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Shoeing away my MS

By Dan Digmann
I know that my time is limited, and I will easily get replaced by another one just like me.

Doesn’t matter. I’m grateful for this current opportunity to serve.

Of all the footwear that lined the shelves at Dick’s Sporting Goods, Dan picked me. Well, me, along with my brother, Righty. I’m Lefty, and together we are a pair of shark gray Asics Gel Venture 8 running shoes highlighted with black and orange accents.

We take great pride in gloating that we truly had Dan at “Hello.” We quickly learned more about who he is and the specifics behind our humbling responsibility of helping Dan safely get from one place to another. 

You see, Dan has multiple sclerosis, which partly explains why he was drawn to Righty and me with our orange-style stripes. Orange is the common color associated with MS.

Weaker left side

Beyond the fashion statement, having the correct pair of shoes is important for all people. This is even more vital when they are living with a chronic condition such as MS. Shoes help with everything from providing proper support to maintaining balance and improving gait. 

I instantly figured something was up when Dan opened up our shoebox and instead of first trying on Righty to see how we’d feel, he first tried me on for size. Me! For whatever reason, people usually treat me as an afterthought when they try on shoes. But not with Dan. 

Because of his MS, he is weaker on his left side. That’s why I, Lefty, had the first and final say. He had to make sure I was the best fit first. 

Do you know how awesome I was? Dan laced me up, took seven steps around the Dick’s shoe department, showed me off to his wife, Jennifer, threw me back in the shoebox, and the deal was done. He didn’t even need to try on Righty. #ItWasAllMe

Put through their paces

This was all well and good, but I truly had no clue what I was in for being the weak-side shoe for a person with MS. Sure, I’ve heard stories of the workouts other Asics running shoes have had with long distance runners, but I would love to have any of them walk a mile in, well, me and Righty.

It. Is. Challenging.

I mean, we aren’t putting in the miles like the other shoes do, but we’re definitely getting put through the paces. We’ve served Dan for a little more than a year and probably haven’t had to log more than 50 miles total. But I look like I should have put in at least 500 with the wear and tear on my first toe sole. 

When Dan gets tired, he starts dragging his left foot. Because of this, I bear the brunt of Dan’s fatigue. Righty gets it and feels for me, so he does what he can to give me extra leverage and traction to help propel Dan’s weakened left leg forward.

And it’s not like Dan isn’t doing what he can to strengthen his legs and feet to fend off his left-side fatigue. He regularly:
  • Stretches his hamstrings, calves, and feet
  • Does stationary squats and toe raises
  • Massages the arches of his feet to ease the tension
  • Rotates between sitting and standing at his desk during the workday

Returning to what was comfortable

I’m cheering for Dan because I know now how relentless MS can be for even the most active of athletes. I learned that Dan once was a runner but had to give it up because his weakened left foot had clipped too many bumps along the running route, and he had fallen one too many times. It wasn’t safe anymore. 

You know what kind of shoe he used to run in? That’s right. I come from a long line of Asics in Dan’s history. After he had stopped running, Dan’s podiatrist had recommended using a different brand. Dan followed the foot doctor’s orders the past couple years, but I don’t think they were working for him, so, he returned to what was comfortable.

Or, maybe, Dan was just longing for the days before MS took away his ability to run. 

Either way, I’m just grateful for this current opportunity to serve a person who is living with MS.