As I continue to work on things away from this blog (which is a collection of Free-Time/Casual Online Writing, Remarks, And Notes By ME Whelan) and continue to figure out what goes and what stays of my existing online-writing, the de-emphasizing of one or another continues as well....

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

("Notebook Post") - A Discovery About Walking And Crocs Sandals

Keep in mind that when I refer to walking long distances it's about walking on a number of different, less-than-ideal, surfaces (not to mention a number of other factors that mean that if I have an "issue" with Crocs sandals it is NOT because I don't like them).  Ever-changing Massachusetts weather isn't always a factor because as soon as I know the temperature will be below 50-degrees I stop wearing sandals for walking.

There are a number of different reasons that I prefer walking in sandals.  I won't go into them here.    There are also a few different reasons that I don't walk in, say, sneakers - not the least of which is that there is, in most areas where I walk, lots of dirt/sand,  gravel, etc. etc.   Sometimes puddles or wet grassy/weedy patches are a factor too; and whatever I wear for shoes gets dirty.  Sneakers don't tend to stay as clean as I'd want them to if I'm going to be out walking in public.  It's bad enough that my "wardrobe" (such as it is) is dictated by the walking factor.  I don't need to add dirty sneakers to the mix, and I need to clean what I walk in far more, and far more often, than someone in a different situation may need to.

As it is, I live with a certain amount of accumulation of road salt on whatever Winter footwear I wear.  As it is, I also save my worst Winter footwear for walking. 

Then again, where I walk and why I walk aren't exactly hiking-wear appropriate.   Wearing hiking gear would just be look weird, particularly on me. 

Actually, I have some nice, clean, sneakers at home and use them for some types of working out.  That's fine.  They stay clean (particularly in view of the fact that between the time I bought them and now they've only worked (shall I say) "on a part-time basis".  Between the fact that whatever exercise efforts I've done over recent times are modified enough that I can do them without the sneakers; and the fact that I only use the sneakers if I think I may be at risk of dropping a hand-weight or kettle bell on my feet; I don't need the sneakers all that often.

The point is that I prefer to walk in sandals.   In the pre-leg injury days I'd found Okibashi  sandals.  At the time I was using them there were some available that were off-white and (I thought) as "harmless looking", poor-fashion-taste-wise, as plastic sandals were ever going to be.  I was picky about the style and color (because - really - there's no way I would have worn some of the styles they offered at the time).  Still, they served my purpose because they lasted a long time (at least one warm-weather season, and each new season I'd turn the old ones into at-home use only and buy a new pair for outside).

The tricky thing about those seemingly indestructible sandals was that as they got too much mileage on them they'd lose some of the "air-cushion" element to them.  Then they're flatten and eventually start to crack.  The bad thing about them was always that walking miles in one pair and wearing another pair around the house when I was home meant that I was kind of prone to corns.  Most of the time it wasn't a big problem, but - really - what would one expect from plastic "shoes" (especially in cooler temperatures). 

It kind of made me laugh one time when someone on television or radio was referring to the little plastic shoes that Barbie dolls wear and said how real women don't wear plastic shoes.

At some point I couldn't find the Okibashi's in the style I liked and/or I discovered a different sandal that was more shoe-like, with a solid and thick sole.  They were inexpensive, although they had "suede-ish" straps.  They were something that were shoe-ish enough to wear wear plastic sandals REALLY wouldn't do.

The thing about the plastic ones was that I could easily and without worry wash them under hot running water when I'd get back from a walk.  The other ones were trickier to clean.  They never got the same kind of bath that the plastic ones did.  I'd just have to kind of rinse them for a very short time under cold water.  It had to do.  They were, however, good for walking when the leg injuries were an issue.  They had the thick sole that meant I couldn't feel things like acorns or gravel through them, and it was just the right height.  Of course, as the injuries were healing I wasn't walking all that much anyway, so the dirt-versus-water thing wasn't all that big a problem anyway.

For awhile I did the same thing with them as the plastic ones - new pair for out, old pair for home, maybe even another pair for "out, but for better places than out walking in dirt and puddles".  Somewhere along the way I couldn't find a new pair when the time came, which is when I discovered Crocs sandals.

Finding a new kind of sandal was tricky because I still needed a certain level of wedge (but not much), and I needed a sole that would allow me to do things like climb up a blacktop embankment kind of Spiderman style.  In other words, I needed a rubbery-ish sole but not the kind of rubber sole that's thick enough to tend to cause "toe tripping".

So anyway, I ordered some Crocs sandals.  There was still some getting past the leg injuries that had to be done, and when I got the Crocs (which had that "air cushion type of thing") I laughed a little when I discovered my tendency to tip as I stood on them.  I figured they'd be good for offering some flexibility that might strengthen some muscles, but I had to watch out for feeling like I was tipping backward.

So they were really great - comfortable, simple, not bad looking (not the clog kind of Crocs, BTW).

Over a lot of use, however, it seemed like the air went gradually out of the sole.  When it did that meant there was more distance between the "in-sole" and the inner top of the sandal sandal (straps).  So, with uneven wear, a feeling like I was at risk of a mishap because the shoe was then too big for me, and with concern that the narrow straps might break after so much use/abuse; I bought another pair.

Once again I had sandals that were perfect for my walking purposes.  I'm convinced that after wearing different hard-soled (and unevenly worn) shoes/sandals, the air-cushion element to the new Crocs offered the kind of flexibility (and subtle exercise) that wearing no shoes at all would (and without causing "funny muscle stuff" for a leg injury at that stage in healing).

What threw me off (just a little) with Crocs sandals was that the first pair I got at first didn't get a lot of outside walking.  I used them mostly indoors when they were at their newest.  So they were new but not awfully used outside, and by the time I started walking last Spring they had grown old and worn enough that I could feel the lopsidedness of wear in the "air cushion".  By the time I bought the second pair it was still fairly cool outside, and once again I had what seemed like the perfect sandal for walking.

I bought the second pair in May.  They got a lot more outside use, and I've worn them as my around-the-house sandals too.  As they are as of this writing, they're not really worn out (at all), but they've definitely had a reduction in that "air cushion" they once had.  I am starting to notice some uneven wear under my feet, which wouldn't be a big deal at this stage in leg-injury thing.  These days I'm as stable on flat ground (or flat shoes or at least firm soles) as I've ever been, even before the leg injuries.  The only thing left of the injuries is some left-over need to build up climbing strength with something like particularly steep stairs.  There is a difference, however, between needing to put some finishing touches on the particular muscles used for climbing something steep and stability with regard to standing, walking, or any of the usual activities.

Here's what I've discovered, though:   While my former plastic Okibashi's used to have a subtle change in how hard the plastic was once temperatures got cooler, the rubbery Crocs sandals have their own subtle change with higher temperatures, and that, of course, is that that they tend to get softer.

So, with so many super-hot days over the last month, my newest sandals, while certainly only recently having begun to show signs of wear, have enough wear at this point that the "air cushion" is less, there is some uneven wear, and the space between the "in-sole" and the inside of the straps across the insteps/toes continues to get (as it did with the other sandals) bigger.

The heat seems to have added that slight additional softness to them, so I've noticed a few times now that that front part of the sole occasionally flaps under the foot.  I've learned to keep this in mind and be careful about how I step, but I'm thinking it's just as well that as the colder weather is coming I may want to find a more solid shoe (or at least sandal) for walking outside.    The flapping-under thing only happens  under some circumstances, so it's not really a big deal for now.

What is a bigger deal, though, is that with the increasing wear AND the hot weather, I've noticed more and more a tendency to tip off the sandals for no reason other than the sandals.  That combination of some-air-cushion-still-there, some uneven wear with that air cushion, and increasingly bigger and/or softer sandals has meant that, in all my standing-/walking- stability, I tend to tip when doing anything other than basic walking (and so far, only occasionally then).    Doing anything "different" (like getting up out of a chair, carrying some things downstairs, stepping on uneven ground, etc.)  is generally where this new tipping tends to happen (at least for now)

Any air-cushion elements to the old, plastic, Okibashi's that I used to wear was only under the heel, so not matter how worn they got the rest of the foot had stability.  (It used to be kind of funny when a pair of Okibashi's would get old, the slightly elevated heel would develop little cracks, and the shoes started to sound like newborn kittens every once in awhile.)

The irony to the Crocs sandals is that it is the fact there's that air-cushion type of thing under the whole foot that makes them really good for someone at some stages in some injuries like mine.  The answer is pretty much not to let one pair get so beaten up (and instead buy more than one pair or else replace them more often). 

The only thing that makes me think there's even any reason to bring all this up is the interesting and un-interesting thing about how tipping can become so much more of a problem (even for someone with good stability) when the combination of a beginning wear and hot temperatures exists.

As I was writing this earlier I was watching an infomercial about a program that aims to help people (older people) keep/build up stability in order to reduce the risk that they'll fall (and end up with some of the consequences that so many older people do when they fall).  People kind of expect to fall on, say,  ice.  Who would think, though, that something as seemingly perfect as a pair of sandals with "air cuashions" could be so "perfect" if/when they're brand new, but how (only being at the beginning stages of wear) temperatures could mix in with even just a little uneven wear (and increasing looseness) and cause a perfectly stable person to tend to tip.

It doesn't take a whole lot for someone to go the sensible-shoes route.  I know that.  I can imagine how someone who saw this might think, "Well, that's why people say to walk in solid shoes."  Again, I know.  The thing is, it's easy to feel like you have so much stability that solid shoes aren't always the issue.  And, for the person aiming to exercise their post-injury leg(s) back to being stronger again, it can just seem like the sensible thing to do to wear a sandal that encourages that (at least under the conditions under which I walk).

This whole post is, I know, a big pile of nothing.  The moral to this whole "story" is, I suppose, that all who seem to have tendency to start to tip over are not necessarily suffering from instability other than that of ever loosening, ever softening, ever wearing, shoes combined with an ever-changing "air cushion" .
I still love the Crocs sandals for walking.  I will, however, pay more attention to how worn any air-cushion is in any pair of them.  It doesn't take much change in temperature to cause an ever so subtle change in the size of sandals, or even the feet in them.  Maybe, sandals being what they are, the answer is to buy a half-size smaller than one would ordinarily wear.

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