Yes, those are my feet.
I’m deep in pre-trip mode at the moment, planning for ten days in Northern California with Rach, travelling through some of America’s most glorious National Parks. It’s my idea of the perfect trip – we get out into the wilds, take more exercise than would ever happen at a boot camp, look at extraordinary scenery and…breathe…
Obviously I’ve been ordering all the outdoor things on Amazon – no one wants to be the idiot that embarked on a hike in flip flops, got lost, discovered their ‘phone had died and had to camp out overnight until they were (hopefully) found (by people not a bear). None of the things I’ve ordered are expensive, and they don’t weigh much at all, but they are sensible. A compass, (which I do know how to use), foil blankets, a new headlamp, waterproof matches, moleskin for the inevitable boot rubbing, power bars, a whistle, a tick remover (which I’ve been meaning to buy for ages, ever since we had to remove a tick from Letty’s tum last summer in Gloucestershire)…
I’ve also been paying attention to the things that will make my life simpler. I’ve had my lashes and brows done (no make-up will be worn hiking so now I won’t look like an albino bunny), had my hair deep moisturised to counter the late summer straw-like texture and, most importantly, visited the podiatrist for a medical pedicure.
I cannot emphasise how important I think the latter is: I go twice a year to have my feet looked over, to check for joys like ingrowing toenails, get the hard skin removed and to spot any potential foot problems.
Equally when going hiking it’s really important to get your feet checked – nails that are too long or digging into the sides of your toes can cause serious problems, blisters, and a lot of pain. And, given that I am going to America, the land of obscenely-priced healthcare, it’s best to pre-empt any possible medical problem, however tiny, in advance regardless of your insurance situation. (You may have to front payments yourself, and there are always the dreaded deductibles/excess fees.)
This time around I headed to Margaret Dabbs on New Cavendish Street for my foot check over. I hadn’t thought I had any major foot-related issues but when the podiatrist asked if I had any foot pain I mentioned that my heels really hurt when I first put weight on them first thing in the morning. Ah, he said, digging a thumb in and hearing me squeal like a pig.
Turns out that I have plantar fasciitis. Who knew? The podiatrist explained it to me, but I am nicking this off the Internet for reasons of clarity:
The plantar fascia is the flat band of tissue (ligament) that connects your heel bone to your toes. It supports the arch of your foot. If you strain your plantar fascia, it gets weak, swollen, and irritated (inflamed). Repeated strain can cause tiny tears in the ligament. These can lead to pain and swelling. Then your heel or the bottom of your foot hurts when you stand or walk.
It can happen for the following reasons: your feet roll inward too much when you walk (excessive pronation), you have high arches or flat feet, you walk, stand, or run for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces, you are overweight, you wear shoes that don’t fit well or are worn out, you have tight Achilles tendons or calf muscles.
It’s the latter that is apparently my problem and I have been recommended to ice my feet at night after walking to bring down the inflammation and to do a lot of stretching morning and night to release my super tight calf muscles.
It’s both a huge relief to know that the pain is caused by something so common – and which I hadn’t even thought to ask about, and also to know how to combat it when I am going to be doing a lot of walking.
The thing I really like about Margaret Dabbs is that they don’t just do the foot doctor thing, checking for problems and dealing with them, they also properly tidy up your feet – the medical pedicure side, so my nails have been cleaned, filed, buffed and generally returned to a state of grace from their hoof-like appearance, as well as the skin on my heels being dealt with too. (I’m sparing you a picture of their hoof-like state.)
And, whilst all this was happening, I had a manicure happening simultaneously. I loathe having my nails done because I can’t read whilst it’s happening and I get all twitchy, so I particularly like the timesaving that happens here. (The colour is Margaret Dabbs Tiger Lily.)
Medical pedicure done, and nails polished, I then headed back into the main room where I had a coat of vitamin E enriched polish to strengthen my toe nails. Although they looked so good in their virgin state, I could easily have left them untouched.
With thanks to Margaret Dabbs for inviting me in for a medical pedicure and manicure
7 New Cavendish St, Marylebone, London W1G 8UU