Marathon (Wo)Man: I’m Just Not That Into My Insoles

If Blisstree editors would allow it, every Marathon (Wo)Man column would probably have a picture of feet… or shoes… or both. My feet in their fancy running socks (see two weeks back). My feet next to a bottle of rosé (see alternative photo to last week’s post). A gruesome close-up of a blister and some calluses (you probably don’t really want to see it). They’d conjure a cliché girl-with-shoes-and-a-camera moment plucked from any number of rom—com movies together…except with more blood and fewer toenails.

There’s a cruel irony to the fact that racing season ramps up, just as it’s time to break out the sandals… or not. My feet are war-torn soldiers, toenails falling off, dried blood crusting beneath those that aren’t falling off, a wide array of calluses — a shiny one lending my burgeoning bunion an extra sparkle, hard little dull ones forming at the tips of my little toes. Sexy stuff.

My feet have been looking especially sexy of late, and it was time I faced the truth: Things weren’t working out. It was all taking too much effort. We were forcing things.

After many months, several rounds of adjustments, and one half marathon, I was finally ready to admit that my custom orthotics just weren’t working for me. We had had a good run, I told myself. But actually we hadn’t. We had had nine on-again off-again months, and a couple committed months near the end that left me with blisters and a strange swollen area on the bottom of one foot. On the plus side, I was no longer having hip problems thanks to them. Life is a series of tradeoffs… cruel, annoying, tedious tradeoffs.

Last week, I drug myself to yet another podiatrist’s office in New York. She would be the third podiatrist I have been involved with since I moved to the city four and a half years ago. That’s two more than the number of gynecologists I’ve run through. Evidently, it’s far easier to find a doctor who can tend to your genitals than it is to find a non-doctor who can tend to your feets.

She had a blowsy brassiness that I probably would have enjoyed in a drinking buddy. In a healthcare professional, I was less enamored by it. She examined my toenails and launched into a mini lecture about their being too long. At one point, I think she literally, earnestly made a “tsk, tsk” sound. It took all my years of yoga pseudo-philosophy not to snap at her and say “listen, lady, I had planned a pedicure for this weekend, and I don’t have the special motorized hacksaw thing you do to get things extra short.”

When I get a bikini wax, I sometimes pregame, to avoid any awkward moments. But going to the podiatrist? I hadn’t thought. Shaking her head, she buffed down my nails and the layer of imitation-Chanel vamp polish I’d swiped on them in an attempt to make my gnarly runners’ feet look vaguely sandal-friendly. I told her I was on medication for toenail fungus (yes internet, that’s me). “Have you run a culture?” she asked.

No, I replied. “Three doctors looked at it and said I surely had it.”

“Well, I wouldn’t want to be on that medication without a culture. Bad general practitioner,” she said.

Really? Did we have to make it like this, I wondered.

It got better. When I stood up to let her feel my hips, she mumbled “you don’t have to suck it in for me, honey.” That’s maybe something good to hear in the middle of drunken, let’s-put-it-all-out-there-and-just-bang sex. But again, not from a healthcare professional. I had to wonder if “bedside manner” was one of many classes offered at med school but not podiatry school.

When she wasn’t lecturing or insulting me, she did manage to confirm all of my fears about my current orthotics: They were too corrective, the front of my foot was barely bearing any weight in them, a softer pair would be better. “I can fit you for a new pair now, if you like,” she said.

Oh, I like. My esteem now filed down along with my baby toenails, my spirits sagging in the knowledge that I had indeed wasted hundreds of dollars, countless lunch hours, and tens of miles on my last pair of orthotics – there was no question. I didn’t even ask about the cost or the possibility of my insurance covering something.

She took impressions of my feet with foam in a box, while seeming to write dutiful notes. It seemed like we were on the right track until she took out a tube of lipstick – Estee Lauder, it appeared, and an unappealing coral color. She rubbed said coral on my non-existent arches and placed my feet in their foam impressions, clearly to mark what part of my arch did or didn’t hit the ground. Made sense, but why the lipstick?

That was that, she said. In three weeks, I’d have new orthotics. “What about in the meantime?” I asked.

“Do what feels good,” she shrugged. “Maybe store-bought insoles.”

Defeated, I shuffled out of the room to the front desk. A bill and the news that my health insurance – the good health insurance I pay extra for – wouldn’t cover it greeted me. I thought about all the things that money could buy. A significant portion of my rent. A really great pair of non-running shoes – a clog sandal or some new cowboy boots. Or, some new overpriced foam and plastic things to shove in my running shoes that would maybe, just maybe, help me run faster and keep my feet (and other body parts) happy. With a sigh, I dug my checkbook out of my purse.

Hailey Eber is Marathon (Wo)Man, and is currently training for the New York Marathon. She is on Twitter. Her dog is on Tumblr.

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