08 September 2009

Marky needs a new pair of shoes

Fair warning: this post is about my feet.

For those of you still with me, this is a story about changes both physical and metaphysical. Once upon a time my feet walked a lot and liked it. These feet were in 4 years of soccer, 6 years of marching band, and 4 years of the Army. All those years they were size 8 1/2 "wide" (EE or EEE) and pain-free.

Kidney failure can often lead to gout, a particularly unpleasant type of arthritis. It can lead to severe joint damage if untreated. About 10 years ago, or about 7 years after my first kidney transplant, I came down with it. It started to attack my joints, starting with my ankles and feet and eventually spreading to most of the joints in my extremities. The treatments were difficult -- one treatment even landed me in the hospital because it completely stopped my bone marrow from working. The bone marrow makes blood, ya know?

(At this point I need to pause to deeply and sincerely thank all of you who have ever donated blood. Over the years I've needed a lot of blood from other people. I appreciate it.)

I had even started to walk with a cane a few years ago. Then I discovered that a very specific restricted diet can control gout. My condition started to improve, lost the cane, and took up hiking as a hobby. Hiking is wonderful exercise, but my feet were no longer happy. Enough long-term damage had been done: the bones in my arches were fused, compressed, and inflexible (a condition called pes cavus); and my toes were swollen to the point that my wide shoes were now ultra-wides: 9 EEEEEE. Count 'em!

The only non-custom shoemaker that sells 6E shoes is New Balance. I am a very happily devoted New Balance consumer. They carry a couple particular models designed for people with problem feet like mine. So I wore my special shoes and hobbled along.

Then, as you probably know, about 9 months ago I had another kidney transplant. The rest of this blog details my remarkable recovery and return to health, but something was bugging me. My feet and legs were starting to hurt often. It didn't make sense! Everything else was strengthening and feeling better. Muscles were returning; the hair on my head even grew back. I can swim laps and lift weights again. But my feet and knees: oy!

Last weekend I realized what was going on. My shoes no longer fit at all. I had to lace them too tight; they had no support; after exercise or walking I'd have heel and knee pain.  I realized that my shoes were hanging off my feet. Wayyyyy too big. Not quite what I expected; I haven't lost a significant amount of weight. So today I went back to the New Balance store. I told them that I needed new shoes, and that they'd have to size me again.

They sized me with a Brannock Device (yup, that's what they're called!) and then checked my gait using a FootDoc dynamic foot impression pad.  It shows your arch, pressure points, whether you pronate or supinate, etc. The picture here is a scan of my very two feet!

The results were surprising: My shoe size has changed from 9 EEEEEE to 10 D within 9 months. (I know, I know, I am getting no sympathy from any women in my audience who may have at one time been pregnant. But still. :) My formerly very high arches are now normal, my toe joints are no longer chronically swollen, and my feet have stretched out, lengthened. No wonder my legs were killing me! I was walking around in entirely the wrong sized shoes.

I bought a pair of walkers and a pair of cross-trainers today to start with. I need to replace all of my shoes now. They are like new feet, frankly. When I look down at my new shoes, I no longer see stubby, boxy, shoes that are laced too tight. What I see looks like a pair of someone else's shoes. 

But hey, I'll get used to it.   They replaced one organ inside, and the rest of me seems to be changing so much more. Inside and out.