Traveling Tips for the Flat Feet

Submitted by viravira on 23 September 2018   •  Tips

Life is not the same anymore since I became aware that I have plantar fasciitis. It is an inflammation of a thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. In my case, it was caused by flat feet and an accumulation of my activities that involved a lot of running and carrying heavy loads like bags and my own weight while wearing the wrong shoes.

The flat feet is a given condition since birth. With some knowledge and proper care it could have not gotten worse if not getting better. Unfortunately, neither my parents or I was aware of this even though since I was very young my feet always felt very tired and would hurt from standing too long; like five minutes long.

flat feet traveling
Carrying too heavy bags can worsen the flat feet condition.

The Flat Feet Limitation

About five years ago when I jogged routinely I realized that the pain got worse and the pain points increased. It went up from the heels to ankles to my knees. I checked to the physio therapy clinic and found out that I have had flat feet all along. Although they’re not too flat, the therapist advised me to stop any activity that required high impact on my feet. No running, no aerobics, no backpacking, and temporarily no walking more than 15 minutes straight. She told me to do certain stretches a few times a day including walking in water and ride a (static) bike. And on some days I would wear Kinesio tape around my heels for muscle and joint support.

bare feet
The feet need soft surface to walk on.

 

Some Changes that Happened

I did what I was told. I changed my exercise to walking and swimming only, and sometimes light yoga. Also I tried to minimize the load that I have to carry standing on my feet. In a few weeks I started to rarely felt pain on my heels the second I step on the floor for the first time in the morning. Yup, it used to hurt like hell and I would limp just walking from my bed to the bathroom like a 90-year-old.

There were also some changes in my apparels. I had to replace some of my shoes and sandals with the ones that support my flat feet. Those with a better arch support and good amount of cushioning. I also got some arch support pads to put in the shoes. Another first for me: buying a pair of flip flops that cost IDR1,500,000; how does that sound? (That’s about $110 in 2016 and is the most expensive pair of flip flops I have ever had). And not to mention the hiking shoes and formal women’s shoes, which I didn’t have much choice aesthetically. I don’t understand why most of healthy shoes should look so ugly. I even gave a serious thought to have a customized orthopedic shoes, but I gave it up cos it would cost a fortune.

sandals for flat feet
Wearing the Vionic flip flops, my favorite until now.

 

So, for those of you who might have been feeling the same or similar symptoms, like pain in the heels and cannot stand standing for a long time, go check if you have flat feet. You can check with a physio therapist, an orthopedic, or perhaps find a YouTube video that tells you how to check it yourself at home – yes, it’s possible.

Tips to live and travel with less pain with flat feet – based on my experience:

  • Insert silicone pads insoles for shoe arch support. Mine are dirty, so I borrowed the picture from here so I don’t gross you out.
  • Hike with the right shoes. Mine is a pair of 50% discount The North Face sneakers which I don’t know the name of the type. The parts below and behind the heels are supportive enough by being well-cushioned – it’s important. But since the arch part of the insole isn’t high enough, I had that silicone pads inserted beneath the insole. I wore the shoes for all the trekkings I did in Greece, you can read how it went here.
silicone pads for shoes
I put these beneath my shoes’ insoles to support my low arch feet.
hiking with the north face shoes
Now I know why hiking and uneven surface were such nightmares to me. Even though how beautiful they can be. 
  • Prepare a pair of silicone pads for the heels. You can also use them for women’s shoes because they’re not bulky like the arch insoles.
  • Stroll with the right flip flops. Mine is Vionic, a specialized brand for supportive and orthotic footwear with the best look in this category as far as I know. People say Birkenstock is comfortable. But I find the soles still too hard for feet like mine and the rough surface gave me blisters a few times.
  • Carry the loads that you only have to. This means planning your activities well so you can pack in just the right amount of clothes and gadgets.
pack wisely
Carry only the important things. It’s easier said than done, though.

And What Else?

  • Travel with a suitcase as often as you can rather with a heavy backpack. The load you carry on your shoulders and back means more load for your feet. That’s because the feet also have to carry your body and perhaps other bags in one go.
  • Stretch your legs or any parts as how it was advised by the expert. You can do it in a hotel room, against a car, or anywhere and anytime you have to. You might look weird to other people but who cares!
  • Avoid evil terrains. This means steep paths and in worse cases of feet this can also mean sidewalks with uneven surface.
My most comfortable shoes to date, The North Face. Bulky but comfy.
  • Cool off after each trekking or long walk with a reusable hot/cold pad. I put the pad in the hotel room’s fridge before I went out. Then wrapped it around my heels and then knees after I came back from a day’s walk. So soothing.
  • If you still have a little space in your bags, you can also prepare the hot/cold pack compress. It’s a bit more hassle because you’d need to find some ice cubes or prepare hot water to fill it.

 

I hope that helps all you flat-feet fellas out there who still want to travel and experience a lot of things. There might be some things that we can’t force to do but there are a lot of ways that we can do to fix the flat feet condition a bit.

Please let me know if you have other tips, I might want to try them too.

sturdy shoes
Wearing Keen. The toe protector is super great, but the soles aren’t that great. Not for flat feet.
hiking to baduy village
Wearing the New Balance cross-training shoes for trekking to Baduy. My toes were crooked ‘cos the shoes were a size too small. Bad idea.
karimor sandals
Karimor sandals. Quite comfortable. Worked even better with the silicone pads I put beneath my foot arch.


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