Alleviating Foot Pain - KURU Atom Trail Shoes
The Damage Done
I vividly remember the day I damaged my left foot. It was several years ago. I was prepping for a fall moose hunt in western Canada, one that could involve considerable hiking. I needed a degree of fitness that was getting increasingly difficult to obtain as I approached age 60. A year earlier, I bought a quality home elliptical machine, hoping to help me stay in halfway decent shape throughout the year. I also liked that I could train on it in the comfort of my air-conditioned home during the sometimes-oppressive heat and humidity of Virginia’s summers.
One day, I decided to hop on the elliptical for a 60-minute workout. I turned on the TV and climbed aboard the elliptical – barefoot. I figured what the heck, people from other countries run the equivalent of marathons barefoot. What can it hurt? Turns out, it can hurt plenty, especially to feet like mine that never experienced that degree of effort barefoot. Walking on beaches, it seems, isn’t the same as trying to nug through an elliptical program featuring regular changes in resistance and elevation, all designed to push your body to better fitness.
About 30 minutes in, my left foot began aching. I chalked it up to the old saw, “Pain is weakness leaving your body.” I’d push through the pain, finish the program, pop a couple ibuprofen and then give the foot a little rest. Fifteen minutes later, I had to quit. Stepping off the machine and placing my foot on the ground resulted in severe pain. “What the hell did I just do to myself?” I wondered. I could barely walk for a couple days. Nothing helped. I made an appointment with a podiatrist in a medical operation specializing in orthopedic surgery. The doctor diagnosed a “Morton’s Neuroma,” a condition caused by severe irritation to the nerves in the ball of the foot. The surrounding tissue thickens. It most commonly occurs between the third and fourth toes. The KURU graphic below illustrates.
A few years earlier, I experienced another condition called Plantar Fasciitis, a condition resulting in extreme foot pain, especially when I first stepped from bed in the morning. It’s the most common source of heel pain in the United States. This chronic condition develops when the fibrous band of tissue under your feet—the “plantar fascia”—becomes irritated and inflamed. I attribute that condition to a pair of cheap rubber hunting boots that I wore extensively for an entire spring. Arch support was nearly nonexistent. Daily stretching exercise and foot relaxation steps, such as soaking, eventually saw it subside.
I wasn’t getting off so easily with the neuroma. First, to alleviate the often-intense pain I was feeling, I received a cortisone and anesthetic injection directly through the top of my foot. Yeah – big needle! I was then told I would need to wear adhesive, felt supports on the bottom of my foot, placed between the third and fourth toes. This has helped for years, although the condition remains. There are times when various styles of footgear seem to exacerbate the pain.
Footgear – Fit, Form and Function
My condition has meant that I can no longer endure hours of work in substandard footwear. No prolonged periods on ladders with shoes with flimsy soles. Even driving a vehicle with crappy shoes or my beloved summertime sandals can become a problem within a couple of hours.
Now, boots must fit me, literally, like a glove. I detest boots or shoes where the interior feels mostly flat. I know my feet won’t get the support needed for the long-haul stuff I want to do. My shoes and boots must have adequate, well-positioned arches. Same with my regular shoes – walking, light hiking, day-to-day gear. The shoes doing the best are ones that are more robust, designed for trails.
Enter KURU, a Salt Lake City company making highly engineered, supportive footwear with loads of patented features. A company representative asked if I wanted to try their new Atom Trail shoe. The Atom Trail feels and looks like a sneaker, a robust but comfortable sneaker. I’ve worn sneakers that didn’t fit well and required additional arch supports and cushioning, especially during the plantar fasciitis days. KURU’s shoes fit snugly, but comfortably. They make something called adaptive heel cushioning. A patented KURUSOLE cups your heel and flexes with each step. This design helps contain and protect the heel’s natural fat pad, reducing impact. You can feel it as soon as you put them on.
The arch support, at first, seemed just a little too far back for my liking, but after following the shoe’s break-in instructions for a couple days, the positioning seemed to adjust, with the inner midsole portion of the shoe now form-fitting my foot.
The Atom Trail has a multi-directional tread design, geared to provide stability whether you’re moving up or down hilly surfaces. The uppers are made from abrasion-resistant, breathable mesh. But they do keep dirt and dust out. They also have a protective toe bumper because, let’s face it, you will stub things while walking.
After wearing them for a month, including some aisle time at both the National Wild Turkey Federation and Safari Club International conventions in Nashville, plus a walking-intensive trek to New Orleans that encompassed 11 miles in two days, the shoes are performing flawlessly. Even after the heaviest day, walking 7 miles, I didn’t get any of the aches associated with the neuroma.
How do they look? Well, checking into a Marriott property one evening, the first thing the young lady said was, Good-looking shoes!” I don’t think she had shoe envy but was genuinely telling the old man that she approved of the footgear.
Foot Problems Common
KURU has compiled a mountain of data outlining the extent of foot problems in America. The survey data they present is based on a sample of 6,030 American adults, aged 18 years and older, who reported experiencing foot pain within the last 12 months (January–December 2022). The survey has margin of error of +/- 1.66% and a confidence level of 99%. That’s pretty good.
It was interesting to learn that 6% of the survey respondents reported having Morton’s neuroma. Some 45% reported plantar fasciitis. Contributing medical experts said plantar fasciitis was 1 of 3 most common types of foot pain in patients. Overall, 8 in 10 Americans reported ongoing foot pain. A total of 69% of survey respondents report using an orthotic or insert, 43% of respondents report using physical therapy, and 72% of respondents report using ice to deal with foot conditions or pain. These measures were deemed somewhat beneficial, but not on a huge scale, with people rating most close to the middle of a 1-4 range in terms of effectiveness.
Foot pain impacts your quality of life. I know. You don’t get around as well, exercise is difficult or impossible, you lose muscle strength, have trouble sleeping and tend to eat more. The study also noted that people who experience foot pain were more likely to have other health concerns, like aches and pains in their knees, hips and back.
The American Podiatric Medical Association report found that 66% of women and 62% of men want shoes to be more comfortable. A KURU study found that 88% of adults buy shoes with foot pain in mind.
The Journal of Foot and Ankle Research published a study noting that there are some consistent footwear attributes that constitute a comfortable shoe. A comfortable shoe is deemed to be one that: fits appropriately; uses softer, more compliant materials in the upper, midsole, and insole; has a lower heel elevation; and is lightweight.
Anyone who has worked with me or followed me over the 30 years, dating back to when I led panel gear reviews for military-affiliated publications, knows I don’t make ringing endorsements of anything I didn’t get to try. I believe I’ve given these shoes, expressly designed to help alleviate foot pain, a good test. How they’ll hold up after six months to a year is to be determined. I tend to be hard on stuff. For now, though, they get a big thumbs up for the perceived quality, innovative construction and, really, the comfort they afford while hoofing it through the fields or city streets.
At about $160 a pair, the KURU products are comparatively expensive to discount shoes or even other premium trail shoe models. But, for someone on his or her feet a lot and trying to deal with chronic foot pain issues, the money may well be worth it. The shoes are warranted for repair or replacement for six months after purchase. KURU offers free standard shipping and $30 two-business-day express shipping. For more information or to order or text or chat with a “KURU guru” call 877-211-5878. You can also order through www.kurufootwear.com.