Travelling with flat feet and a bad back
I have flat feet, which means two things. I cannot wear high heels for too long, neither can I walk for too long. Because my feet have no arches, they get tired and start to hurt way before all the other perfect feet around me do.
My feet started hurting when I was 13, which is also when I realised that I was the only one in my class who didn’t play any sports. I couldn’t run to save my life because running hurt too much after a while. That was me in school, completely unsporty and boring. And I still can’t run. I haven’t run ‘properly’ in years; even on the treadmill, I only brisk walk.
Now, as if that weren’t enough, I also have a bad lower back. I’m sure it was the dodgy feet which came first because I only started getting back pain in 2002. When the pain got unbearable, my doctor arranged for an X-ray and when we got the results, I saw it. There was a curve in my spine, bending to the left and straight back again when it should have been straight all the way. I’ve got scoliosis- a curvature of the spine. It’s not serious but I have it, and it hurts sometimes.
It’s when I travel that I’m most reminded of my feet and my back, particularly because of the kind of travel that I enjoy. I carry a rucksack and I enjoy walking, so eventually my back, my knees and and my ankles will start to hurt. And that’s when I need these.
Those who have flat feet (also known as pes planus, or ‘fallen arches’) should do what I do:
1- Use orthotic foot arch inserts
These are placed inside your shoes so when your feet is resting on them, a false arch is created. These really work for me, especially when I’m walking a lot. There are many types but the best (and most expensive) are those which are custom-made for you based on a plaster cast of your feet. Do look after your custom-made inserts because if you lose them, you’ll need to make another pair.
2- Don’t walk for too long
Take a break from walking every half hour or so because your feet need to rest. If I’m wearing inserts and a good pair of shoes, I can normally go on for hours but 30 minutes is usually just right for me.
3- Use good shoes
This may sound uppity, but I cannot wear cheap shoes. If you have flat feet, you can still get by without orthotic inserts if you at least have shoes with a cushioned arch, which the more expensive brands tend to have. These really make a difference.
If you suffer from back pain, this is for you:
1- Don’t sit for too long
When you sit, especially when you don’t change position, what you’re doing is putting pressure on your back. For a person with a normal back, that’s no big deal, but when you have a back problem, that’s not good news. Get up and walk around every 20 minutes. It doesn’t matter what you do- go to the bathroom or grab a cookie from the kitchen, just make sure that you get out of your chair for five minutes. This may be difficult on long flights and train and bus rides, but you need to try.
2- Don’t carry rucksacks which are too heavy
This is my biggest headache of all because I enjoy backpacking. Over the years, I’ve learnt to limit the weight of my rucksack to 10kgs. Unfortunately I can’t always keep it this low, what with the souvenirs and other stuff I collect on my trips. When this happens, I divide the contents between my rucksack and daysack, which I carry in my hands.
3- Always use the hip buckle on your rucksack
There’s a reason why the hip buckle is there -it’s to anchor the weight of your rucksack to your body. Try this: fill up a rucksack and put it on your shoulders and walk around without securing the hip buckle. Now, secure the buckle and walk for a bit. You’ll feel a distinct difference in the weight of the rucksack the second time around – it’s much easier to carry with the hip buckle fastened, which means it’s better for your back.
4- When you carry your rucksack, make sure it rests against your back
There should be no space, no air between the rucksack and your body when you’re carrying it on your shoulders. Look in the mirror to check. If the rucksack doesn’t rest flat against your back, tighten the straps so that it does. When your pack isn’t close to your body, that means it’s sagging and pulling you down, adding pressure on your back. If your rucksack is snug against you, it becomes a part of you.
Have a good trip!
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