After a long run one Saturday morning about two months ago, I noticed that my foot was aching. I rested it for a few days and then tried to run on it again. No dice. I pounded Advil for a few days, and rested for a week and tried to run again. No dice. Three more weeks passed and I tried to run again. Nope, still hurt.
So, after two months of not being able to run across the street without feeling pain, I finally visited a podiatrist.
Before I tell you about that visit, may I first ask why someone would become a podiatrist? Who wants to spend their whole life looking at damaged and diseased feet? Podiatry school takes four years, which is the same length as medical school. So, with three or four years of graduate school one could become a doctor, or a lawyer or.... a podiatrist? Crikey, if I'm going to spend that long in school I had better come out of it with a degree in astronautology or maybe richguyicine instead of a being a foot doctor. Is it that podiatrists want to help people but only if it doesn't involve creepy body parts like elbows or ears? Just bizarre.
Anyway, two things were interesting about my visit. First was that we chatted about my foot pain for a few minutes and the doc said, "Ok, I think I know what's going on, but let's take a look at how you walk first." Before I hopped out of the chair, I mentioned the fact that my foot hurt quite a bit first thing in the morning.
"Oh, right after you wake up? That's quite significant!" he said, looking at me and nodding.
Seriously? This fact that I barely remembered to mention was key to the diagnosis? Were you about to diagnose foot cancer and recommend amputation when all of a sudden I rocked your world with this morning fact? Maybe you could have asked?
I often mock the term "computer science" as being completely unscientific, but moments like this make me want to retract the science term from "medical science" too.
The second interesting thing about my visit was what happened after I showed the "doc" how I walked. He was stunned, flummoxed even. It was as though the field of podiatry had not yet invented the vocabulary to describe how I walked.
"Wow, your gait is very.... uh.... well... " and then he kind of trailed off, mumbling something about "rotational" and "pronate" but ultimately rallied with a conclusion of, "Your gait is atypical!"
This is not the first time I've heard this. When I went to a high-end running shoe store a few years ago and showed them how I run, the employee was stumped. He ultimately concluded that I had several opposing flaws in my gait and that no modern shoe could address them all, so it was best to just buy something comfy. Similarly, when my running club held a biomechanics clinic, my coach all but forbid me from attending, explaining that it was only for people with fixable problems.
So the phrase "atypical gait" was what the doc kept returning to. "Well, it was just a matter of time with that atypical gait" and "You're lucky that you didn't suffer more injuries with that atypical gait" were what he kept saying over and over. At the end, when he was writing out my prescription for an anti-inflammatory (because tendonitis appears to be what was actually causing my pain), he had to pause for a moment, chuckle to himself, and say, "And, of course, there's your atypical gait." It was as though he was anticipating being the center of attention at the bar that night while describing my walking style to all his podiatrist buddies. Oh to be a fly on the wall at that gathering.
Well, it appears that the streets of San Francisco are safe from the sight of my unseemly running style for a few more weeks yet. Enjoy while you can, fellow San Franciscans, for I well terrorize you with my atypical gait soon enough!