November 13, 2017

In Response to Pain, a Change of Gait


I developed a foot problem this summer, and it has me thinking more about gait than at anytime since my brief foray into track-and-field as a 14-year-old.  (Working with a chiropractor-kinesthesiologist now too.)

It's been upsetting, since hiking through rough country was always something that I was good at, and now I am having  to retrain one foot, which produces certain protests from the tendons.

Shoes and boots are part of the problem, that's the irony. It was probably wearing the wrong ones in younger years that created the problem, on top of some slightly malformed toes that I was born with. Over the past couple of years I have discarded about a third of the shoes and boots that I owned — getting to be pretty fussy about what I will put on my feet. I even consider shoelaces: would round or flat be better?

You have probably read old descriptions of American Indians "gliding" through the forest in their moccasins, but as medieval reenactor Cornelius Berthold — who apparently is also into Historic European Martial Arts, going by the broadsword on his hip and some remarks about fencing— points out in this video, that is how Europeans walked too, prior to about 1500 and the widespread development of harder-soled shoes with built-up heels. (Stiffer shoes maybe encouraged the toes-out gait.)

Not like this:
Quick Time . . . . At the command Forward, shift the weight of the body to the right leg without perceptible movements. At the command March, step off smartly with the left foot and continue the march with 30-inch steps taken straight forward without stiffness or exaggeration of movements.

United States Army, The New Infantry Drill Regulations, 1943.
So during this hunting season I sometimes pretend that I wearing moccasins — or medieval shoes like Cornelius Berthold. When the "new" pain starts — the tendons protesting their new stretching — I just slow down, stepping on the balls of my feet. That helps. One day, it will have to be better.

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