Cycling and (my) pes cavus ‘type of feet’

A chiropodist (or podiatrist as they are now known) told me recently I have pes cavus ‘type’ feet. She said it as soon as I took my shoes off (my feet look normal to me although perhaps my toes do look a bit curled). I went to see the chiropodist because three doctors (general practitioners, or GPs) had told me the foot pain I’ve had since the start of December is a bit of a mystery even after several blood tests and x-rays. I am not diabetic or overweight, my blood count is normal, my circulation is okay, no arthritis, no gout, etc. I haven’t just not cycled for two months but hardly walked except shuffling around the house with bandaged feet. At last this week things seem to be improving a bit; I have got some shoes on.

I haven’t really cycled much for well over a year. I got out of the habit during re-roofing part of the house, and instead have been walking a lot, mostly (and daily) over the hills. Not that I’ve given up cycling. In fact I’m going to cycle, rather than walk, as soon as my feet have fully recovered. Pes cavus is a feature of the feet whereby they are more arched than usual and the toes are more curled. The feet don’t lie flat properly, with the effect of undue forces in the wrong places causing bone or tissue damage. I’ve always found it difficult to find comfy shoes, and my feet tend to ‘burn’ after cycling 80 miles or so (but not always) – the same with walking down mountains – but whether this translates into my foot shape I am not sure. I used to run regularly and have always walked or cycled without any problem.

After the chiropodist had looked at my feet she asked whether I’d been wearing different shoes. As it happens, these painful red blotches on the bottom of my feet and the way they’ve been swelling up around the toes does coincide with new shoes. Leather shoes. I have not worn leather shoes (nor a suit or a shirt) since I quit my day job almost fifteen years ago. I always wear trainers, mostly running shoes. I like the softness and springiness and how lightweight they are. My new leather shoes have much harder and stiffer soles so I’m speculating that my feet just got soft over a number of years and a touch of pes cavus merely exacerbated things. And when I first got a nasty pain under my big toe I should have rested my feet instead of trying to ‘walk through it’ and making it much worse. That is where the damage was done, I think, and once you’ve got a pain in your foot you adjust everything around it, causing even more problems. None of this would have happened on my bike.

Anyway, what I’m coming round to is that regular cycling is probably better for my feet than regular walking. The foot is more static (even though it’s going round in circles) and flat on the pedal, less rubbing and flexing, less load on a particular weak spot. Less wear and tear generally, I’d say. I’ve got an appointment in rheumatology in a couple of weeks and am waiting for one with the bio-mechanical department (or something) to see if I need special insoles (or something). In the meantime I’m looking forward to getting my bike out of the garage again, and Spring.

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