This summer, my family embarked on an action-packed 10 days in London and Paris. It was my daughter’s first trip out of the country so, peak tourism season be damned, we hit up the major sites. That led to a lot of walking and standing. My leg/ankle/foot, aptly named “The Doppler” due to it’s weather predicting capabilities, were definitely feeling the effects.
Traveling with an ankle fusion means dealing with constant pain and swelling. I have to plan sitting breaks and find ways to prop up my foot when it starts “talkin’ to me.”
Basically, the Doppler is a fickle travel buddy.
Our family travel style is hit-the-ground-running and get the most bang for our buck. We prefer to use public transportation, for the experience and to spare some costs, so there is a lot of walking involved.
Lugging suitcases through the streets, standing at bus stops, up and down stairs to the subway, hustling to catch a train – they all add up to a rich experience but it takes a toll on my foot.
I was putting in no fewer than 18,000 steps and 10-20 flights of stairs per day. I had at least three consecutive days of 20k steps. I developed a blister on my toe during the last few days of our trip. I began to worry that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with our fast-paced adventure. It’s challenging enough on healthy feet! I didn’t want to be the one holding us back.
I took a breath and tried not to stress. Here are a few things I did to save my feet:
Footwear. This is obvious but key. It’s tricky to coordinate my “comfy” shoes with travel outfits, especially when your shoes are complicated like mine . When going to the theater or out to a nice dinner, I’m not going to wear my tennies. A few months back I bought silver Birkenstocks, which are basically my version of a dress shoe. Those in rotation with a tennis shoe and a pair of Adidas gave me options for different looks yet still comfortable.
Rotation. I tried to pack light but I need shoe options. My foot feels different everyday so it’s hard to predict which shoe will feel good on any given day. I typically pack three — one pair in my carry on, one in the suitcase and I wear a pair on the plane.
Changing shoes throughout a day of sightseeing was helpful when I felt blisters coming on. If I wore tennis shoes during the day, I would put the Birks on at night. Many times we were gone all day, so I brought an extra pair with me. A little bulky in the backpack but worth it.
Soaking. Luckily we had bathtubs in both of our Airbnbs. After a full day of traipsing around the city in hot weather (not much A/C in Europe) I would get home and run cold water over my feet. I would follow that up with a soak in warmish water for 10 minutes*.
*Epsom salt would’ve taken my soak up a notch. Adding a cup or so to a warm bath helps with pain and swelling.
Elevation. I like to elevate my leg at night to reduce swelling and promote good circulation. This was especially necessary when we spent hours walking through the Louvre and touring the Palace of Versailles.
Piggybacks. Last but not least, my husband is a true Boy Scout. He carries my bags and always holds out an arm when I’m climbing stairs or hopping off a bus. Most importantly, he offers piggybacks anytime, anywhere. 90% of the time I don’t partake (I’m embarrassed). However, by the end of our first full day in Paris, day six of our European trip, I took him up on it.
We were almost home and I couldn’t muster another step. I hopped on, skirt and all, and was so grateful that he is always game (and our daughter is always ready with her camera).
When I was injured at 23, I thought I was facing a life of wheelchairs, scooters and sedentary activities. Doctors told me I’d deal with chronic pain and walking difficulties for the rest of my life. I never thought I’d be able to enjoy traveling.
My car accident happened 15 years ago today. It’s the Doppler anniversary! I do face chronic pain and walking difficulties. However, I’ve learned a few things: life goes on, you adapt and try not to sell yourself short.
Plan trips; Test your limits; Sit when you need to.
And never turn down a piggyback.