I have weird feet.
It’s an unfortunate fact that severe bunions are not particularly attractive. I’ve had mine so long that I remember when I didn’t realize that my feet were the abnormal ones, and all those people with people with perfectly straight feet weren’t cursed with an absurdly boring podiatrical condition.
It’s another unfortunate fact that severe bunions typically result in early and severe arthritis, as bones jammed together in unorthodox ways wear through the cartilage that is intended to slide between them. I remember many nights during my undergrad work when my late-night studies were accompanied by burning pangs in my the large joints of my big toes. There was nothing to do but grimace and let it pass.
Years of running (nothing impressive, just 4-6 miles most days, and a half-marathon in my early twenties) did the arthritis no favors. It continued to stab at me almost daily, growing worse in winter and at night. Fortunately, I have a high pain tolerance and didn’t figure the fiery pangs compared to the 3-month incapacitation associated with bunion surgery, which involves the chiseling away of large amounts of scarlike calcification, plus the intentional severing and re-setting of several bones. No thanks.
So here’s the cool thing: I’m 33 now, I’ve been primal/paleo for over two years, and the arthritis pain is gone.
Erm…isn’t arthritis supposed to get worse with age?
I still run sometimes. In fact, I ran yesterday — just a couple miles along the rutted and rocky irrigation road that runs along the downhill side of my farm. And get this: I did it “barefoot.” (I wore Soft Stars, which are comparable to the better-known Vibram Five Fingers but lack the toe-shoe feature that I suspect would not accomodate my bunions.) Barefoot running requires a toe-first landing that I would have dreaded three years ago.
While I’ll never be a yogi, I now make a habit of performing exercises that require the kind of extensive toe flexion that was impossible in my twenties. Walking lunges. One-legged barbell squats heavy enough to make my glutes sore for days. Planks. Pushups.
Winter still comes and goes. I’m very active, spending entire weekends and weeknights on my feet. I wear heels to work, though nothing steep or featuring pointed or narrow toeboxes.
And I hardly ever feel the arthritis. Maybe once every 4 months. Really.
I don’t fully understand this. Alleviation of rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory condition related to autoimmune problems, is a well-documented benefit of paleo nutrition. However, osteoarthritis caused by a mechanical defect, like bunions, would seem to present a different challenge. My bones are still crunching past each other at awkward angles, right? So why is the pain gone? Decreased inflammation? Improved healing capacity? Mark Sission shares some ideas here.
Whatever the details, I’ll take it!
PBC Day 4
Fuel: Coffee with heavy cream. Grassfed ground beef sauteed with bacon and onions; eggs over easy. Grassfed ground lamb in coconut milk with onions, garlic, garam masala, and sundried tomatoes served over sweet potato roasted in coconut oil. Chardonnay. Banana with almond butter and coconut cream concentrate. (Yes, I often carb up a bit on Friday nights.)
Workout: Nothing official. I took a dog and my nano (yay!) for an hour’s walk/run along the canal. Barefoot running is amazing for calf development. You gotta try it.