Showing posts with label Gear Modification. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gear Modification. Show all posts

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The curse of pointy heels: Modifying shoes for Haglund's deformity

First off, Haglund's deformity is an extra bony growth on the heel, typically a little lateral to the Achilles tendon. It is not to be confused with a heel spur which is under the foot. A technical definition of Haglund's deformity would be an abnormal prominence of the posterosuperior border of the calcaneous.

If you have this heel bump you may not have known the name, but you would have certainly felt it! It would have rubbed on your shoes and gotten inflamed, or maybe you repeatedly wear through the back of your shoes on the inside. Luckily, there is surgery available to correct this if it's really bothersome. The inflammation, a bursitis of the back of the heel, is called Haglund's syndrome. It's thought that the inflammation actually leads to the bony growth, not the other way around. Nonetheless, the rubbing and pain is worst in shoes with rigid heels.
Haglund's deformity *not my foot*

Since I figured out I was a little abnormal in 2013 (I can't believe it took that long either...) I've been modifying my shoes so that I don't wear out my heels or the backs of my shoes. I have two methods for this. The first method is to simply cut a hole in the back of my shoe where the growth on my heel is. This works, but it isn't pretty and wouldn't work well for trails. I've only done this modification once, on a pair of road shoes where the inside fabric was already wearing through (see below). Be careful with cutting through the hard plastic - I found cutting pliers can be useful, along with an x-acto knife/scalpel.

Method 1 - cut a hole and leave it open.
Sew around the edge if you want.
The second method has proven quite reliable and comfortable, though it involves a little more work. I cut in through the back of the shoe, snip out some of the hard plastic making sure to keep the inner fabric intact, then sew up the incision site. Step by step instructions follow below where I cut into a new pair of Altra Lone Peak 3.0's.

Keep in mind this may decrease the stability of the shoe. Also it will void your ability to return the shoes, which is a bit of a problem since this modification is best done when you first get the shoes and the inside fabric hasn't been worn at all.

Step 1 - draw on your cut.
Step 1 is to figure out where you're going to cut. For me this is a little lateral to midline, and about the middle third of the height of the shoe (2cm). At the top and bottom of this we need to cut left and right about 1 cm, making an "I". Ideally, the top incision should be just at the top of the hard plastic inside - you can feel this by bending the top of the heel of the shoe.

Step 2 is to cut! Cut in so that you get to the plastic, but don't go through it into the inner fabric.

Step 2 complete, ready for Step 3. White is plastic with
glued on layer of fabric.
Step 3 is to remove the plastic. Take care to separate the inner fabric from the plastic if it's glued on, that way you don't damage it. Use your knife or your snipping pliers to remove a "U" shaped piece of plastic approximately where your heel deformity is. Make sure the piece you're taking out is as large or larger than your bump.

Step 4 is to double check that enough plastic has been removed and in the right spot. So, put on your shoe and lace it up. Feel the back of the shoe for your heel bump relative to the area without plastic. If they don't line up or there is still some plastic rubbing your heel, take that out too.

All done. Not pretty, but it works!
Step 5 is to close it up and sew the flaps together. To ensure the flaps don't rip open I use upholstery thread (Tex 75) as it's super strong, though I'm sure normal thread would work too. As I'm sewing, I only go through the outer layers to keep the inner layer intact; this seems to do the trick. A pair of pliers can be handy if the shoe material takes a lot of effort to punch through with your needle/thread combo, just make sure to use non-cutting pliers! Also, to save time, only sew the vertical cut as the horizontal ones don't seem to matter much.

Now get out there and run!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Modification to my Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras

You may have read about the issues I was having with my new Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras staying in place on my Altra shoes in my recent gear review blog post. The problems I was having included: 1) the toe not staying in place and the toe-bar pressing in, 2) heel spikes not secure enough and 3) sides of upper rubber rolling upwards when tightened. I have now made some modifications to them and have solved numbers 1 and 2 above. Issue 3 is still a problem, but it's one I can live with. To allay any suggestions that I'm simply using the wrong size, I tried a medium pair as well and the rubber upper was too tight for my foot, plus the toe-bar issue was worse. An extra-large would have made issue 2 worse.

Issue with toe-bar of Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra
Previous location of the metal bar shown in green above.
Modification to Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra
New location of metal bar on R foot. Notice it's not symmetric.
In regards to issue 1 above, I  moved the front metal toe-bar from the top of the foot to the bottom of the foot. This wasn't all that easy since the metal is quite strong. I ended up having to use vice-grips and a small screwdriver to pry the loop closure open. Once unhooked it was easy to reposition and squeeze together the loop where I wanted it. The positioning of the bar is no longer symmetric (see the second image) as I wanted a perfect fit and that was the only way to get it. If you are trying this, be careful not to bend it too far as the metal may be on the brittle side.

I realize the purpose of the toe-bar was probably to keep the two front chains from moving too far to the side of the foot and allowing the shoe to slide forward, but in my experience they were doing this a little too well. The modification now allows the front chains to spread apart slightly more than before, while still keeping the foot from sliding forward.You can see this change in the pictures on the right.

Modification to heel chains of Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra
1 link removed from heel chains on both sides of crampons
The second issue of the heel spikes/chains being somewhat looser than ideal was solved by removing a chain link from both of the heel chains. This was even more difficult than the toe-bar modification as it required bending of 4 loops for each link I removed. Again, these links seem quite brittle. This isn't a bad thing given their need for strength, but it does make modification somewhat risky!

I still haven't come up with a way of fixing the third problem. It will have to be something that gets fixed with future generations of this product.

So, despite my complaints and the need to make some modifications to the toe-bar and the heel chains, I still really like these. Their traction is fantastic, and they're super light! Highly recommended!