I was born with flat feet. No, let me take that back. Where others had an arch that was concave, mine was convex. I remember at age 5 standing on a newspaper wet footed to see the lack of arch. I had to wear Red Goose leather high tops until “tennis shoes” came out when I was in sixth grade. When I went to get new shoes I would stand for a long time in the fluoroscope device you stuck your feet into to see if you had a good fit, that is, until it was taken out of shoe stores because of worries about too many X-rays.
Since my mother found Podiatrists to her advantage in the mid 1950’s, I too went to see them for my flat feet. They were kind and sympathetic and wrapped by feet in plaster of Paris strips, dried them and shipped them to a lab somewhere where they made fiberglass prosthetics for my shoes. This gave support to my ‘un-arched’ foot.
Although I was prohibited from flying jets, or even proceeding into advanced ROTC simply because I got air sick, I tried to sign up in the Air Force again in 1966 after teaching my first year of high school at Roosevelt High in Portland. I tried to get into Officer Candidate School, but the doctor excluded me, again, reporting that I had Pes Planus, with severe eversion. In other words, flat feet with the arch going out instead of in.
Standing on my feet as a teacher caused back pains until I kept a footstool nearby to put one of my feet on when standing for long periods.
This disability ceased to hold any fear for me when I began hiking, no, when ‘waffle stompers’ came out, and I got back into a high topped shoe with my arch supports in them. I could hike with a 40 lb. pack on my back. Sure, I carried a bamboo walking stick that I used more and more the more distance I hiked, but I could hike, miles and miles. I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from Hood River to Timberline Lodge, in two separate treks. I wore heavy Raichle mountaineering boots with red shoe strings. They were heavy, but supported my feet and ankles so well as to permit me to do the backpacking. Danner was another locally made boot that supported my arch and protected my ankle. As a result my back, legs and neck also benefited.
But this is not why I thought of this title as I rode fourteen miles this morning on my bike. I am returning to bike riding, divorcing my motorcycle and 600 cc motor scooter as well as trying to drive less. As I was riding this morning, I remembered those things I put on my pedals so that I would push with the balls of my feet. Toe traps attach to your pedal and hold your foot such that your balls are where they should be for maximum benefit. A strap is provided that goes around your foot and through the trap to hold your foot and keep it from sliding off the pedal, which was the problem I was having at the time. It didn’t slide clear off, but would be out of position for the balls to work best.
Before, when I used these devices (toe traps) I had to learn to withdraw my foot before stopping or fall flat on my face on the street. (The good news is that I changed to riding recumbent bikes, where this problem was ameliorated somewhat by the fact that you were closer to the ground.) But then my cycling buddies began advocating for bike shoes and clipless pedals. These had two parts, the shoe with a metal piece attached to the sole just under the balls of your feet and the pedal which received it and held your foot in its proper place. Though these were easier to get out of in case of emergency, almost automatic, the fear that they would not release kept me and others from using them. Once I did get them and found how useful they were I was amazed and used them on all my bikes, bent or recumbent.
So here comes the quandary. Should I use the toe traps I have or the clipless pedals (both of which I have) on my current bike. Oh yes, there’s another consideration here. I have a full hip replacement on my right hip as a result of a bike accident in 1992, Valentine’s Day. Another teacher and I were riding with two students with the idea of forming a student bike club when it began to rain as we rode South on the I-205 bike trail. We agreed to stop at the parking lot at Clackamas Town Center. I followed the boys as they swooped around a parking lot light, and fell on my right hip and broke it. I was riding a Rock Hopper mountain bike with knobby tires that didn’t give good traction on slick asphalt. Fortunately Kaiser Sunnyside Hospital was just on the other side of the freeway and the boys called an ambulance for me as my friend put his coat over me till it arrived.
The point being that my Orthopedist and my PCP both told me not to ride anymore, because if I broke my hip again they couldn’t fix it. I ignored their advice and rode because I couldn’t walk or run well, anymore. (Actually due to flat feet I was never much of a walker or runner.) So I had to depend on the balls of my feet which were in much better shape than my arches. And now I was riding again, but riding my bike was good for me. Good for my heart, good for my lungs, good for my legs. Riding a motorized two wheeler was not. I was just getting fatter and fatter and had hypertension.
So I haven’t decided which pedal assistance to use, but I know my feet have balls and I am going to use them.
As a side note I did try an electric assist on my bike, but I took it off again. It was so heavy with the motor and the battery you were required to use it. When I took it off I did fine and I liked riding again.