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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Frugal Foot Care- aka Avoiding Orthotics

For the past little while, randomly 3 year old Lee will start complaining that his feet hurt. Often, this occurred at the end of a day in which we'd done a lot of walking, so I assumed that that was the cause, but after this complaint became more frequent, we started taking it a bit more seriously and inspected our son's feet.
Your feet affect the rest of your body, from your knees to your posture to your teeth to your sleeping habits, so I took these feet complaints from Lee rather seriously. (In case you were wondering, no, Lee never wore second hand shoes.)
We noticed that Lee has a very small arch in his feet- most likely the cause of his foot pain. We resigned ourselves to the fact that Lee would likely need orthotics, just like his mom and dad.
Orthodics are expensive, especially since they're not covered by insurance and need periodic replacement, as well as limiting the types of shoes you can buy.
Before visiting an orthotist, I called my mom to ask for advice how to proceed. I'm so glad I did that, because she shared some relatively unknown but amazing information that I feel the pressing need to with you wonderful readers.

For those who didn't know, my mother is a superb physical therapist whose modus operandi is to avoid surgeries and other 'quick fixes' whenever possible in favor of getting to the root of a problem, strengthening muscles and learning to use correct muscles instead of compensating for weaker muscles.
According to my mom, in very many cases of "flat feet", the cause for the lack of the arch is because of a tight achilles tendon.
She said that in order to prevent the need for orthodics in these instances, you should do lunges with your back leg straight, front leg bent, both feet facing directly forward, and back foot flat against the floor. You should feel a stretch at the back of your calf if you're doing this correctly.
Similar to this, but with the back leg straight, and foot flat on the ground.
Mom advised making a trip to a physical therapist if necessary to ensure that you're actually stretching the right area and not compensating and using the wrong muscles. She said that a trip to a physical therapist usually ends up being much cheaper than buying orthotics.
Stretch your Achilles tendon frequently and you may notice that you start to develop a bigger arch and your foot pain will start going away.

Do you wear out one side of your heel much faster than the other? Mom said that this is almost always a sure sign that the reason for your foot problems is a tight Achilles tendon. Stretch that out and you can easily save yourself hundreds of dollars on orthotics.

Because it's a family "problem", Mike, Lee, and I will be stretching our Achilles tendons daily, together, so we can encourage each other to stretch. This way, I hope we'll have no need for orthotics, and all our feet issues will disappear. Thanks Mom!

(According to mom, many people buy orthotics but find them so painful because their Achilles tendon is still tight, so forcing an arch onto their foot just ends up being painful. In many cases, people just end up not wearing their hundred dollar orthotics- money down the drain. Even if you do buy orthotics, stretching your tendon will make you be able to wear these insoles, so at least the money spent will have been a good investment.)

Have you ever worn orthotics? Are you one of the many, like myself, and my husband, who just stopped wearing them because they hurt too much? Do you also wear through one side of the heel in your shoes faster than the other? Have you ever noticed your Achilles tendon being tight? Would you be willing to try something like this?

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