It’s All in the Gait

At my last podiatry appointment, I’d been alerted to the possibility of being called back to Dr G’s office to participate in a trial run of a new, hi-tech, gait-measuring machine. Which is where I found myself early this afternoon: My sneakers, immediately appropriated from me upon arrival, were being dismantled, de-orthoticized, analyzed and prepped for performance as I whiled away the time doing glute-strengthening reps in the waiting room.  (It was a choice between that or a Reiki self-treatment; but I didn’t want to take a chance that my healing and deep-breathing practice might be interrupted by her assistants.)

On a day when Dr G would typically be juggling 3 patients at once, her office was deserted – unheard of for a practitioner who prides herself on being a passionate foot-care provider, often staying at the office to operate until late at night. But this quasi-clinical trial (can you call it that with no control group, no placebo and only 3 people participating?) was long-awaited and momentous enough to warrant closing down for the sake of installing the new F-Scan Versatek system software* – and I was happy to donate my gait to the study and advancement of foot-science!

Upon entering the testing area (one of Dr G’s exam rooms), I came upon two men – one of whom was her husband – seated, with their eyes glued to a computer screen. I looked down at my sneakers. Oh my, how they’d changed: In place of my custom-made orthotics were tissue-thin, flimsy, peppermint green plastic insoles, inlaid with a yellow network of chips and filaments. A clear plastic ribbon with more inlaid ornamental chip-designs sprouted from the insoles outward, drooping like tongues over the sides of each shoe.

Moments later, the contraption-setting continued: One wide and stretchy belt was Velcroed around my waist and two others wrapped around each of my legs, just above the ankles. Two cables were hooked up to the back of the waistband, and to connectors attached to the sides of each leg. Essentially, with two long white cables dangling down behind me, I looked like a dog out for a walk or an avatar… or perhaps, an overgrown guinea pig about to take flight. That’s it: A parasailing lab rat.

Once I’d been snapped into place, I waited to be shepherded to a maze cordoned off in another office; but instead I was merely led back into the hallway, where I stood and waited for my marching orders: walk to the end of the hallway… is that the way you REALLY walk?… please walk the way you do naturally… (‘naturally’? I don’t know exactly what that means, post-accident). But I cooperated as best as I could; and less than 30 minutes later, the experiment was over.

The proof... is in the footing.

By the time I was de-wired, the others were focused on the screen, chatting about graphs, measurements and analysis. I peered over their shoulders, saw the multi-colored topography of my feet and asked whether the sensors measured heat or pressure. But what I really wanted to know was this: Which color represents the pain that still monopolizes nearly every inch of my left foot?

* Check out details about this newfangled gait-analysis system here: http://www.tekscan.com/medical/system-fscan1.html

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