My Left Foot

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I never liked shoes. Maybe because I feel my feet are bound in them. Maybe because their soles tend to wear out so fast and unevenly. Or maybe because I am unhappy with my feet.

When I was a kid my slippers would wear out in perfect circles below my heels. Growing up, I suffered through tough leather soles that restricted my natural foot motion. I have since ditched the leathers in favor of rubber, and my feet have never been happier.

I was clad in one such rubber-soled surf sandals when I had a moment of epiphany. For weeks I have been puzzling on why my left heel hurts after a fast run. I already use a wide running shoe designed for stabilizing overpronators like me. I have consciously changed my foot strike by landing on the balls (mid-to-forefoot) of my feet and giving my knees a slight bent for further dissipation of strike force. Why is there still a pressure-sensitive, coin-sized area of pain in my left heel? And why is my other heel not similarly bothered?

As I strolled on the grass and pondered on my heel problem, I spontaneously tried to walk with a forefoot strike using my surfer sandals. I was surprised by what I discovered. While my right foot did a strong, fluid, forefoot strike, my left foot had extreme difficulty. Nanoseconds after my left forefoot touched the ground, whatever little foot arch I have seemed to collapse. I found it hard to carry my entire weight on my left forefoot! While I can pose like a one-legged crane with my arched right midfoot, I would arch with difficulty on my left foot and my unbalanced self would land on my left heel. Half the time I am running, my left heel bears the brunt of my whole weight. I suppose by adaptation my left leg can manage the weight during steady runs, but at a faster tempo, the strike force multiplies my mass with acceleration.

So the root of my problem is my feet again. It explains a lot of things - why I hate running, why I never like shoes, why I could not be fast and why I doubt I will ever run fast. With a foot like that, how am I suppose to run a marathon?

By sheer will and God's grace I suppose. I looked at my two legs for affirmation. I remember them thin and bowed when I was a kid. By exercise I supposed they straightened, or at least appeared to be straight. The calves are bigger than average though. Maybe that was nature's way of compensating. Perhaps I can still teach my left foot to rise above its imperfection.

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