Friday, October 15, 2010

Confession: I do love my STRUTZ ®

**Footnote Below**

I have plantar fasciitis (which I can spell but still can't pronounce correctly). My plantar fasciitis is exacerbated by all of the silly things I tend to do to myself  - like standing on concrete and packed ground for two-three hours at a time while I'm teaching and then running around on said surfaces. I also prefer to walk around barefoot or sock-foot anytime when shoes aren't entirely necessary (home, work, etc). So I've basically created my own problem....

SuperFeet Brand Insoles - Berry
I have tried a few different kinds of shoes and orthotics - including a very expensive set of custom orthotics. I found that the Superfeet Brand insoles (I have a set of the berry) worked pretty well in my sneakers at agility trials - but I still couldn't wear the sneakers all day without sore feet at the end of the day. I'd resorted to wearing Crocs - almost 24/7. Crocs flip-flips, Crocs Clogs, Crocs work shoes, etc. I had them all.

Crocs - also in "Berry"
Yes, I know how totally UGLY and stupid looking Crocs are - and I know they look like clown shoes (even the khaki, blue and black colored ones) - but I could teach all day in my crocs and still comfortably work my own dogs afterwards. That was far more important to me than looking fashionable in the grocery store and in all honesty when it's raining, muddy or when I just need to slip something on at a hotel to take the dogs out one last time before bed, Crocs are incredibly practical for utilitarian purposes.

So my routine has been to teach, setup and walk courses in my crocs - toss my sneakers on before warming Teller up and then slip back into Crocs when I'm done. It's not a perfect system - but it's worked for me. Then I kept seeing that silly commercial for Strutz® - You know the commercial right? The dancing kangaroo-type critter, bouncing around singing: "My feet hurt, your feet hurt, factory worker or tourguide, white hot pain I want to cry, is there anything I can try? OH YES! My feet don't hurt, your feet don't hurt. Got Patent-Pending Arch Support with Strutz Sole Angels arch comfort - They're the human shock absorber. Love my Strutz, Love my Strutz. The best thing since sliced bread, they heal pain from toes to head, get yours now your doctor said...." If it's not burned into your brain and you're at all tempted I've posted the commercial below - if you're so inclined you can download the ring-tone from the Strutz homepage:

So I went out and bought a pair. What the heck, the retail price on a pair (Sole Angels or Beach Walkers) from Kinney Drugs was about $20 (with tax). My custom orthotics cost about $200, my Superfeet insoles cost about $50 (plus shipping). If they work as well - or even half as well advertised they've got to be worth a try right? So I stopped in to buy a pair. I had to choose between the Sole Angels (standard fabric and neoprene-like fabric) or the Beach Walker - I decided on the Sole Angel - though the Beach walker (plastic) has some potential for summer and outdoor applications - though I'm not sure I'd wear the plastic (even the clear) version with flip-flops or sandals - but in the grand scheme of things it's no more clown-like than wandering around in Crocs right? Stutz can be worn under or over socks - that's a whole new set of fashion faux-pas waiting to happen...

My first impression was overall positive. There's a green side (Kermit color) and a black sueded type side. Green goes up and the sueded side goes down - and is somewhat tacky - good grip on the floor. Once they were on I took a few steps and had to readjust them - there's definitely a place where they go (behind the ball of the foot but not too close to the heel) and about 15 places where they don't feel so great. The funny thing is that I gave myself permission to walk barefoot for the first time in MONTHS and it didn't feel weird to do so!

The Strutz Character...I'm not 
sure what he's supposed to
be - but he's pretty cute!
Now for a real test - can I wear them in my sneakers to set up for class? Yep, so far so good! I removed my superfeet insoles and my sneakers fit as though I wasn't wearing insoles at all. I'm actually thinking that I can go back to my Nike Air's now that I don't have to worry about rigid insoles inside my sneakers.

How'd they feel after three hours of teaching? I don't ever stand still while I'm teaching - I move around the room or the ring the whole time. After three straight hours of bouncing around behind my students (and an hour of setup beforehand) I was finally impressed with my Strutz. Not only did my feet feel good, but my posture was much improved as well.

But the proof is in the pudding isn't it. What's it like to run agility in them? Are my feet going to feel the impact against the arch support? Again, no problem...I got the custom orthotic feel, in a stable form-factor that's also light-weight. Even better, I don't need to move insoles from shoe to shoe. Win. Win. Win.

In my initial research I read some complaints online that the compression band was too tight at first - this was not my observation - though I did notice that the first couple of times I wore the "Sole Angels" that my feet were tired at the end of the day - but not sore - and my back was 100% better almost right away. I think the tired-ness was more of a factor of moving and using my feet differently than I'm used to. For the folks who thought Strutz were too tight, I wonder if they were wearing the strutz backwards? The packaging was not terribly clear which way Strutz should point.

Strutz Sole Angels. The pointy side
goes towards your heel.
I don't wear the band over socks - if you're committed to wearing thick athletic socks the band would almost certainly be too tight - or would bunched the sock in weird places. It's easy to just pull socks over the band. If you're worried about the band being on the skin I'd recommend a pair of knee-highs or some of the thin bootie type socks.

The fabric is treated with anti-microbial polymers - so the band is supposed to resist odors - I've had mine for a week and have washed mine every night before bed - but I haven't noticed the band retaining any kind of sock odor. Still to be determined is how long I can expect to use a pair of Strutz before I need to replace them. Once every 6-8 weeks isn't such a big deal at $20/each - but a pair every week or other week will become costly pretty quickly...

I'm not ready to give up my crocs - I don't want to get my Strutz wet and I wouldn't want to wear damp ones in the event that I got them wet (like wearing wet socks) - I hate wearing wet socks! I also don't think I'll want to wear the struts all day every day - and I'm really not too keen to wear sneakers all day either (that makes me a little claustrophobic actually).

I have three complaints: The first is that they do move a bit on my feet. If I'm barefoot (or sandals or crocs) I have to readjust them periodically - as they tend to slide towards the toes. The second is that they hold dog hair like no one's business - dog hair can work its way into the band fabric...Sure I have hairy dogs- but there's not THAT much dog hair around here...Lastly, I've found that if I wear STRUTZ with shoes that already have good arch support (like my Crocs) my knees will take the brunt of the double correction and my feet will be fine but I'll be reaching for the Aleve for my knees...

**Footnote - 12/23/2011:
I found that the strutz moved around enough that they tended to throw off my alignment - my feet would feel fine, but my knees would be achy, it took me a while to prove cause and effect to myself - but nevertheless. I eventually (a couple of weeks) only wore Strutz around the office over socks in lieu of barefeet (or sock feet) and then I ultimately stopped wearing them entirely (a month later) once I got my plantar fasciitis under control (would love to say RESOLVED). I still primarily wear crocs because that's what make my feet and alignment feel good - even if they are still horribly un-cool. I spent a good portion of the summer in Crocs' flip-flops - happily! I move my SuperFeet Berry insoles from sneaker to sneaker, but I don't swap out sneakers as often as you might think...So if the concept of Strutz appeals to you, try 'em - for $20 you don't have a lot to lose - I did not (in the long run) find them to be the magical fix to my plantar issues.

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