ExerciseGeneral HealthInjuryJust Posted


While taking my morning walk, I was pondering the elements of safe passage. Though newly retired, I am acutely aware of the things which can result in a visit to the orthopedic surgeon. Before retirement, I might have prayed for the population to suffer the obstacles, weak bones, and ridiculously unsafe shoes; the prerequisites to a prosperous orthopedic career. But now my objective is to stay out of the office, and most definitely…the ER. Yours should be too.

I wear supportive shoes. I don’t own flip flops. And I do not wear these soft form “jogging” shoes, which give absolutely no support to the arch, and shortly after purchase, begin to collapse in the squishy sole, giving no cushion to the aging foot. In combination with a woman’s diminishing bone density, my gut tells me they contributed to the rash of stress fractures I’d seen in women over forty, especially in the past 10-15 years.

I don’t power walk. In the elderly, this can trigger the pain of an arthritic condition, which might have been sitting dormant for many years, and could have otherwise remained so. Power walking is also associated with a plethora of repetitive strain disorders like hip bursitis, gluteal tendonitis, and Achilles tendonitis, to name of few of these disabling conditions. I practice what I preach. SLOW DOWN. There is no reason to walk fast. Tell your walking buddies to slow down too. Think about the primitive walker, as I often do. They certainly didn’t run for exercise! They were starving most of the time, and had to save the energy to run in order to kill or avoid being killed. Walk at a comfortable pace. We’re hunter-gatherers from the beginning.

I maintain as close to a “youthful gait” as I can, extending each leg out in front of me, which requires a modicum of balance while one leg is off the ground. This gets harder and harder to do as we age, and the many factors which contribute to that “old-lady-gait” begin to take their toll; poor vision, peripheral neuropathy, internal ear issues, weakness, and pain. All of a sudden you notice that you walk like your mom did when she was 90! But you get there slowly. It does not happen overnight.

I try to walk on a somewhat flat surface, in order to minimize stresses to my knees and hips.

I scan the ground, watching for those obstacles which cause so many people to trip, fall and break their hips and wrists.

So, I’m walking along, with a healthy, relatively youthful, strong, but methodical gait, avoiding all obstacles, in a supportive pair of Hokas. It’s a pleasant hike. In my peripheral vision, there is a truck parked on the side of the road. An obstacle, yet a big one, which I will simply walk around. Fortunately, I looked up as I approached it. Otherwise I would have impaled my face and neck on the bundle of PVC pipe sticking five feet out the back of the bed. One more thing to worry about…

To be honest, we should be mindful…not fearful. I can’t stress this enough. In the past month, I’ve had two friends fall and break their hips. This injury has the potential to be life changing…or worse. Let’s none of us fall or impale ourselves this year. It’s my goal for us.

    1. Barbara

      It’s hard to say exactly which shoe I recommend, because with “jogging” shoes, there are different constructs for different kinds of feet. I always recommend that you try to find a store which will do a gait assessment. Of course, not all communities will have these kinds of stores. Mostly important, it to try on the shoe, and spend some time walking around the store before buying. Most stores will refund your money, if you find that 3 months later, the shoe is causing pain. If you feel any strain or pain in the shoe when you try it on in the store, do not buy it. This will only get worse. Also, check out my blog post on diabetic socks. Very important.

  1. Debra Boone

    Thanks for the resourceful tips about walking pace. I recently had total knee replacement surgery (2 weeks) and am anxiously waiting to recover and begin morning walks with my husband. I have been mostly buying Vionic shoes with support for over 15 years. I am opened to looking at other support brands. I will also be more mindful of wearing the flip flops. Thank you for these great tips. I miss you dearly as my Othopedic doctor. Enjoy retirement and please keep blogging.

    1. Barbara

      I will keep blogging, and much more regularly now that I’m retired and have (for the time being), a little more time on my hands. I’m glad you had your knee replaced, and are looking forward to getting back to “normal.” Follow your surgeon’s and therapist’s instructions, and be the over-achiever I know you are! You’ll be back to walking for exercise soon! Ditch those flip-flops forever! Just this morning, I went out to take care of something in my yard, and had to pull on my Keen sandals. For a brief moment, I was wishing I had a pair of flip-flops, but I truly do not own a single pair.

  2. Courtney Barry

    Thank you, Thank you! Dr. Bergin for speaking at the AGE conference. We all loved what you had to say. We- guess I’m speaking for the crowd- all loved that you could address these issues directly AND with such humor. ( I was the one who gave a comment about my former male OBGYN, and leakage- the last question/comment I think in your panel.)

    At your clinic I have seen Dr. Danney and (formerly Dr. DeHart).

    You should be the next Oprah–

    1. Barbara

      Thank you for your kind words Courtney! I enjoyed participation in the panel discussion and I hope the attendees all took home a little something which will help them in the future! I’m also glad you have had some positive experiences at Texas Orthopedics…my baby!

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