DRMacIver's Notebook

Feet as a Foundational Skill

Feet as a Foundational Skill

"Fix a man's feet, and you will make him comfortable for a month. Teach a man to walk properly, and you will make him comfortable for life. Therefore denying people access to good foot education is key to monthly recurring revenue." - Ancient Capitalist Proverb.

I'm currently working on being good at feet.

Being bad at feet sounds ridiculous, right? Almost as ridiculous as being bad at breathing. I am bad at both feet and breathing, and I'd wager that many of you reading this are too.

One of the reasons you can tell that I am bad at feet is that I've spent the last 10-15 years in semiconstant pain. Not, you know, a lot of pain. Just a dull ache in most of the joints of my right leg that waxes and wanes but never really goes away. I've always been a bit reluctant to identify as someone who experiences chronic pain - it doesn't really match the definition of chronic pain, you know, other than being pain and being chronic - other people have it much worse than me (this is a bullshit line of thinking and I know it's a bullshit line of thinking. I have now more or less reconciled the alief and recognised that, but it took a while).

Another way in which I am bad at feet is that standing for long periods of time is painful. Walking is generally fine, but if I stand for more than about half an hour my legs will be very sad and probably hate me the next day.

I've at various points tried to get medical professionals to take these problems seriously, but it's never worked very well. The best I got is about a year and a half ago I got custom insoles made. They... maybe helped a bit? Not much.

But now, in one of the rare upsides of the world going to hell, my chronic pain is at the lowest it's been since my early 20s - it's not gone, but it's mostly retreated to a vague twinge in my hip (which is where all this started). I attribute this largely to the almost total lack of wearing shoes, especially as it's accelerated since I've switched to barefoot shoes for running.

Standing for long periods of time is still a bit tricky, so I'm working on arch strength. I've switched to working standing in twenty minute stints recently, and doing a bunch of exercises for strengthening my arches, added a nightly (self) foot massage to my care routine, and I'm looking into toe straightening (one of the structural failings of my feet is that my outer toes curl inwards. I'm pretty sure this is related, because combining arch exercises with toe straightening is excruciating). These might or might not work, but I'm hopeful.

Anyway, this isn't really a post about feet. This is a post about being bad at things.

At no point in the more than a decade that I've been dealing with this problem did I consider that the root issue of my chronic pain might be that I was using my feet wrong. I knew that the problem with standing was related to flat feet, but I thought of that as an intrinsic structural issue rather than something that I could work on by changing how I use my feet. At no point did it occur to me that feet were a foundational skill that I could just work on getting better at and that this would significantly improve my life.

How much would it improve my life? Hard to say. Not being in constant pain is a pretty good improvement to start with but consider also...

(As an aside, being bad at standing is something I've mentioned before as an illegible marginalisation)

I'm not saying that these are the only causes, because very little is monocausal. I'm saying that among the weird and varied landscapes of life, these have exerted consistent pressure in some fairly negative directions.

I suspect there are a lot of foundational skills like this, and we currently don't have any infrastructure for identifying them, or learning to be better at them.

This is particularly problematic because being bad at these foundational skills is something you can kinda get away with early on - you have more energy to power through them, and have not been subjected to the constant low-grade degradation of your body (or mind! Much of the emotions as legacy code model plays out this way too) that being bad at these skills causes, so by the time you start to notice the effects you're at the point where you feel like you should have life sorted out and you just treat these as the inevitable consequences of aging, when really they're a sign that you need to relearn a foundational skill.