Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Foot Pain: A Runner's Search for Answers

Disclaimer: This is an update of a post I prepared in 2014. I received a pair of Oesh shoes in exchange for my honest review. 

When you tell people you are a runner, what is the first thing they say to you? Does it have something to do with ruining your knees? If I had a dollar for every time I've heard that running is going to ruin my knees, I could retire and move somewhere warm. Can I put it out in the universe and say emphatically that I've never had issues with my knees?

What I have had problems with are my feet. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Most studies report a force of 3x body weight on the feet during a run. That means for this 125 pound runner, my feet absorb 375 pounds with every foot strike. So it's no wonder that my feet sometimes beg for mercy! Actually, it's amazing that they let me run any sort of distance.

Since we ask so much of our feet, it's important that we take good care of them. That includes proper footwear. I've got some experience here, having had more than my share of issues with my feet over the past couple of years!



After over 25 years of running, it's no surprise that I've experienced quite a few problems with my feet. I finally took a more active role in managing my foot issues about 4 years ago after being diagnosed with a fracture that was not a fracture in the joint below my big toe (aka first metatarsal joint) of my left foot. My podiatrist who at the time, I spent more time with than my husband, couldn't figure out what was going on with that toe. He wrote it off as osteoarthritis but put me in the boot for rest and built up my orthotics to take some of the load off of that joint. My coach Becky worked on strengthening my hips and glutes to give me more power and balance so that I didn't come down so hard on that toe. That seemed to work. Until it didn't.


Frustrated, I wanted answers. I curbsided the sports medicine doctor at work one day and he referred me to a foot orthopedic surgeon, who promptly took me out of my orthotics. He told me that the way they were made caused me to offload onto the big toe of that foot. Oh, and by the way, there never was a fracture. The x-ray showed arthritic changes (osteoarthritis).  Interestingly, as soon as I removed the orthotics from my shoes, I had no more issues with the big toe.

I've mostly had issues with plantar fasciitis. While training for my first Chicago marathon, I experienced my first episode of plantar fasciitis. This is how I ended up with custom orthotics. My podiatrist and I argued about that. With my neutral gait, I didn't think I needed them. He insisted I did. As it turns out, I developed a stress fracture in my 3rd metatarsal and needed to take time off running, which also gave my PF time to calm down.


When my PF flared up again, my podiatrist and I talked about different options: steroid injections, PRP (platelet rich plasma injections), shockwave therapy, and surgery. I immediately ruled out surgery and went home to do my research (aka Google) on the other treatments. Since I had so much heel pain with the PF, shockwave treatment made the most sense to me. The shockwaves are pulsed vibrations on the affected area, which can break up the scar tissue. The best analogy I can think of is when my father, who is very practical, took a mallet to his heel when he was suffering from the same pain. Although I can't recommend my dad's method for breaking up the scar tissue, it was very effective for him.

I received 3 rounds of shockwave treatments to my heel. Each treatment was preceded by a nerve block, which was extraordinarily painful. According to my podiatrist, the shockwave treatments would be very painful without the nerve block. Plus, he could bill for the nerve block and not charge me for the treatments. I was all over that. I sucked it up and got through the treatment.

The shockwave treatments were effective. I ran pain-free for several years--I even ran the Chicago Marathon twice after that--until I began training for the Big Sur Marathon. As I began preparing for my lifetime bucket list race, my PF came back in a big way. I didn't want to go back to the podiatrist. Still stinging from what those custom orthotics did to my big toe and what they cost me, both on and off the road, I decided it was time for a different approach.


This time I went to sports medicine. She promised me she'd get me to the start line of the race but I had to take time off running. I was a little smarter about PF this time and I knew that basically rest was going to be the only thing that would work. I started pool running to prepare myself. I put my bike in the trainer and I rode around the world. In the meantime, she put me in Spenco soft orthotics to support my arches. I had exercises to do at home. In lieu of PT, my CrossFit coach Becky modified my workouts to strengthen my left kinetic chain. I felt like I was in good hands.

You know what I happened. I lined up at Big Sur and ran my lifelong dream come true bucket list marathon with my friend Kristina by my side. I still can't believe I got to do that.

I also can't believe that I've kept PF away since that time. My arches have been talking to me lately and I've been doing a lot of preventative maintenance. Clearly, I have learned a lot from my experience.

So what did I learn from all this?


When it comes to foot issues, EVERYONE is an expert. It's crazy how many people told me what to do with my PF. As a science girl, I did my homework on PF and I learned a few things.  The one thing I can say with certainty is that PF treatment is not one size fits all. I also learned that there are a lot of people out there making a lot of money on so-called miracle treatments for PF.

And if someone wants to do surgery on your feet, get a second opinion. No one is cutting my feet.

Here's what we know works: Ice. Rest. Stretching, including the use of a night splint. For some people, a steroid injection may be helpful. No matter what your podiatrist might try to tell you, over-the-counter inserts are just as good, maybe even better than custom orthotics for plantar fasciitis. Spend your money on some comfort shoes. 

By the way, runners should change out their shoes, as a rule of thumb, after 300-500 miles, depending on the wear and tear on the soles.

Good shoes are key to avoiding foot issues. I am on my feet all day at work and I wear comfortable supportive shoes. Recently I was sent a pair of Oesh shoes to try and review. I have to say that I fell in love the first time I slipped them on.



I had never heard of Oesh before. The shoes were designed by a women physician who studied the biomechanics of women's feet in different kinds of shoes. Oesh shoes were developed based on her research. The shoe is flat but the sole is elastic, compressing as you move. The shoes have a wide toe box. They are incredibly comfortable. 



I selected the Lea model and have been wearing the shoes for CrossFit and everyday activities. In the past, I wore my running shoes for CrossFit, but had to take them off for strength training because they were too cushiony. The Oesh shoe with its flat sole has been working great for my activities. I feel fully supported and my feet are so comfortable! 





Besides the athletic shoes, there are sandals and dress styles. There are a variety of colors and the designs are cute! Most reviews say that the shoes run big, so I ordered a half size smaller than normal. They fit great.

Based on my experience, I would highly recommend Oesh shoes for any woman who is looking for a comfortable, stylish, supportive shoe that will take you through your day! 

Have you ever experienced plantar fasciitis? What worked for you? Orthotics, yay or nay? Any other foot issues? Do you wear comfort shoes? What kind? Have you tried Oesh shoes?

I'm linking up with Marcia, Erika, and Patti for Tuesdays on the Run and Debbie, Lora, and Rachel for Coaches' Corner.

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74 comments :

  1. Oh wow! So sorry about the feet saga. Way more than your share with that shizz. Knock wood no foot probs for me other than a post-marathon toenail that decided to defect from the mother ship in the middle of a Pilates class and shoot across the studio.
    I have had posterior tibial strain, ITBS, and a ruptured hammy though. Nice.

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    1. Yeah my left foot is really hurting tonight. I hope it passes!

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  2. I have been plagued on and off by running injuries. Right knee, left knee, achilles tendon...Orthotics helped the most, as has rest. Swimming allowed me to stay active without the stress on knees / feet. I took 6 weeks off and it was the hardest 6 weeks of my running life... so now I don't push it. I know that 10K is my limit. I prefer to be able to run shorter distances, an keep on running, than pushing myself and not being able to run at all. Buts its a fine line. Good luck & hang in there...

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    1. My feet are what holds me back from another marathon. I'm hoping they calm down for my race this weekend!

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  3. oh yeah...had achille tendinitis, had a metarsal stress fracture..now on and off have bunion/metatarsal joint pain - good luck with your problems. Hope they heal quickly.

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    1. I'm pulling out new shoes this morning..hoping for some healing!

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  4. I feel your pain! I have feet issues too and it's not fun!! :(

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    1. What issues do you have? And what do you do for them? Misery loves company!

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  5. Injuries...it's a never ending saga, huh? It's so hard when you work on your feet all day. I live in compression socks just because they are the only things that make my feet feel normal at the end of a work day. Hope you find a solution!

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    1. It really never ends! I've been having such a strong spring too.

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  6. Wow, I totally feel your pain. Sorry but I couldn't help but chuckle at Mr. Peanut! I had a stress fracture in the 3rd metarsal of my right foot last year...and I wore a boot from February til mid-May...it was awful. Then when I started running again in new shoes I got plantar fasciitis! I never worked with a a sports podiatrist though, just a sports medicine doc. It's such a crazy experience. Thankfully I'm on the mend now, and I love using my foot roller after each run. Hope you feel better!

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    1. We are simpatico! With this new round of pain, I've talked with the one of the sports med docs at work, and he's going to evaluate my foot. I'm going to run in new shoes this morning, so we'll see how that goes. Ay!

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  7. hmmm ever tried acupuncture?? I've seen that help a lot of folks, myself included. Fingers crossed you are ok to race, I know how frustrating a nagging injury can be!

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  8. Your poor feet! Figure skating can involve a lot of the same injuries: metatarsal stress fractures are really common (I've been lucky enough to avoid those). I'm picking up a new pair of figure skates tomorrow, I hope it's not too hard on my feet to break them in. I haven't been through the pain of breaking in a new pair for 4 1/2 years. My old pair was starting to give me Achilles and posterior tibial tendonitis so it was time. Breaking in my current skates did involve several trips to the skate fitter for adjustments, a couple of trips to the podiatrist, and a steroid injection to the little toe.

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    1. At least you don't have to break in running shoes! I hope your feet recover quickly as well. What we do to our poor feet....!

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  9. Foot problems are the worst! I had some PF when I started running a long time ago, and thats the same side I had the recently foot/ankle issues on. Those shoes sound great- I am definitely a fan of shoes with a wide toe box that are comfortable.

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  10. Oh man - I had PF years ago and ended up with custom orthodics as well (and a cortizone shot). Luckily, it hasn't flared up again. Haven't heard of these shoes, but do need to get a different pair for cross training than running.

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    1. I wouldn't wish PF on anyone! I'll do whatever it takes not to get back again.

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  11. I've been dealing with PF since the fall. It's lingered because I kept running through it, even though I cut back. Now I'm cutting back even more and hope it gets better. Cupping and ultrasound seemed to help until my schedule made it hard to see the chiro for that. It seems that inserts can cause their own issues, and you're right, cutting my feet sounds like so much could go wrong!

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    1. I'm curious to hear more about cupping for PF. I've never tried that!

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  12. Knock wood I haven't had any issues. I wear comfortable, supportive shoes at work (and essentially all the time these days). I wear Asics Kayanos for running and for the past several months have worn the Zelus insoles with them. It's amazing how many people don't take care of their feet. It kills me to see the 20-somethings and the shoes they wear!

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    1. I"m glad to hear that your regimen works for you! My arches are starting to talk to me and i"m doing as much as I can to prevent any recurrence!

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  13. I have never heard of that brand of shoes. Luckily I have never had any foot problems but my Mom has had PF in the past. I should recommend those shoes to her.

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    1. I think Oesh is a pretty popular comfort shoe! Let me know if your mom tries them.

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  14. Both my husband and I have had PF. Mine lasted a year and I ran through it. Probably stupid but it eventually went away. When I wasn't running, I only wore tennis shoes, flats or no shoes at all. And lots and lots of rolling with the tennis ball. At the time, I was working from home and so being shoeless was an option. But those silly dogs kept taking the ball!

    My husband did get orthotics and they really helped. And then he hurt his knee playing soccer with my daughter and can't run anyway. Does not make him a happy camper at all!

    I have bunions so try to pamper my feet. I've also learned NOT to change my running shoes. Every time I try to new brand or style, I get hurt. Kinvaras for life I guess :-)

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    1. My dog sure wouldn't let me roll on the tennis ball! I have a Moji foot roller and I really like that. I need to get it out again.

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  15. I think one of the most frustrating things ever is to have a health issue and not be able to get real answers or solutions!! I've certainly been there :) but we're runners so we just keep plugging along and figuring it out on our own!

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    1. I think PF is probably one of the most frustrating injuries a runner can deal with. That and ITB syndrome!

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  16. I've never had to deal with PF but I've heard so many people that have had it that say it sure is super painful! I've never heard of those shoes before but they sure sound awesome!! I always wear insoles in my running shoes and they make all the difference though!

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    1. I agree with you that my insoles really help support my feet. Hoping never to have PF like that again!

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  17. OMG, I had a raging case of PF a few years ago. It was terrible!! I didn't get custom orthotics but was told to stretch, roll, and ice. I used to keep a tennis ball and a golf ball under my desk and a half-full bottle of water in the freezer and I was use those multiple times a day. I did buy some of those Superfeet insoles and they might have helped? They definitely made my shoes squeak. Another thing I did was stop going barefoot in my house. I wear my super attractive Crocs at home. I think those really helped!

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    1. Haha--my Spenco orthotics make my shoes squeak! But if they keep PF away, who cares, right?

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  18. I have ongoing feet issues and I wasn't totally convinced about my insoles until my problem worsened again without them. I HAVE had surgery (twice) for morton's neuroma and I absolutely recommend it for this particular problem. Because the thing is it will NOT go away. Now I've had two shots for what the ortho says is bursitis and I say no way - I'm going to be calling him soon for a referral to the neurologist because my problem has not been solved with shots... also I have another new pair of insoles and I am disappointed in them because 1) my problem isn't solved and 2) I have to buy yet another pair of shoes for them to fit into :( One day I'll run again without all these issues! In the meantime it will just have to be about starting and finishing and forgetting about any PR's.

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    1. Ugh! I think you win the foot issues competition! Yes, you have to have surgery for the neuroma--there's no other treatment for that. I'm not convinced that custom insoles are necessary, but i know a lot of people will argue with me here! Curious...have you tried PT? Strength training?

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  19. Oh cool! I just started having feet issues in the past year... I've hit 17 years of running and apparently it's in these later years that it's most common. Like you said, it makes sense!

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    1. Lots of wear and tear--takes a toll on our feet!

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  20. I've only had PF really bad once - we were living in Hawaii and I was walking everywhere daily. Pretty sure my broken down sandals were the culprit. I pay close attention to wear and tear on my shoes - both running and non-running.

    Les is a huge ECCO fan. He has degenerative disks in his back and ECCOs have worked great for him. He is slowly transitioning every shoe type (formal, business, casual) to ECCO. They're not cheap, but they are worth it.

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    1. I'm really careful about my shoes! That is a lesson I learned a long time ago. I've worn ECCO and I like them a lot!

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  21. Great post! I've never had any knee issues (knock on wood) but plenty of foot issue ...and currently dealing with a foot issue as well. I've had stress fractures, PF, Post Tibial Tendonitis, Achilles tendonitis, etc. etc. I know my foot issues all stem from my scoliosis and flat feet so therefore I'm just always trying to find the best 'band-aid' to remedy an already bad situation. Sigh ....but I press on!

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear that you're a fellow foot pain sufferer! I don't know what my excuse is. All I can say is booo! And yes, press on!

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  22. The shoes look nice! I need to check them out :)
    I has PF when I was younger and solved by padding my heels and wearing more wedge like shoes before I was a runner. I also had an injection I regret but i was young and didn't know better.
    Later in life and after a few years of running, I tore my plantar fascia up between my toes. The tissue in the balls of my feet is deteriorating now. I have the beginnings of crossover toe and some displaced toe bones from capsilitius. Arch support helps me a great deal, support in that area is a huge benefit to anyone, although it feels odd at first and took getting used to. I have a lot of pain in the ball of my feet and when I really stress my feet I get PF feeling symptoms...the custom inserts do help me though. I was able to run last year without major time off. I keep trying to run with other options that are cheaper and I end up in pain everytime...and lots of swelling as well. I think I am stuck for now buying the expensive custom things if I want to run. I do work on strengthening and I wish I could afford more massage ( it helps) and reflexology treatments...I wish insurance would cover things other than a shot that may hurt me in the long run. I am sure I am preaching to the choir here lol
    Anyway...it is a complex issue and I went through several podiatrists till I found one who was a runner and supportive of being active.

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    1. Preach, sister! Right there with you as I feel that twinge in my left arch....grrrr....

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  23. I've had my shares of foot issues Wendy. I'm in marathon training right now and some of them have been coming back...So good to hear your feet have been doing better!!

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear that your foot issues are returning. There has to be more preventative maintenance we can do, right? I hope yours calms down so you can get to your marathon.

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  24. Great post Wendy! Foot issues are so finicky. I've had on and off PF too-- nothing to serious... but enough to be annoying.

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    1. I've been so grateful to have my feet behaving for the past year. I'm thinking that the RA meds are keeping the inflammation away. I hope it stays away!

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  25. PF is a nasty _itch. Thankfully, I've kept her away for the past 18ish months, but I'm always on high alert for her return. Those Oesh shoes look interesting!

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    1. They are super comfy! I really like them.

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  26. I dealt with PF for years. I tried all the things. I had a cortisone shot (three actually, two in one heel, one in another). Nothing worked until, like you, I had another injury and had to take time off running.

    These days my feet are pretty healthy. I changed to neutral, more cushioned shoes, stopped using the Spenco arch supports, and run a lot less mileage that I did in the days when I was running four marathons a year. I occasionally have a moment when I get up in the morning that I'm afraid it's going to flare up, but since I started teaching my Lifestretch class and incorporating more foot stretches my feet are healthier than ever.

    I like the sound of those shoes. I think they contacted me, but Miss Big Foot here could not find her size. I love having good cushioned shoes because I work on my feet all day too.

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    1. The Strava/Lulu challenge stirred up something in my feet, so I'm glad to be done with that! I need to really be careful with mileage if I want to keep running. And yep, it's all about comfort shoes for me!

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  27. I've seen a ton of FB posts from people asking about how to deal with PF in just the last week. It's like the flu going around, everyone seems to be catching PF, haha. Kidding aside, I'm glad you were able to find a pair of shoes to make and keep your feet happy!

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    1. Yeah, I could probably write a book on PF! How sad is that?

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  28. I have thankfully never suffered from severe PF but when I feel my foot acting up, I immediately have my hubby adjusts it. It's helped to keep any real issues at bay.

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    1. You are lucky to have him right there!

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  29. My issue is still the side of my foot. I did have that ankle pain for like a year, but the Shintek (which I still use, btw), seemed to eradicate that.

    The side of my foot issue most definitely seems to be tied to shoes. I've found sandals that work for me in the summer (Sanuk), but it gets worse in the winter when I really do need to be wearing shoes. It doesn't actually bother me when I run. And I work out at home when it comes to strength training -- I prefer to do it barefoot, have for years.

    But yes, you know me & shoes . . . I'd be interested!

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    1. I think you'd really like the OESH shoes. You should give them a try!

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  30. With all my foot and ankle drama, you would think I'd have PF one of these times. Thankfully, never. But now that I just jinxed myself, I'm sure I'll be hobbling around in a week or so. Please NO!!!

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    1. Don't even put it out there in the universe, Angela! You've had enough!

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  31. I'd never heard of the Oesh shoes before, but they definitely sound awesome (I am all for function and comfort <3!)! I think I almost experienced the beginnings of PF a couple weeks back but I did a lot of stretches/exercises and it went away and thankfully will not be coming back!

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    1. I am with you on the function and comfort thing! How could I say no to a pair of shoes that promised me all that?

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  32. Great reminder of the importance of changing your shoes out every 300-500 miles. I can always tell when it is time to get new shoes based on my knees hurting.

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    1. Now that I'm switching from Asics to Mizunos, it's going to be interesting to see when I'll know it's time to change shoes!

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  33. I am a HUGE skeptic when a podiatrist orders orthotics. I'm much more concerned with stretching and strengthening and making sure the kinetic chain is working they way it should.

    I've also found women are MUCH different than men and dang, it took long enough to create shoes specifically for women!! I need to try these!

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    1. There are just so many reasons I love you and here you go again! You do need to try these shoes. I think you'll love them!

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  34. People always tell me squats will ruin their knees! No. They will SAVE your knees. PF is no joke. I wouldn't wish that on anyone...

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    1. Well, sure if you do them wrong! (insert eye roll here).

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  35. I'll have to check these shoes out. Glad your feet are doing better now that everything has been sorted out. :)

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  36. So much great info here, Wendy! I have had issues with feet as well and probably PF, though never diagnosed. Rest and stretching and strengthening usually work for me. I am a pretty big believer that you have to do what is right for you and that everyone is different. Listen to your body and adjust. That's kind of my motto, I guess.

    All that said, I do come from a family of bad knees. I get mild knee twangs now and again, but nothing like other members of my family. That history does keep it top of mind, though, so I'm maybe more likely to try to listen when they start to protest.

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    1. Definitely listen to your body, but strengthen the muscles that support your knees!

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  37. I remember reading about your Hallux rigidus one time. Was that part of the misdiagnosis? My feet are definitely my weak link and like you, I've never had knee issues. I had PF for two years and custom orthotics were the only thing that cleared it up, and did so in two weeks. I, too, have Hallux rigidus, but you make me wonder about my orthotics... So many issues!

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    1. What hallux rigidius? LOL. It has "disappeared" and in fact, I can now hold broken toe pose for almost 2 minutes. Which I think helps stretch my arches.

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