Today we’re going to cover one of the lowest of low-tech hacks that will likely ever grace this site, and it’s possible that it might be one of the most life-changing as well…
…well, for about 15% of you, anyway.
This post, like many, needs to start with some colorful background. I’ve been hard on shoes all my life, even the high quality stuff, with heavy wear on the outer edges of my heels. In high-school, I was self-conscious of my posture after seeing myself in a yearbook where my head was sticking out and I was hunched forward a bit while walking, but never understood why. People were always surprised by my official height as I never really looked it from slouching. Most of my life, I’ve always remembered having my toes pointed outward and shuffle-waddling ever so slightly in a manner I always teased myself as being a bit of a duck-walk, and standing for any length of time was exhausting and painful. I’ve never been especially good at sports, especially running, with the exception of sports requiring bladed shoes. My wife has always pondered as to the curious arrangement of callouses on my feet: on the side of my big toe, the ball, the outer edge below the pinkie, and the spot smack below the second toe on the sole of my foot along with my flat arches. As I’ve gotten older, compiled with other health problems, I’ve had arthritis in my feet, knees and hips, and my balance has suffered greatly as my mid-lower back has progressively deteriorated. I’m not airing this laundry list of maladies to evoke sympathy in you, dear reader, but as a means to connect with you and ask if any of those things ring true to your own experiences… especially the callous arrangement part.
Anyway, flash forward through my life to the present, but stopping about three weeks back finds us returning back to a book we’ve had in our library for a few years that we’ve never fully read but used on occasion for deep-tissue muscle massage called The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies, NCTMB (link is an Amazon Affiliate link, non-affiliate link here). It’s been a useful book that has proven itself by helping with some re-occurring joint pain and keeping us out of a chiropractor’s office. During this last consultation, the Missus was flipping through the book and stumbled upon an illustration on page 244 that made her take pause and start reading. The title of this image? Figure 10.36 – Morton’s Foot.
As we both read on in great interest, a lightbulb went off, and the proposed solution by Mr. Davies was a simple shim under the ball of the foot; a solution that seemed easy enough to execute. Of course, as I am prone to do, I thoroughly researched the topic before progressing. Morton’s Foot, or more commonly known as Morton’s Toe or Greek Foot, is a type of foot structure that’s common to about 20% of the Earth’s population, and is one of the most easy things to recognize as it’s such a visible thing. What is the nature of this foot structure? Your second toe has a longer metatarsal than your first, and the foot arrangement is noticeable by bending the toes down to see if the joint on the second toe is longer than the first one. That’s it!
It seems like a simple enough thing, but the implications are massive regarding the mechanics of walking. Instead of having a traditional tripod weight distribution layout with your feet between the ball, the place behind the fifth toe, and the heel; the Fellowship of the Morton’s Toe (as I’ve taken to calling it after being exposed to the term) have all their weight while walking placed on the heel and behind the second toe. This effect is like walking on ice skates, so the foot tilts side-to-side and the foot rotates outward to try and compensate. I also discovered that about 80% of the Fellowship have leg and back pain related to this foot build.
Knowing this, I did some further research as I like to fact-check between multiple sources before acting, no matter how excited I may get about an idea. The greater Intertrons didn’t fail as I found a useful site on Morton’s Toe complete with a page on DIY shims that matched what Mr. Davies proposed, as well as an entire community of runners with the affliction. The evidence was in, and simple ingenuity by placing a small lift directly under the ball of the foot while carefully avoiding any added height under the second metatarsal does wonders!
Before going any further, I’ve been informed by my legal department that I should make a huge disclaimer: I am not a doctor, I am not providing any sort of medical information or diagnosis with the information provided in this post, nor am I doing something as un-American as to suggest treating this condition in any way, shape or form other than through a licensed practitioner of the Western medical arts and horribly expensive orthotic devices! This information is provided for entertainment purposes only, and my results should not be expected by anyone. If you do this without nanny-state supervision and permission, you acknowledge that your genial host Daley and his website Technical Meshugana hold no liability to your actions or subsequent damage rendered through imitating these suggestions as following them will likely result in shattering your legs, maiming your cat, voting for the Tea Party, and making babies cry. Just don’t do it! Consider yourself warned, my fully reasonable and intelligent readers who recognize quality information and uplift common sense.
And now, back to the post.
Information in hand, I went down to the local Home Depot and picked up an 8 pack of 1½ inch, self adhesive, heavy duty felt pads for a whopping $2.90 after tax and proceeded to apply them carefully to the bottoms of the insoles directly under the balls of my feet of a couple of my most commonly worn shoes. The results? Spectacular and almost immediate! I stood taller, I walked taller, my toes pointed forward when I walked, I’ve been able to stand for longer periods, I don’t get as worn out doing physical labor as I used to, my balance is greatly improved… in short? Unequivocally life changing. Once I got used to the pads, these past three weeks have been astounding, and I have since made the modification to all my shoes.
Needless to say, I will be picking up a box of the 24 pack for $7.00 to keep around the house for future shoes, dropping the effective cost of the modification down to under 60¢ a pair. At the moment, it may be no more than conjecture, but I imagine that the lifespan of my shoes should increase greatly as well with the change these pads make in my stride, emphasizing yet again how much more important quality is as it re-highlights another potential win for the Captain Samuel Vimes “Boots” theory of socioeconomic unfairness with people scared to make the investment when they tear shoes apart so quickly due to how they walk. And yes, I’m fully aware of the irony in quoting the Vimes “Boots” theory in a post presenting an insanely cheap shoe shim fix.
As for other valuable lessons learned from this newfound knowledge? I will be changing how I shop for shoes, though not by much. The general consensus on shoe shopping for the Fellowship of the Morton’s Toe is to measure shoe size off of your longer second toe instead of your first, buy wide, and be sure there’s plenty of available height to accommodate this modification. Unfortunately, this modification has forced me to retire a pair of brown dress shoes as they’re a smidgen too small to comfortably take the insole change, and I now have made a point to wear slippers around the house instead of going barefoot… but they’re small prices to pay for such huge dividends in my personal health.
There you have it! It’s not a wide and universally useful bit of information, but still immensely valuable information for those who may be in the Fellowship without knowing it. My hopes are that by saying loudly, “My name is Daley, and I have Morton’s Toe. Take a look at what I did about it!” that it might perhaps help change another person’s life for the better. Knowledge is power, after all.
As they say in Yiddish, gay ga zinta hate! Go in good health!
Feature image by Samira Khan and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).
Photo “Chimpanzee” by Flickr user Rennett Stowe and licensed for use under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).