For years I had been telling my patients to treat their foot pain the way I learned in podiatry school and read on Google: 1) Wear comfortable shoes and avoid high heels or tight shoes. 2) Take anti-inflammatory medication. 3) Take a break.
Sounds easy, right?! Throw on some sneakers, pop a pill, and sit on the couch. Perfect for us working moms!!
A few months ago, I woke up with a stabbing pain in my right foot caused by a neuroma. For those of you lucky enough to have no idea what one of those is, a neuroma is a growth that forms on a nerve in your foot. This lovely thing can get irritated and inflamed, causing severe, shooting pain. Ugly crying pain. So fun.
Heeding my own advice, I walked barefoot to my closet to grab my sneakers. Each step was more painful than the one before. I just couldn’t wait to put on my Asics and get some relief.
No luck. Every step in my sneakers caused a sharp, shooting pain to my 4th toe on my right foot. But wait, I forgot the Motrin! I limped to the medicine cabinet and popped one in my mouth, excited for 30 minutes to pass and enter a comfortable, pain free paradise!
I was on my way to step 3 as my five year old screamed at me from upstairs. I started to walk up to her and was quickly reminded, step by step, of my foot. Get to the couch! But first, my daughter needed some water.
Eventually, she had stopped screaming but my foot didn’t. I finally made it to the couch to lay down and quickly realized, I don’t have time for this! I have to move clothes from the washer to the dryer, take a conference call at 1:30, run to Target to get snacks for soccer tonight, and be home by 3 to get my son off of the bus. Oh, and make dinner. Taking a break wasn’t going to happen.
By 2:00, my phone call was done and I think the motrin had kicked in because I started feeling some relief. Driving to soccer though later that evening was a different story. Immediately upon sitting down in my lawn chair on the side of the field I took another Motrin. This “rest”/ sneaker/ Motrin cycle went on for a full week.
By Friday afternoon, I was ready to surrender and give myself a steroid injection. I decided to wait though until Saturday morning because I was receiving an award at an event that evening and didn’t want to have a bad reaction to the shot. And fatefully, that is when it all went…..right.
I decided if I was already in pain, I may as well try to be as cute as possible while grimacing! Getting ready for the evening, I put on my yellow cocktail dress and my go-to favorite shoes, my Guess five-inch platform high heels. I grabbed onto the wall for support, preparing to take my first incredibly painful step in them but when my foot hit the ground, I felt nothing. Not one ounce of pain. No-one was stabbing me, it didn’t feel like there was a lighting bolt shooting to my toes, nothing. I was as comfortable as one can be in five-inch heels, and in complete shock!
Everything about this entire scenario felt wrong. For years I had told my patients to avoid high heels like the plague! I was not resting, hadn’t taken a Motrin in a few hours, and my sneakers were on the floor in the closet where my Guess heels used to be. I felt and looked great!
That night at the ceremony I treaded lightly, expecting the pain to surface the second I walked up to receive the award. But it didn’t. I had no pain all night long until I got home and took the heels off. Then almost immediately, the stabbing pain returned.
So I did what any doctor would do. I put on my pajamas and wore the heels to bed. I woke up the next day and quickly put them on before my feet hit the floor. I walked downstairs at six in the morning to make my kids breakfast, standing in front of the oven in platform high heels. My kids gave me some funny looks and I enjoyed a different kind of stare from my husband, but I had no toe pain.
Later that afternoon, I decided to try out the other heels in my closet. Shoe by shoe, I was able to prove my hypothesis. I had a few pairs that caused pain immediately, and a few that allowed me to walk fine. I had discovered the secret!
I realized that relief was found not in the height of the heel but in the how the sole of the shoe bent. Any shoe I wore that had a “bendable” sole allowed my toes to bend which irritated my neuroma. Any shoes that had a rigid heel however, like platforms or wedges, didn’t allow the sole of the shoe to bend, forcing my toes to remain immobile allowing the nerve to rest.
For three days, I wore heels with a sole that didn’t bend from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. I did the dishes in heels, walked to get the mail in heels, returned books to the library in heels, and traversed the soccer field in heels, all the while getting disdainful looks from the other moms. But I had no pain.
The next day, I woke up and forgot to put on my high heels before standing up. I didn’t even realize that I was barefoot until I got to the closet to put on my sneakers. My pain was completely gone, and I had none other than platform high heels to thank.
Looking back, I can only assume that wearing the platform heels completely rested my toes for three full days, giving the neuroma and the inflammation surrounding it the chance to calm down. No Motrin, no sneakers, no rest.
Ever since then, I have been preaching to my open minded patients to ignore Google and try all of the shoes in their closet to see if one pair with a rigid sole feels better than another one, even if it has a huge heel. I have even had some patients who suffered with plantar fasciitis feel better wearing high heels. I can only assume that the rigid sole may help rest the plantar fascia as well, giving it the time it needs to heal.
Unfortunately, my toe pain returned last week after yoga one morning. But this time, I knew just what to do! I rushed home, grabbed my heels, and went on with my day. And after just two days of wearing the heels 100% of the time, I had no more pain. And as an added benefit, I looked really cute while doing it.