[I’ve never put a postscript before something – but I guess there is a first time for everything. I’m adding this preamble a few days after the article publication date. The photos in the posting below have generated a discussion in the Runner’s World Shoes forum I’ve done some experimenting and determined that two variables contribute to how the footprints look. First, the amount of water on my feet. Second, how deliberately I relax my feet. While I’m highly confident my feet are stronger and the arches have changed, who knows if it’s as dramatic as the photos. Most importantly: I know I can now run more than I have been able to in the last 2-3 years, but with no orthotics and no big clunky shoes. I’ll keep documenting the progress – even if the method of documentation may not be totally repeatable. -- Haselsmasher]
When I was growing up the flat feet in my family were kind of legendary. At least we made them legendary in our minds; and if they weren’t legendary enough – we made them more so. Over-the-top legendary and extreme. I’d hear things like “You think you have flat feet? Well you should see Jim’s! He’s practically walking on his knees his feet are so flat. Imagine the most flat feet possible. Now double that. That’s how flat Jim’s feet are. Doctors have said they’ve never seen such flat feet.” OK. OK. I get it. I have flat feet.
Roughly 15 years ago I started running and, of course, I acquired some of the normal aches and pains that runners experience. Since my feet were so flat I had to deal with this deformity somehow. Certainly someone in my condition couldn’t go out and be a runner without some assistance. Good God! I’ve got flat feet you know! A Podiatrist confirmed the diagnosis which, of course, had already been drilled into my head. A couple of castings, weeks and hundreds of dollars later I had my custom made rigid orthotics and I was off and running – literally and figuratively. I successfully wore those orthotics for many years. Then I acquired the problems I’ve been writing about here.
So I’ve drunk the minimalist shoe / “the feet were meant to move” Kool-Aid and seven months ago I weaned myself off of my orthotics. I wear minimalist shoes every day. I do my hip flexibility and strengthening exercises barefoot. I go barefoot whenever I can, although I don’t venture out in public barefoot (into stores, etc.). I will occasionally go for walks barefoot on the chip-sealed road by our house to stimulate the nerves and muscles. I’ve been asking my feet to do more and overall I can tell they’re much stronger.
I’d heard some reports of people getting arches and, lo and behold, it’s happening to my legendary, horribly flat feet. The first photo was taken June 16, 2010. The second photo was taken July 26, 2010.
I wish I would have photographed my wet-foot profile the day I got out of the orthotics but, unfortunately, I didn’t. I’ve spent enough time around swimming pools to tell you truthfully – no arches whatsoever. Now when I walk on hard surfaces I can feel my foot not contacting the ground.
From what I’ve read creating arches isn’t a requirement for successful barefoot/minimalist running. Some people have this happen and others don’t. I’m finding it fascinating, however, to see that “conditions” such as flat feet that were once thought to be inherently bad and need some form of external assistance may not be permanent and non-changeable. It’s a great example of yet another scenario where the body can and often will adapt to accommodate and do what we ask it to do.