Vibram’s FiveFingers For My Aging Ten Toes

Vibram's FiveFingers For My Ten Toes

I always come back from my visits to the US with things I think I cannot live without such as my favorite peanut butter, hair gel, and protein bars, but this time I added a new pair of shoes that my friend Jules told me about recently. You may remember that I have been experiencing some fairly major aches and pains that I had  been attributing to my aging baby boomer body and years of long distance running.

As much as I haven’t want to admit it, my low back and knees hurt most days and even more when I run a lot or do the five or six-hour coast path walks that John and I love so much. Usually, I just suck it up and drive on as we used to say when I was in the army and eat a couple more Tylenol than I would regularly, but after hearing about these shoes and how they might make a difference, I thought I would give Vibram’s FiveFingers a try.

Yesterday, I slept more in one day than I normally do over a three-day period as I had a wicked and unusual case of jet lag but I did manage to make it to the supermarket with John and wore my new shoes out for the first time. While you can buy these in the UK, I have not seen any on feet around here and from some of the looks I received I don’t think they’ve made the Cornwall scene in any great numbers yet.

I am giving myself one more day to settle in before I hit the ground running (literally) with my running buddy Tina on Saturday. If these new shoes can help slow down my aches and pains while speeding up my feet, I’m sure Tina will appreciate my increased mobility.

I’ll get back you on my transition from Nike’s to FiveFingers in a few weeks along with any comments worth repeating. So far the prevailing one from several people who know me has been, ” So you got those in America, did you? ” John however, has been quite supportive of my new footwear finding the different looking shoes an interesting idea for improving my mood and mobility, but remains slightly amused at being seen with a woman wearing as he puts it, “Shoes that look like black monkey feet.”

What Remains The Same

Elizabeth Harper – Athens, Greece – Summer 1981

Yes … that’s me. This image came from an old slide from my army days, one of many that I’ve been moving from place to place for years. With twenty-one just around the corner, this younger, thinner version of me thought she knew a few things about life and while I’d had some experiences by then that most of my friends from high school had not, like breaking down an M-16 rifle in the dark, or leaving home at eighteen for my first military assignment in Germany, I was clearly not rocking the world with my fashion sense.

I mean, really …what was I thinking with that tight curly perm and if that wasn’t bad enough, how in the world did I think it was okay to go out in public wearing those cutoff short shorts! That sock-less running shoe look while not pretty kept me from getting blisters when I ran my first marathon in those bright yellow Nikes and I was still wearing Nikes twenty-six years later when I ran my second one.

These days, I wear my shorts a good bit longer and I ditched the perms twenty years ago, but check out that camera I have hanging around my neck … most of us change a great many things through the years such as behaviors that are no longer useful, bad hair styles, career choices, and sometimes husbands and partners, but there are some parts of us that are with us for the duration and central to the core of who we are no matter where we’re standing or what direction we may be looking.

I bet you don’t need three guesses to know what remains constant for me. It’s there in almost every photograph whether it’s around my neck, hanging off my shoulder, or in my hand, a camera of some kind is always with me and while not exactly a fashion accessory, it appears now it is has become a necessory item for completing my look. How about you, is there something about you that people have come to expect will be there, always the same whenever they see you?

Elizabeth Harper – Cornwall, England – Summer 2008

You’ll Call It A Procedure, But…Questions About FAI Treatment

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Elizabeth-No Restrictions

I don’t know how many of you saw Billy Crystal’s talk to his son’s classroom in the movie, City Slickers, it’s the one where he tells them what they can expect from life, decade by miserable decade…

Stop a minute and go here to see it …I’ll be here waiting when you get back.

Okay…I think now you can see where this post is heading. That’s right, straight to the OR (operating room) do not pass go or try convince yourself you don’t need it. Pain is real and when it’s constant, it is a pretty clear sign. I tend just to take some over the counter pain meds and drive on. Call it stubbornness or a left over ” Can do” attitude from my army days, but I like to act as if I just put my head down and stay focused, I ‘ll be able to out run whatever twinge, or in this case, stabbing leg and butt pain that won’t go away.

As an example of my former crazy-super-woman belief in mind-over-body madness, I once ran miles and miles every day for three months with a really bad break in my foot. I didn’t know it was broken, I thought I had bruised it wearing high heels at a business conference. So for three months, I got up early every morning, swallowed 800 mg of Motrin, laced up my Nikes, and went out the door.

By the time I saw a Podiatrist, he  took one look at my x-rays, laughingly said it was a really bad break and asked if I minded if he used my films ( x-rays ) in his next talk. I thought great …this guy is going to share my stupidity with a roomful of people at his next presentation.  After I said okay to being someone else’s life lesson for the day, I asked him what were we going to do about my foot, to which he responded, ” Nothing, it’s already healed. ” Let me say now…my left foot has never been right since. I should have listened to my body when it was sending me such loud messages back then. Maybe that foot would always have been a bit more prone to pain after the break, but maybe not if I hadn’t ignored the pain.

As it turns out, I’m getting another chance to decide what to do now about a pain I’ve had for years, but has become increasing worse over the last few months. I’ve lived with it for such a long time and gone through a fair amount of physical therapy and other non invasive treatments (a little chiropractic), that I just assumed I had a hinky hip and there was nothing to be done about it. I went to a doctor here recently for the first time since moving to England ( my first NHS experience ) to chat about HRT and aging (hey I’m 49…it’s time for those talks) and my hip pain came up in conversation, before you could say boo, my new GP had me scheduled with a surgeon for an evaluation.

After a meeting with the surgeon, I had x-rays followed by an MRA (MRI with contrast) and yesterday I received a letter from the from the bone cutter confirming my GP’s initial suggested diagnosis of FAI along with his recommendation of open hip debridement surgery.

It’s nice to know there’s a reason for all that pain, but I really wish there were more options than the suggested surgery. I’m actually kind of old I think for this solution based on things I’ve read and other sources. I think most of the time you are told to adjust your lifestyle as in swim, don’t run and just wait until you’re old enough for a hip replacement. Given that I’ve lead such an active physical life, this would be a real hardship for me. I’d be looking at no yoga, no running, no rock climbing, no skiing, … would no coast path walking be next ….. the English may call it walking, but sometimes the hills are so steep, you almost feel as if you need a harness and someone on belay so it’s not always pain free either.

I DO NOT want to give up all my fun physical activity at 49!

I’ve had a wonderful response from a dear friend who happens to be a very knowledgeable medical professional with years of experience in oncology and other areas along with some more recent skills in the area of chiropractic medicine. Steven works out of Atlanta most of the time, but his gentle and supportive email to me today made me feel as if he was sitting in the same room discussing the possible options for my treatment and recovery. I really appreciated his thoughts and suggestions and this takes me to the reason for exposing my weak side ( hip) to the world.

If you’re still reading this lengthy medical drama, I’d like to impose upon you to please send this out to anyone you know who has gone though the surgery for a hip impingement…mine would be open as opposed to arthroscopic so that is what I would be most interested in hearing more about, their surgical experience along with their recovery, follow up…and hopefully, their successful outcome.

My actual diagnosis is an ovoid/cam femoral head shape with an associated tear of the labrum.