Thursday, February 14, 2019

Dr. Scholl's

You can extend the life of your sneakers and be kinder to your feet with these inserts.

The human body doesn't come with an owner's manual.  As you age, odd things start to happen - harbingers of the doom to come - as your body slowly betrays you, with one system after another slowing down or just plain giving up.

You really don't think about  your internal organs when you are young.  You are a whole person, not a sum of body parts.  But as you age, you start to realize that you have kidneys, a liver, and something called a "gall bladder" which apparently has a lot of gall, as it can turn on you.   You start to realize your digestive tract is getting weaker, and understand what they mean when they say someone has "a lot of guts" and realize that you don't, anymore.

The entire framework of the body starts to fall apart.  And some women obsess about this and call it "Fibromyalgia" when in reality it is tendinitis, arthritis, lack of exercise, and depression, all working together in a potent cocktail of pain.

As you age, your tendons turn against you.   They stretch or fail to stretch - or detach.  The antibiotics that saved your life a few years ago induce your immune system to attack your tendons, leading to "muscle detachment" which is about as painful as it sounds.   I have a partially detached bicep as a result of this.

One comedian did a bit once, where he noted the difference between being 25 and 45 (it may have been Louis CK, I don't know).   At 25, you wake up and jump out of bed and feel great.  At 45, you sit on the edge of the bed and sort of grasp yourself as if to see everything is still there, and go "ugh" as everything hurts.   Not a lot, just a little bit.  The aches and pains of aging, they call it.   Get used to it.

And you will, too.  I have found that over time, my body adapts to increased levels of pain.  The pain doesn't go away, you just get used to it as background noise in your life.  It is like tinnitus, something else both Mark and I have.  Those Cuban diplomats probably got it the same way we did - from middle age.   It is supposedly caused by nerve damage or something and there really is no real cure for it - although quack cures abound.   You hear this cricket-like sound in the background all the time - sometimes worse that others.   Sometimes, at night, you have to leave the radio on, softly, otherwise the ringing sound dominates your thinking, and the quieter it is, the louder the crickets are.

Fun stuff.  Welcome to old age - or at least advanced middle-age.  Why did no one warn us about this?

The latest fun in God's hit parade is something called plantar fasciitis - which is a tendon problem in your foot.  Apparently, when you sleep, your foot is pushed down by the sheets and blankets, and a tendon running through your foot shrinks overnight.  When you get up in the morning, if you jump out of bed, your tendon has to stretch, and you feel this pain in the bottom of your heel like you stepped on a small stone.  So you limp to the bathroom and think, "what the fuck, now?"

But the great thing about living on retirement island is that my elders have all faced these same problems, so when I mention this to them, they say, "oh, that's just plantar fasciitis, roll your foot on a golf ball!"  Supposedly if you roll your heel on an old golf ball or a cold can of beer (or soda), it will help pop the tendon back into place.  And if you spend a $50 co-pay at the doctor, he'll tell you the same thing.  Another approach is, when you get up, to bend your foot to its normal position and hold it there for a minute or two, to stretch out the tendon.

Like I said, none of this was in the owner's manual.  And they should have one, for every decade of your life.   Because by the time you figure all this stuff out, you're pretty much dead.

I wrote before about sneakers and how they are pretty much trash after you wear them for a year or so.  I used to do some Patent work for Nike when I worked at my first firm.   I worked with a great guy, Tom, who was a very smart attorney and ended up as in-house counsel for that company.   He taught me a lot about Design Patents and in the process, I learned a lot about sneaker design and construction.

Most sneaker soles are made of expanded polyurethane foam which provides cushioning and a spring-back effect to the wearer.   It turns out that a lot of the energy you use in walking is absorbed by the surface you walk on.  It is an amazing amount of force - several g's worth - when your foot impacts the floor.  Early on in the running sports, it was realized that wooden tracks, such as at Yale, would "flex" and return this energy to the runner's foot on the rebound, resulting in world records being set at that track.

The idea of putting a spring-like material into the soles of shoes does the same thing.  It not only cushions the impact, but returns energy on the rebound, resulting in less effort to walk or run.  Expanded polyurethane foam was - and is - the most popular material for sneaker soles, as it can be readily molded and provides a nice spring rate - for a few months at least.

If you wear your sneakers all the time, the air bubbles in the foam compress over time.  If you were to cut in half two sneakers - one brand-new and the other a year old (being worn constantly) you'd see the first one having lots of nice bubbles evenly spaced throughout the sole, while the second one would be compressed into a flat pancake.

The Nike "air" insert was designed to get around this problem.  By using a sealed insert (which does not contain air, but a gas) the cushioning of the shoe will last far longer - years even - long after the expanded polyurethane has compressed.   And the technology works, too.

I don't presently wear Nike shoes, though.  They use to have a set of "off road" shoes called Nike AGC that I liked.  But lately, the cost of Nike shoes has gone through the stratosphere, as they have become a fashion accessory.  Also the designs and colors have morphed to the bizarre - bright highway-cone-orange or tennis-ball-yellow.  Sorry, but I'm not wearing that.   I've found the Merrell Moab's to be a good sneaker for less than $100 a pair, and they last a year or so before I make them my lawn mowing shoes and buy a new set - at least until now.  They have been in production for a decade or more, unchanged, and the prices have remained consistent - dropping down in price in recent years.

It disturbed me back in the 1990's when I was doing Nike work that young black kids were assaulting and killing each other over Air Jordans - and apparently are doing so again today.  They are not a bad sneaker, but the prices they were sold for were scandalous, considering their production costs in Korea.  That whole trend illustrates how the poor will blow enormous sums of money on status items, not thinking through where this will take them.  You may think you are "all that" in the hood, wearing your new Air Jordans to the first day of school, until the gang-bangers steal them from you, leaving you barefoot.  It is like the guy in the ghetto who buys the boom-boom car stereo - to be the envy of the neighborhood - only to have it stolen a week later.

Avoiding status-seeking and status-goods is always a good idea, particularly when you are poor.  Yet the poor make poor choices, and will go into hock to have status items.  Hence they are poor.  But I digress.

By the way, cheap shoes or "designer" shoes that are all glitz and glamour but provide no real support are horrible for your feet.  Women in particular seem to fall for this idea that shoes are merely clothing for your feet - a style statement and a decoration or ornamentation.  A friend complains of foot and back problems.  I look down and she is wearing gold lamé flip-flops with no heels and a sole made of cardboard.  They were "on sale" for $29.99 at the discount shoe place and are all the rage.  She has dozens of similar shoes in her closet - many worn only once or twice.

They are hardly shoes, though.

Actually, I know a number of women who do this to themselves - wear these horrific shoes made of cardboard that are all-show and no-go - all the time complaining about foot, ankle, calf, knee, hip, and back problems.   Wear comfortable shoes.  Who gives a shit about being trendy and fashionable?

The problem where we live is compounded by the fact that all the houses are based on poured concrete slabs.   Unlike the running track in Yale in 1909, there is no flex or give to these floors.  You walk around in bare feet (or those hideous sandals - same thing) and you are pounding your feet like the torture they used in a Turkish Prison.  And that shock loading goes right up your legs, through your knees, and yes, into your spine.

Men are little better - walking around in cheap sneakers that they bought years ago and are "still good" because the uppers are not worn.  But the soles are flat as a flounder.   Or they wear slip-on shoes or loafers which have no cushioning or support, either.   Or they wear these trendy fashion sneakers which are styled to look like old Converse sneakers (in kicky colors!) with no shoelaces and no foundation whatsoever, other than a hard plastic sole.

Be kind to your feet - and you will be kind to your whole body.

One way to improve bad shoes and extend the life of older sneakers is to use an aftermarket shoe insert.  Dr. Sholl's was the original and most famous of these, and I always thought, as a youth, that they were kind of hokey  - stuff your grandmother wore.  Well, ding-dong, get the door!  Old age has arrived.

They sell a limited selection at Wal-Mart for about $10 a pair.  Remove the old factory inserts from your shoes and insert the new ones.  You may notice the old factory inserts are squished quite flat.   Other stores, such as the fancy grocery store on rich people's island (where, ironically, you can buy a house for less than here on retirement island) has a whole aisle of them, with special ones for every particular foot ailment, including plantar fasciitis.  I buy a pair and put them in a pair of "L.L. Bean" sneakers I had ill-advisedly bought at their wholesale outlet in Maine (they look neat, but have little cushioning, compared to my Merrells).

Well, like night and day.  The shoes I was about to throw away because they had no cushioning, are now springy and comfortable.  What's best is the pain in my heal immediately went away when I put the shoes on. If you can remove pain and discomfort from someone, well, you will have a friend for life.

Hey, it worked for Androcles

As I have noted before, there is no greater pleasure than the relief from pain.  And that, in short, is why opiods are so addictive, particularly if you are in any sort of pain.  Since I am allergic to most pain killers, I have to find my relief in other forms - in massage or in shoe inserts.

I don't normally endorse products, but when something works as advertised, reduces pain, and also extends the life of your shoes - all for a fairly nominal fee - you really have a three-way-winner here.

Wear good shoes.  Throw out those flat sandals and glitzy crap.  And if you are having foot problems, consider a shoe insert.  Even if you are not having foot problems, consider a shoe insert to extend the life of your shoes!

UPDATE:  My Cuban friend makes fun of my "Mr. Scholl's" inserts.  I told him that Scholl didn't spend six yeas in podiatry school to be called "Mister"!  It's Doctor Scholl's!

UPDATE 2020:  Mark found a foot massager at Walmart for $10 on closeout.  It it about the size of a beer can, has little rubber knobs on it, and a vibrating motor.  Works better than a golf ball!