A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend of mine who is training for a half marathon. I was more of a 5k girl myself - charity events mostly because I could get motivated for those. I don't run anymore and shockingly, miss it a little. In late 2001 while teaching a full contact self-defense class for women, I felt a sharp searing pain down my right leg. I finished the class (we were doing kicking moves) and then told my boss I was done working until I could see a doctor the next day. I learned from a series of doctors and tests that I had torn my outer tendon (near the ankle) and separated all of the ligaments in my foot from the bones. In case you wondering, yes that hurt as much as it sounds. Apparently I was an overachiever that way. I had surgery in 2002 and while I recovered well after months of physical therapy, additional medical complications caused me to never regain complete range of motion. Over the past 10 years, I have also lost more muscle control of that ankle.
So when the neurologist suggested this cool new carbon-fiberglass-Kevlar item, I was all for trying something new. This is used for a variety of reasons, including longer distance runners that may of lost some of their muscle or nerve response over the years. Basically, there is a "foot" that slides under the liner of your shoe, and the composite part slide around the front of the ankle (so you don't roll it) and up the front of the calf. It has padding and adjustable velcro straps to fit along the leg. It weighs 6 ounces - I'm not kidding, the shoes are heavier. The design is made so you walk heel-toe by rebounding the foot for you. The first time I walked across the room relatively normally I was shocked. I didn't think that would ever happen again. The first couple days I wore this I felt like I was almost bouncing. I could totally see how helpful it would be for runners.
After a couple weeks of "break-in" period, I can walk better than I have in years. My ankle and calf muscle not-so-silently protested the first few days because they thought they had retired 5 years ago! Not so. I'm not sure if I will gain any strength while using this, but I'd be happy with less loss of current usage. I do plan on trying it on a bike trainer and jogging on a treadmill as well. I will need the support because I still have really poor balance, but using the bars on a treadmill could get me back to the cardio level my docs keep talking about! Stay turned.
Yesturday I went shoe shopping, which has been challenging for the past few years. I was able to find some comfy and stylish Clark's that work just fine with both this and my dress pants. Who knew? The guy at the shoe shop was actually really interested in how it all worked and thought it was genius. I wanted to share my experiences with this because our society spends a great deal of time impying we all need to be perfect, when clearly that is not the case. We just need to be happy and part of that is helping each other find our way - in our own way.
There is a woman who has been keeping a blog and Facebook page about using one of these to run half marathons. It's called Get Back Up! On the Facebook page many people post how they have been able to get back to things they love doing, now that they have a little power assist. The company that makes it is Allard which is based in Sweden - in case you or someone you know needs wants to check out their cool inventions.
Out for a walk now...