News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 3, 2012

MIKE LUNSFORD: The agony of de‘feet’ has this writer on his heels

Mike Lunsford
Special to the Tribune-Star

---- — I don’t know if I can electrocute myself by using a computer and soaking my feet in a pan of warm water at the same time, but I am contemplating taking the risk. My feet, particularly the right foot, have staged a 10-digit rebellion over the past few months. After a half-century of commendable service, my pods are screaming to be taken in for repairs, a big inconvenience for a guy who works on his feet all day and whose “sole” form of serious exercise is putting one foot in front of another walking the local roadways.

It may have been sympathy pains that got all of this started. My wife, too, has waged battles with her feet for the past few years. Surgery, orthotic inserts, new shoes, medication, she’s tried them all just to keep an uneasy peace with her feet that leaves a spring in her step one day and on a crutch hunt the next. While she rode her bike or hobbled along at my side on our evening walks last summer, I cringed and watched her performance with both pride for her grit and thankfulness for my then-happy toes. Now, apparently, my turn has come…

About six months ago, I headed to a foot doctor after having some numbness in my foot. Assured that my old inserts were worn out, I agreed to be fitted for new ones. The problem promptly got worse. I visited my family doctor, and he suggested I get a neurological work-up just to be sure it wasn’t anything serious. A few straight lines walked, a few pin pricks, and a lot of blood tests later, I was given the green light: My nerves were firing on all cylinders. I could still take ballet lessons if I wanted to, but the doctor who conducted those evaluations recommended yet another doctor to me, so off I went again to the land of co-pays and support hose.

Although progress has been made — my original inserts were given a remodeling; I took a weeklong dose of medication; and I bought a pair of shoes that cost more than my first car — I am still trying to stuff my feet, which have apparently grown about a size-and-a-half since I first qualified for AARP membership, into shoes that at one time were both comfortable and roomy. Now, they’re yard sale merchandise.

Honestly, I’m tired of telling doctors about my feet. This whole sad tale reminds me of an episode of the “The Andy Griffith Show” in which the Mendlebright Sisters (Maude and Cora) wile away the Sunday afternoon hours talking about why their feet fall asleep. “I wonder what causes that,” Barney asks Andy several times.

Over the course of the summer, I went on a shoe-buying frenzy. Surely, I thought, if I bought just the right pair of clodhoppers, I’d be set. I now have more shoes than Imelda Marcos had, most with very low mileage on them. Don’t even suggest that I hand my demos off to my son; I have a lot of very nice sized-12 shoes, but my boy wears a 15 or so and has absolutely no use for my hand-me-downs, not unless they make attractive planters.

I have also just about thrown shoe fashion out the window. I think I’d wear cowboy boots with my dress slacks if they gave me relief. I had one friend tell me, “Your feet are just spreading out. It happens all the time. I wear shoes that are two sizes bigger than when I was in college. It’s natural; bound to happen.”

I told him that if my feet kept doing what was “natural,” I’d look like Fred Flintstone fresh off a hard day of stop-and-go traffic. I went so far as to try on a pair of sneakers — I know, they’re called athletic shoes now — last week that resembled human feet. But, since they came in only purple and red, I decided I’d hold off on those for a while. It’s hard to find a tie that matches a pair of purple feet.      

According to the Illinois Podiatric Medical Association website that I visited, 75 percent of all Americans will experience foot problems in their lifetimes. About a quarter of all the bones we have in our bodies are in our feet, and, if we live to age 70 or so, it is estimated that we have walked the equivalent of four trips around the world. The site also said that more “older” Americans experience foot pain after a “lifetime of wear and tear.”  

Ironically, my boss has had sore feet this summer, too. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that age-wise we’re within about two weeks of one another (he enjoys reminding me that I am actually “older” than he is), so, like me, he has spent his working life walking concrete hallways and standing on concrete classroom floors. “I don’t know what’s going on,” he told me the other day as he self-consciously wore a pair of running shoes with his dress slacks. “I guess I’m falling apart.”

Well, two pair of fairly expensive dress shoes, and yet another pair of walking/running shoes later — the latter coming from what could be called The Herman Munster Collection — I have to admit I had a pretty decent week with my feet. But, as you would know it, I woke up last Saturday with a creaky right shoulder, so sore you’d have thought I had pitched nine innings.

I wonder what causes that?

Mike Lunsford can be reached by email at hickory913@aol.com, or c/o the Tribune-Star at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN 47808. Visit his website at www.mikelunsford.com. He’ll be speaking at the Canon Inn in Terre Haute at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 11.