for some ghetto restaurant that doesn’t bother to sweep their floors? In any case, I’m not afraid of broken glass. I step on it at least once a week in my own kitchen. This klutz has a knack for knocking drinking glasses off the counter.

While finishing our meal, two people came up to our table and said that they thought all the fuss over our feet was silly. My husband, on the other hand, was thoroughly embarrassed by the affair. But I don’t embarrass so easily. I guess it’s not just the skin on my soles that’s thick.

Incidentally, as we were walking back to our car, I did notice a broken glass bottle on the sidewalk. I decided to step right on it. My feet are fine. And I’m not going to sue.

 

 

Stinky feet? Not mine.

A rock concert is quite a sensory experience. Of course, there is the music that is always much louder than is safe, the lights and visual effects on the stage, and all the smells. Cigarettes. Marijuana. Alcohol. Occasionally vomit. Sweat from all the hot bodies crammed close together… It’s makes one heckuva an olfactory cocktail.

Last weekend my husband and I saw Wilco in concert. They played in a theater that seemed to do a pretty good job at keeping out most of the usual concert smells. But there was one smell that they had no control over: stinky feet. It was coming from the seat behind me where a teenager sat wearing a pair of old Tevas. Then to make it worse, he rested his ankle on his knee putting his smelly foot at my shoulder level, which was much too close to my nose. I generally hate the smell of cigarettes, but I was relieved when someone lit up around me, giving my nose a break from the feet.

Interestingly, I also caught up with an old friend this past week via e-mail. He was asking me about my barefooting and his first question was how do you deal with the stink?

“Well, do your hands smell?” I asked in response.

Feet smell because bacteria feast on our sweat and then excrete waste with a strong odor. Bacteria also love the dark, moist environment that shoes provide. Bare feet typically are not smelly because they sweat less, and when they do sweat, it’s released into the air, keeping the bacteria from enjoying the feeding frenzy they get with shoes.

Fortunately, not even the stinky feet could ruin the Wilco show. If they’re headed your way, definitely check them out. Jeff Tweedy and his crew are fabulous live. Here’s a favorite from their most recent album, The Whole Love. Enjoy!