These Boots Were Made for Walking – The 5 Best Walks in Melbourne

These Boots Were Made for Walking – The 5 Best Walks in Melbourne

I don’t know about you, but I struggled to suppress offended pangs of righteous indignation when it was recently announced that Melbourne had lost its coveted title of The World’s Most Livable City to Vienna. Oh, the shame! Oh, the ignominy of having to struggle through life in what has now been narrowly declared the second most livable place on the planet!

We’ve grown so smug in what seemed like our utterly untouchable liveableness, you could almost hear the latte cups, ramen bowls and sushi rolls being dropped in disgust and disbelief all over town. It was as if someone had informed Melbourne that the earth had detached itself from its orbit and was now hurtling out of control through the Milky Way. Even our Lord Mayor was reduced to squirming and cowering in fear the next morning as an apoplectic talk show host aggressively demanded to know what Her Right Honourableness was going to do to right this cosmic travesty. We’re Melbourne, by jingo, and thou shalt not be more livable than us!

Wherever we sit on the livability pecking order, there can be no doubting that our patch is a truly spectacular place to live. While lacking some of the star quality of our neighbour to the North, Melbourne weaves a rich tapestry of beauty, culture and history that makes it truly one of the greatest places to live or visit.

Of course, there is no better way to see the intriguing sights of Melbourne than on foot. And, what better time to brush the dust off your walking shoes and explore the highways and byways of our fair city than Spring! Especially with the warmer weather upon us, walking is a wonderful way to maintain healthy feet.

So, in honour of this auspicious time, we thought we’d look at some of our favourite Melbourne walks. Some are well known, some may surprise you. However, all of them offer a tantalising glimpse into what makes this town unique and fascinating:

  1. The Artists’ Trail

The Artist's Trail in Melbourne

Nestled in the picturesque leafy-green surrounds of Bulleen is the scenery that inspired the legendary “Heidelberg School” of artists. Many of the backdrops to some of Australia’s most famous paintings are still recognisable as you follow the meandering Yarra though verdant parklands, majestic gums and rolling hills peppered with sculptures and artworks, culminating in the stunning Heide Museum of Modern Art. Heide features a delightful mix of indoor and outdoor exhibitions including some of Australia’s best-known artists.

  1. Up My Alley

While many native Melbournians might pass them by without a second glance, a stroll along the CBD’s multitude of alleys and laneways provides illuminating insights into our culture and history. Hidden away between soaring skyscrapers and office buildings, iconic names such as Hosier Lane, Duckboard Place and Strachan Lane serve as the urban grunge canvas for some of the world’s most breathtaking street art. Artists are continually adding new work and painting over old images so that no two strolls through this incredible experience will ever be the same. Other lanes are dotted with eclectic cafes and boutiques that offer unique sights and aromas. Follow the trail at your own pace and stop for a coffee or to pick up a bargain to get the most out of this quintessentially Melbourne experience.

  1. Enchanted Forests

enchanted forest in melbourne

If it’s lush, temperate rainforest environment that gets your toes itching, then a short drive to the Dandenong Ranges will give you access to the famous 1000-Steps, and William Ricketts Sanctuary walks. The former is, in fact, a stirring memorial to the Kokoda Trail, while the latter is dotted with eerily evocative sculptures of indigenous Australians carved into to rocks and trees. Both trails are easy to walk and offer outstanding picnic opportunities under the green forest canopy.

  1. Capital, Old Chap!

Capital City Trail, Melbourne

For the definitive experience of Melbourne’s sights and sounds, the Capital City Trail cannot be matched. Whether you’re visiting or have lived here your whole life, this remarkable trail delivers a fascinating glimpse into everything that makes our city special. You’ll pass through the urban icons of Southbank, MCG and Docklands, as well as idyllic parklands in which the cityscape peacefully melts away for a delightful hint of serenity. The Capital City Trail takes in portions of other delightful walks such as the Merri Creek, Yarra River, Hobsons Bay, Maribyrnong River and other trails over its 29km. Whether you start early to take in the full experience in one day or break it up over several jaunts, you’ll finish up looking at our town with new eyes by the time you’re done.

  1. Surf’s Up!

Brighton beach Melbourne

Ok, so perhaps the surfing is not quite world class on Port Phillip Bay…Nevertheless, there’s plenty to love about the sun-drenched stretch of coastline from Elwood to Sandringham. This trail is a relatively robust 16km return distance, so you’re best off attempting it on a slightly cooler day. Otherwise, bring plenty of liquid with you. Along the way, you’ll pass by Brighton’s instantly recognisable beach boxes and opulent mansions, as well as an assortment of outdoor art and a scale model of the Solar System, among other features. To make a day out of it, there is no shortage of opportunities to stop for coffee, lunch or a cooling ice cream as you soak in the seemingly endless blue expanse.

With the sun emerging from its sheath and a number of public holidays on the horizon, the time is right to set out and explore our magnificent hometown. Being a podiatrist, it would be remiss of me not to close this out with a friendly reminder to make sure you’re wearing sturdy footwear with plenty of support for your arches as they get their workout. It goes without saying that if you run into any foot pain, don’t ignore the early warning signs! Come in and see us to make sure you can keep those extremities fit and healthy!

Happy walking!

If the Shoe Fits – How to Choose the Right Footwear for Healthy Feet

The inimitable Bette Midler once famously quipped: “I firmly believe that with the right footwear, one can conquer the world”.

While I’m willing to begrudgingly accept the possibility that she may not have been referring to her deeply held love of podiatry, she might nevertheless be on to something. I mean, even Kim Jong Un invested in secret lifting shoes in an attempt to give him an edge in nuclear negotiations. What more evidence do we need to prove footwear’s central role in global affairs!

Even if world domination isn’t quite your thing, and you’re more concerned with conquering your regular jogging or power-walking circuit, there can be no denying Midler’s wisdom: what you put on your feet can play a significant role in helping you achieve your goals. More importantly, making poor shoe choices can cause pain and damage to bones, joints and supportive tissue, or exacerbate pre-existing issues such as arthritis, shin-splints, corns, bunions, achilles pain and more. Lest you think that such problems might be limited to your feet, “committing shoe-icide” as some like to call it, can alter your gait, with flow-on ill-effects all the way up your spine.

Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to ensure that you don’t put your foot in it. Here are some crucial things to remember:

The Right Shoes for the Job

You wouldn’t wear a tux to a pool party, would you? By the same token, matching the shoe to the purpose is critical:

  • If you’re engaging in sporting pursuits, make sure that you wear the shoes designed for the relevant activity. Each sport involves unique foot mechanics, and the appropriate shoes are designed with those in mind. You’re going to look ridiculous playing tennis in footy boots, anyway!
  • If your occupation requires long periods of standing, or you’ve been lured into the standing desk craze, ensure your shoes have plenty of cushion support and a low to medium heel.
  • Conversely, if you spend most of your day sitting, something comfortable, light and breathable is your best option.

Don’t Be a Slave to Fashion

  • Ladies, I know you’re going to wear high heels at times. I get it. But if you must wear them, try not to do it when you’re standing for hours. If you have to walk from the car to the restaurant table and back again, it’s really ok, but if you wear them the whole of Cup Day, I promise you we’ll both know about it. My advice… try to limit them to occasions that won’t require much moving around or extended periods of standing and, if you do, be upfront with me. It’s easier to fix what hurts if I know why it started…
  • Ballet flats might be cute, but really the only thing they support is your appearance. Their best use is to keep in your handbag for when the heels get too much, which is actually not a bad place to keep them. I hope you’ll forgive me.
  • Thongs are great for the beach or the pool, but ideally not for walking the streets. The real problem is that having to grip when you walk just to keep them on not only alters the way your foot interacts with the ground. It can overwork the small intrinsic muscles that live between your metatarsal bones. And when they get overworked, they hurt!

The Perfect Fit

Identifying the right type of shoe is half the battle. The next critical issue is getting the right fit:

  • Your feet tend to swell later in the day, so this is the best time to try on new shoes. Give them a whirl in the morning and you might find yourself in tight situation when the sun goes down.
  • Your feet change shape and size over time, and it’s completely normal to have two feet of slightly different sizes. Even though you know your shoe size, it pays to re-measure your feet every time you visit the store.
  • Pay particular attention to the toe box. You want to ensure that it is long enough to allow at least a centimetre between the longest toe and the front of the shoe, and wide enough that the toes are not compacted or overlapping. Furthermore, the shoe should bend easily at the toe, but remain rigid at the arch to achieve the right balance of support and flexibility. High heels, I’m talking to you again!
  • When trying on shoes, wear good fitting socks that are appropriate for the activity for which the shoes will be worn.
  • Unless you know exactly what you’re getting, avoid purchasing shoes online as there’s no way to try them out and you’re more likely to suck it up and suffer through ill-fitting shoe torture, rather than go through the hassle of returning them.
  • Breaking in periods are one of my favourite myths. Breaking in periods for shoes are to a podiatrist what tooth fairies are to a dentist. We just smile quietly and get on with things. So when the admittedly well-spoken salesperson tries to explain that the shoes will feel good once you’ve worn them for a bit, don’t listen. The right shoe should be comfortable the moment you put it on. By all means, walk around a little to put them through their paces. However, if they don’t feel great right away, they’re the wrong pair for you. In fact, in some cases, particularly heels where the padding bottoms out after a few days, how it feels in the shop might be the best it ever feels, so take care out there.

Keep them Fresh

Wearing worn-out shoes can be just as harmful as a poor fit. You’ll know it’s time for a new pair If:

  • The heel is wearing away. Your body relies on the heel planting firmly and straight. A worn heel can result in the foot planting at the wrong angle, causing your arch to roll awkwardly.
  • The material has given to the point that there is too much room and your foot is slipping somewhat.
  • The arches are starting to flex, or the soles are worn and thinning.

With some common sense and care, you can ensure that your footwear not only looks the part but keeps you safe and healthy. If you’d like specific, tailored advice on the right shoe for you and your needs, feel free to book in an appointment with one of our expert Podiatrists. We’re here to help. And if you’re feeling really keen, talk to us about lacing techniques…

Back on Your Feet – Returning to Exercise After a Foot Injury

It wasn’t long ago that foot injuries weren’t taken too seriously. In fact no minor injuries were. It was a simpler time when we understood just little enough to not worry about what we put in our bodies, the atmosphere or on TV. If a bone wasn’t actually poking out at an angle, parents and coaches alike didn’t always rush you off to the doctor, because it was probably going to go away.  Except of course when it didn’t…

Fortunately, we live in more compassionate times. We also live in times that are overloaded with information, available anywhere at massively fast download speeds. It can lead to impatience, because your body has an irritating tendency to not rush healing, even though it knows how busy you in fact are! Thankfully, there are ways to help you spend less time in my office, unless you’re passing and want to use the coffee machine…

Keep It Low Impact

Your 5km jogs are out, so this is the perfect time to try some alternative forms of exercise that place minimal or no burden on your feet. Swimming, water jogging or pedaling on an exercise bike can all keep your heart and lungs pumping without excessive pressure on the extremities. Many Pilates and yoga stretches involve no foot pressure, so talk to an instructor about a program that works for you. If you’re into resistance training, seated upper-body exercises are the way to go until you’re ready to put some weight back on your feet. Remember, this is a temporary thing, not a total lifestyle change, so if you treat it as such, it will be easier to do what you need to, to get better gradually.

Take It Slow

When you’re feeling like you’re on the mend, it’s tempting to throw yourself right back into your routine. This approach can have serious consequences and lead to re-injury or long-term damage. Just because it feels better, don’t be fooled into thinking your body is fixed. It simply doesn’t need to restrain you by hurting as much. It figures you knew that. When you’re ready to reintroduce load-bearing exercise into your schedule, a good rule of thumb is to start with 50% of your original capacity, then work your way up by 10-15% per week until you’re back at your peak. If it hurts, dial the pressure down a notch and try again next time.

Stretch

Just because you aren’t putting direct pressure on your feet, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t putting indirect pressure on the injury site. Tighter muscles, which come from using them and allowing them to shorten, means that there is still traction from the tendon insertions on your foot bones and this can exacerbate the problem, assuming of course that wasn’t the original problem in the first place (plantar fascia and achilles tendon, I’m talking to you…). A simple increase in stretching, especially in this awesome freezing weather can make all the difference.

The Right Gear

Your beaten-up old runners spell trouble as you work towards recovery. Ensure your feet are protected with good-quality, comfortable shoes with plenty of cushioning and support to reduce impact and jarring. Custom-made orthotics can also provide additional support as you ramp your way back up to full activity. In the midst of Winter, make sure your muscles are kept warm too, so they have more adaptability when you’re working out.

Hydrate

Water is a crucial part of aiding your recovery. It is the primary means through which nutrients and oxygen are transported to the injured area, both of which are required for damaged tissue to heal. Adequate hydration will greatly assist your body as it works on healing itself.

A foot injury doesn’t have to spell doom for your fitness regime. With careful planning and care, you can be back to your best before you know it. For everything in the meantime, we’re here to help.

Frostbitten – The Essential Guide to Winter Foot Care

Be careful what you wish for – that’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way this year. After sweating through what seemed to be the stifling summer that never ended and the autumn that never happened, I found myself praying for winter’s arrival with blessed relief. I should have known better. Melbourne weather, on the other hand, has a way of exacting sweet revenge from those that mock it, and has it ever hit back with gusto!

Icy mornings and shivering nights don’t just play havoc with your heating bills. They can be surprisingly harsh on your feet. With the thongs and sandals firmly ensconced in the back of the shoe cupboard, our feet see far less light of day, and there can be a tendency to neglect them. If your feet are not exactly feeling the love this winter, here is the definitive guide to how you can keep them happy and healthy during the cold months:

Cream of the Crop

Winter means more time inside with the heater blasting, which translates to dry skin. Your feet are no exception, and a daily application of moisturiser will help keep them hydrated and avoid cracked heels, corns and calluses. Spending a few extra minutes massaging the cream into your feet thoroughly will have the added benefit of stimulating circulation, which promotes general foot health, especially If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic.

Southern Exposure

We get it. It’s cold, and the very last thing you want to do is to kick off those toasty Uggs and go au naturale. Nevertheless, your feet need to breathe, and even as little as 20 minutes a day can be sufficient to keep excess sweating, bacterial and fungal infections at bay. As unappealing as this might sound, take a deep breath and grit your teeth. It’s character building!

Shoddy Treatment

You’d be amazed how many people fail to make appropriate footwear choices in winter. Happy feet need sturdy shoes that keep them warm and dry, yet allow room to breathe. If you don’t have space to wiggle your toes, then switch to a pair that does. Additionally, it’s crucial to ensure that you have multiple pairs of shoes that fit this bill. The extra warmth can cause moisture to accumulate, increasing the risk of tinea and other infections. Switch your shoes out regularly and ensure that they have sufficient time to air out before the next wearing.

Dry Humour

The cold snap has not brought with it much rain, but trust me, it’s coming. When it does, it’s critical to ensure that you keep your feet as dry as possible. If you’re caught in a downpour or accidentally step into a puddle that soaks right through, be sure to change your shoes and socks as soon as you can.

Move It!

As tempting as it is to spend your time curled up under a cosy blanket with a hot cup of tea, staying active is a great way to promote foot health. Increased activity means improved circulation and reduced foot and ankle swelling. If you’re stuck behind a desk all day, take a few moments every day to do some foot exercises to get the blood pumping.

Material World

Synthetic socks are one of your feet’s worst enemies, and never more so than in winter. Always opt for socks made with natural fibres such as wool or cotton. Such materials are far more breathable and will counteract any build-up of moisture that would otherwise have been trapped by synthetic fibres.

With a little bit of common sense and a decent serving of care and attention, your feet can stay in outstanding shape and be ready for action once flip-flop season returns!

Hand me some tissues

I enjoy talking to people. Really, I do. You should see what I do for a hobby. But when I talk during the day, I have a lot of similar conversations and I promise, it’s not because of you. It’s not you at all. It’s me. I’m a podiatrist. And the conversation goes something like this…

“It still hurts. It’s not as bad as it was but I thought it would be better by now”

And there it is. The great dissonance between what you expected and what I knew beforehand was going to happen. Like I said, it’s not you, it’s me. When you do something long enough, you can forget that people who don’t do what you’re doing are not always so casually aware of what to expect. I should know. I was the same not so long ago…

About half my lifetime ago, I used to try and make people happy and of course, which can be a problem when dealing with people in pain. What I didn’t understand until much later, after I started my practical surgical training, is that different types of tissue within your body heal at different rates. It revolves around a couple of things but I’ll summarise for you so you can get a few sneaky tips to help the process along.

To give you a basic idea, in a healthy young adult, skin heals in about 10-15 days. Bone takes 8 weeks to get full strength. Muscle fibres take three weeks, but muscle tendon, as well as ligaments can take 14 weeks. Seriously, 14 weeks! And nerves can take up to two years. It’s crazy, isn’t it?

So when you have a newly minted practitioner, as I was late last millennium, you can feel like a failure if the person’s foot still hurts two weeks after they got their orthotics. I often did in fact, made worse by the juxtaposed success stories of patients I’d “cured”, largely because they were probably less acute to start with. The reason tissues heal at different rates is largely due to four key things. Tweak any of these and you’ll either help yourself tremendously, or wreck it for months.

  1. Blood supply is crucial for healing. Your circulatory system transports everything that has any relevance in your body, from oxygen to sugar to inflammatory markers, so if you want something to heal, blood supply is crucial. Did you know there are nine separate tiny blood vessels inserting into the head of your first metatarsal? (It’s true. They go in through little channels called Volkmann Canals. You are so going to clean up if Trivial Pursuit makes a comeback…). Key lesson: bone heals quickly.Now, your tendons and ligaments have much less active blood supply. Much of what they need has to diffuse in from surrounding tissues in the same compartment. Suddenly, not healing so quickly…If you want to speed up the process, get more blood there. You can do this using heat, massage, rubefacients like Deep Heat and Metsal (things that make the skin go pink when you rub them on).. the list is extensive and being a blog, I shouldn’t really give you definitive advice, but you get the general idea.
  1. Tissue stress. This one is actually much simpler than it sounds. The more pressure on the injured tissue, the harder it is for the body to heal it. Imagine a bucket with a leak. You can keep pouring water in, but the leak will still be there until you stop adding more water and patch the hole. Then you can start to fill it again. It’s the same if you have ankle pain but you love running, so you keep exercising on it without actually allowing time to heal. I know it’s my job to help you, but only to help. We’re partners in this part.. So if you want to run faster, longer and more often for years to come, dial back the frequency, distance and intensity now so your body’s maintenance crew has some time to catch up. Comprende? Excellent.. Rest. You’ll feel better and you’ll perform better later. That’s just how it works.
  1. How long you’ve had the problem. A funny thing happens when you injure yourself. Your body tries to heal up, whether you like it or not. It does this in different ways, but mostly it tries to get you out of your own way. It’s a bit like diplomacy and like diplomacy, it’s rarely recognised by the person it’s used on. Namely you. The longer you try and heal, the more your body will tend to scar. If you immediately deal with a small problem, it has a much better chance of healing quicker and cleaner, a bit like when you stitch a wound together. Contrast this with a wound you leave open and you’ll have some idea of what I mean. It still heals, only much messier, uglier and longer before the process is finished. Essentially, the longer you leave something, the more scar tissue will be laid down inside as your body attempts to settle the problem down. This falls into the category or “you should probably come in for a chat”, but it at least outlines that if you’ve had the problem for 3 years, expecting it gone in 3 weeks might be ever so slightly unrealistic. 4 weeks maybe…
  1. What you do about the problem. Some people immediately come in for a consult. Others pop off to yoga, pilates, osteopathy, the anti-inflammatory aisle, acupuncture, the GP… everything will have some effect, but target it wisely and you’ll get better quicker. It’s just that simple. None of you would see a chiropractor about your toothache. You need a dentist. So why wouldn’t you see a lower limb person about your ankle/knee/heel pain? The current research suggests that patients have better outcomes, at a lower long term financial and emotional cost when they see people who are more like machines. This doesn’t mean no bedside manner. What it means is someone who does the same small group of things, over and over and over again, perfecting them, understanding them and gradually racking up mastery of them.

I’m thinking from next year, I might only do the right foot. Any questions…?

So you’re not a morning person…?

A friend of mine is a poker player. Not the Saturday night beer kind, but the World Series, minimum buy-in, weeks a year in Vegas kind. The sort who’s more interested in people than cards, because the cards are hard to control, but people.. people are another story entirely. People have their habits, their giveaways, their little, seemingly individual quirks of behaviour.. their “tells”.

Tells exist outside of poker too and you’d be surprised how attuned you can be to them. Think about it the next time you get a sense that the person you’re talking to at a barbecue isn’t really into your pet subject, but still smiles politely and says “tell me more” with zero conviction.

Tells are why I know with a reasonable degree of certainty that when a Google printout unfolds from one of my patients’ handbags, there’s a better than reasonable chance that we’re discussing heel pain after we’re done with the pleasantries.

The most popular search result is usually plantar fasciitis, an inflammatory, painful, hugely frustrating condition that seems to strike out of nowhere and overstay its welcome like an uninvited guest who saps your energy and monopolises your time. And it just seems like it isn’t going anywhere. Ever.

There can be a couple of reasons for this, but if you take nothing else away from this article, know this. You will feel better. When and how.. well, you’ll need to read slightly more and, you know, perhaps also do some stuff about it as well. Sorry about that. I’d do it for you if I could.

So as I was about to say, the first and perhaps most important aspect to your healing process is knowing what’s actually wrong. It sounds overly simplistic, but a couple of years ago I started counting the different causes of heel pain, so I could use them as an example. It was meant to be a harmless exercise. Until I gave up at 35… That’s right.. there are more than 35 possible reasons why your heel could be hurting and only one of them is plantar fasciitis. Also, don’t be too fussed if you have an x-ray and see a nice pointy spur on the base of your heel. This is very, very, very rarely the cause of your problem. Allow me to explain what it’s doing there.

There is a principle known as Wolf’s Law, whereby bone will lay down new bone in areas where it’s under pressure. It’s the exact opposite if there is no pressure, which is why every space station has had a gym. What’s the link? Weightlessness for long periods means that astronauts, normally some of the fittest humans from Earth, progressively lose bone density because there is so little pressure on them. At the base of your heel, the opposite problem is depositing calcium.

The spur itself is simply a ledge of sorts, but seen from the side. When you have excessive stress on the tissue, usually around the origin point of some of the foot’s small muscles, the bone lays down extra reinforcement to protect itself from the muscle trying to pull away. That reinforcement, projecting out from the underside of the heel is what looks spur-like on your fetching new black and whites.. Remember, you can’t see muscle on an x-ray, but you can see the bone lying on top of them. The only time a heel spur is causing pain is if it’s actually broken (making it a fracture), or so gigantic it’s squashing other things.

So now that we know it’s not the spur sticking in, why does it hurt so much in the morning? As it turns out, the calcaneus, your heel bone, has a number of things attached to it, foremost amongst these your Achilles tendon. Your calf muscle, like all muscles really, shortens when it’s not under tension, so when you get out of bed, or get up after sitting for ages (because reality tv always goes overtime. Always.) By shortening the calves attaching to the back of your heel, the smaller, weaker tissues on the other side of it are placed under tension. If it was a workplace, we’d call it a power imbalance and union reps would be called in but for now, you’ve had your first big clue about how to ease this off.

Stretch. Specifically, stretch your calves, not your foot. Now of course, you do still need to see a professional and make sure that’s what you have, for the sake of not missing the big, important, nasty things, but if it feels better after stretching there’s a good chance you don’t have one of those. Also I’m not suggesting that stretching will make it better. It won’t replace proper long term strategies like orthotics, footwear changes and so forth.. but I am suggesting it will make you FEEL better. And like my poker playing friend and the reality tv you were watching when it started to hurt as you went for the fridge in the ad break, it’s how you feel that counts right now.