Five weeks after returning from the West Highland Way my adventuring feet were still hurting. This struck me as excessive and unreasonable. What was particularly odd was that resting made the pain worse. First thing in the morning, or after I’d been sitting for a while in the evening, getting up would lead to me nearly falling down with the pain in the arches of my feet. I’d start out my gym sessions with a fair amount of pain, which would ease as I ran, and then come back to bite me later after a nice sit down.
I’m not keen on being prodded about in a medical fashion, and had rest improved matters then I would have just waited for things to sort themselves out. But a combination of not knowing whether it would be better to rest or exercise, and a fear of not having things functioning as well as possible for the hike in 2017, led me to contact a dear friend who works in sports massage therapy for advice. ‘Go to a private physio’ she said, sagely. So, having tried and failed to get a timely NHS doctor’s appointment, I duly made a physio appointment.
My lovely physiotherapist had a good prod of my, extremely ticklish, feet (aaargh) and pronounced that the issue was tibialis anterior tendonitis. Or in plain terms, inflammation of the tendons that lift the feet. She said this can be a result of excessive use (er, yes), especially on uneven ground (yep) and is made worse by over-tight calf muscles (are you kidding, I have the flexibility of an 80 year old) and by ‘excessive pronation’ when walking. Basically, apparently I don’t put my foot down flat when I walk, but land on the outer edge and then roll the foot sideways. This is not an issue when all one does is potter to work or to the shops and back, but start walking 100 miles a week and it all goes wrong.
Three weeks of ultrasound, massage and judicious taping has almost completely sorted out the pain, and I’m now frantically doing exercises to try to strengthen the tendons and stretch my calves pre-Appalachian trail. Importantly, I’m also off to see the podiatrist next week, having bagged an NHS referral, who I’m told will put inserts in my hiking boots to help stop this happening again.
So the point of all this? The point is, thank all the gods we went on a long practice hike before heading off on the AT. I thought it would give us a chance to test run our gear and figure out what worked well and what didn’t, and to make sure we really did enjoy it (though I knew we would), but I never even gave physical issues a second thought. My feet have never hurt before in my life. I’m just really grateful that this all happened now, and not halfway down Springer Mountain, when it would be too late to do anything about it…