Those first few steps in the morning are surprisingly painful. It feels as if someone has hammered a 10-pound nail into the middle of your heel. Usually, it goes away quickly, and as long as you keep moving, everything’s fine. If you sit down to watch a little TV and suddenly get up to answer the phone, you will fall flat on your face. Again, for about three steps your feet feel as if someone has beaten them with a club.
The diagnosis is usually plantar fasciitis, meaning the ligament along the bottom of the foot is no longer doing its job correctly. Treatment is all over the map. Surgery, rest, massage, orthotics, cortisone injections, stretching, arch supports, acupuncture, aspirin, ibuprofen, cold therapy, heat therapy, always go barefoot, never go barefoot, sleep with a splint, ad infinitum. Everyone I know seems to have had it or has it, and they all have different recommendations.
I decided to go with the simplest plan first: to buy some shoes with better arch support than the loafers I usually wear. Sue always told me they were bad for my feet but I always had the same answer: “If you play tennis, you wear tennis shoes. If you golf, you wear golf shoes. If you run, you wear running shoes. If you bowl, you wear bowling shoes. So you can see why I wear loafers.”
But it was time for a change. I hobbled down to the shoe store to invest in a pair of trainers that would offer my foot all the love and support it needed. From now on, my aching feet would be caressed all day long by the finest combination of science and the shoemaker’s art. Shoes that would magically make all my problems disappear and let me dance the fandango once again. OK, so I never danced the fandango. I don’t even know what a fandango is, but you get my drift.
But the shoe store didn’t. They seemed to think I was auditioning for a part in “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Each pair of sports shoes was more cartoonish than the last. It’s bad enough that the heel on one had visible springs, but it was also in lime Jell-O green with orange DayGlo stripes. I’m sure they will look swell on the villain in the next Superman movie, but I plan to wear them around the house, not with my matching superhero cape.
Here was a nice pair, for only $168, with good arch support, a soft heel and room for my toes. If only it came in black or white or brown and not in “safety orange” with fluorescent white stripes and a blinking light on the back. The soles were 3 inches thick in Hulk green. As I recall, the Hulk goes barefoot most of the time. It seems even he wouldn’t be caught dead in these things.
There was one pair of all-white trainers that caught my eye. Literally, it caught my eye because it was so big it hit me in the face. This thing was the size of a snow shoe. Instead of laces, it had Velcro straps, one of which was undone and flapping out of the eye-level display. Not only do my feet hurt, now I think I have a detached retina. I would normally like an all-white trainer, but the only thing you could wear with these that would make sense at all would be giant, white, four-fingered Mickey Mouse gloves.
Surgery is starting to look better and better. Is there some good reason that modern sports shoes look so silly? Is there no room for something that doesn’t make you look like you were the life model for Homer Simpson? I finally settled for some over-the-counter inserts in my loafers and they seem to help a bit, especially in the daytime. But if they made non-cartoon shoes, I’d have bought them.
Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life,” “Baby’s First Tattoo” and “Now in Paperback.” He can be reached at email@example.com.