different shoes

shoes

It is almost three and a half years since my stroke. Conventional wisdom about post-stroke recovery suggests that the first neurological adjustments and improvements after a brain injury are very rapid, and then tend to plateau off after the first six months. The importance of this “six month window” was often repeated to me by various medical practitioners, and I remember very clearly that one of my biggest fears in the weeks following my stroke was that, some point in the future, I was going to feel retrospectively guilty about not having done enough to maximise my recovery during that time. But every stroke is different, and looking back now, it seems to me that these arbitrary post-stroke “recovery windows” are really of most use to those involved in making ethical / financial decisions about resources and the provision of care. Telling someone who has just had a stroke that they have six months in which to complete the difficult work of neurological recovery to the best of their abilities is frankly not that helpful and can, as it did in me, heighten the general terror and desperation of what is already a pretty desperate time. Very little research exists into long-term post-stroke improvement, and, after the OTs and physios have done what they can, one is pretty much left to one’s own devices. But from my own entirely partial perspective I would say that, though the pace of recovery is certainly much slower long-term, one can still notice improvements two and even three years down the line. Though I am resigned to the fact that my damaged left leg is never going to enjoy running, and that my balance issues will probably always make riding a two-wheeled bicycle impossible, I still occasionally discover that I can do something now that I couldn’t say, six months or a year ago.

Footwear is incredibly important if you have a neurologically damaged leg and foot, and I have found that a really effective way of making improvements in my mobility is simply by changing shoes. A different pair of shoes can initially impede one’s mobility — the gait alters, the foot drags, the limb refuses to make the routine movements that it made just yesterday. But, although effectively heightening one’s own disabilites in this way can be both uncomfortable and annoying, walking in different shoes forces the damaged limb to adapt to different billateral rhythms and movements. The good limb also shows the bad how it has to deal with the minute alterations in weight and pressure forced upon it by its new environment. The good limb helps the bad one on its way.

I tend to walk around 4 miles a day, and until very recently, my choice of footwear was limited to sturdy boots with a lot of ankle support. I could certainly walk a little in flat shoes (with orthotics) but found it difficult and tiring. Often, after a mile or so in flats, my left leg would simply give up and revert to its dead, dropped state while the right one carried it hesitantly and judderingly along. Then, in February this year, I decided to try an experiment. I would alternate my footwear daily, completing my normal walking routes in several different pairs of shoes and boots, including flats. This wasn’t particularly easy, but I noticed that after just a couple of weeks that my left foot was adapting to the changes forced upon it more rapidly, and that I could walk further without problems in shoes I was unable to before. I also found that these continual changes and adaptations helped with other, non-walking activities, such as pointing my toes in order to put on a pair of socks or pants (a gesture I have found frustratingly impossible for the past three and a half years). Then I discovered that I was able to hop (albeit briefly and inelegantly) on my left leg for the first time since my stroke. I continued with the footwear changes: things continued to improve.

In March, I bought the pair of sandals that you see above (shamelessly copying Jen, who had recently acquired a pair). They are a great fit and very comfortable but when I first stuck my orthotics in and started to walk, my left foot flapped about, clown like, and after a mile or so I’d be limping and dragging the foot quite badly. But I gradually forced the unruly foot to adapt by including the sandals in my alternating-different-shoe routine. By April, they had become my go-to shoe, and since then, I’ve walked over 350 miles in them. Last week I encountered one of my good dog-walking buddies, an elderly gent, who I first met three years ago when I was still getting about with a leg brace. As we were passing the time of day, he remarked on how very much my walking seemed to have improved of late. I was aware of this, but it was nice to hear it. “I’ve just been wearing different shoes,” I said.

I am repeating this experience for those with brain injuries or other neurological impairments who have been told that their recovery period has a window, or that it is somehow at an end. I honestly don’t think that the work of neurological recovery or adaptation will ever be over for me. I will certainly keep forcing the parts of my body and brain that were damaged by the stroke to make whatever small improvements they can. I’ll keep on wearing different shoes.

Because I know you will ask, the sandals are made by Red or Dead, and are a style called “Jade”. The socks are a pair I knitted from Rowan Fine Art sock yarn, and are holding up remarkably well to their daily mileage.

119 responses

  1. Kate,
    I believe the body continues to heal and it’s, strong will, patience, and persistence, that facilitate change. You have mastered all three and will continue to make steps in the recovery direction. You’re remarkable :-) Have you tried yoga? It works on the nervous system and improves balance and functional strength. You can practice in the comfort of your own home, although a good teacher could make big difference. 6 months… blah, blah, blah…

  2. oh my god, it seems so simple when you say it – and it is true not just for stroke victims, but everyone – keep pushing yourself, trying new things, don’t give up, and you will be better off for it. Thank you so much for sharing. And I bet your walking improvement will flabbergast your therapists and doctors. How many people give up after the 6 months? What a shame.

  3. Keep it up ,Kate! You are so inspirational. Never give in, we’re all behind you! (Can’t keep up!!) love those shoes, just like we had every year in the summer, when I was at school.
    Love
    Mary

  4. I am going to share this information with a few folks I know to whom it will certainly be a source of hope and comfort. Thank you for sharing it….and congratulations on your progress. I’m so very happy to hear of it, and continue to admire your tenacity. I retired four years ago after 35 years as a teacher of children with severe intellectual disabilities. Last week I went back to attend a party for one of my former Special Ed students who was graduating. He got up at the classroom farewell party, gave a moving speech recognizing and thanking his teachers and expressing his love for his school and sadness at leaving. He then sang a song he had prepared for everyone. I was thinking to myself ‘he obviously did not read Chapter 8 of the Sp Ed textbook, because it states very clearly that he is not supposed to be able to make and execute such an appropriate plan’. Thank goodness he didn’t. There is just no telling what determination and spirit can overcome.

  5. Wow what a great inspiration you are to us all. I have been living with the threat of a stroke for over 20 years due to hypertension caused by pregnancy. Luckily for me the impending stroke gas been kept at bay……. I am overwhelmed by your work which is beautiful and can only encourage you onwards and upwards in your quest to overcome your issues….. Bon chance love the shoes . Sue

  6. I continue to be impress by your fortitude, Kate. I crushed my left wrist badly 8yrs ago and had Dr.’s state I’d be lucky to dress myself. Although it isn’t at all similar to having a stroke; I continue to see changes as well. I had a chiropractor tell me knitting was the best therapy and not to listen to Dr.’s who told me not to knit. My physiotherapist commented that each person is so individual in recovery, that to put a label/timetable on a client is completely unjustified! hurrah! He is a brilliant chap to say the least.

    When I asked several yrs. into recovery, if he’d thought at the start if I’d ever be able to use my hand in a normal way; he (bless him) still maintained that he has seen me do things that amaze him and he would never tell anyone what he thought they might accomplish; as we are all individual and we tackle challenges so differently, and he never says ‘never’ to any client. He just urges them onward and upward.

    I wish you continued success and much more wonderful recovery in your future, Kate.

  7. Great example of the brains ability to rewire and your ability to problem solve. Sounds like some drs need to catch up on the latest on neuroplasticity.

  8. Your recovery and post-stroke experiences would make an excellent book for families, caretakers, and those recovering from strokes. I directed an activities department in a nursing home and always questioned the “6 month window”. All the people I came in contact with were much older than you, but playing cards, being involved in crafts and taking part in exercise classes all helped improve motor skills even after six months.

    Thank you for posting your experiences!

  9. I have tears in my eyes – the good kind of tears you get when something has made you extraordinarily happy. I am going to read your post to my friend who is working on recovering from a brain injury caused by a tumour. It is such a hopeful post. Thank you for sharing with us!

  10. i really enjoy these posts, as i find them to be a wealth of understanding new perspectives on recovery and challenges. i love that you have challenged yourself in such a creative way and that i has helped you. very inspirational.
    looking forward to pictures of your new digs in the near future! <3

  11. Well done, Kate! You’ve found a way to continue your recovery and it makes sense to change shoes so your body can adapt. Keep walking! BTW, the shoes are great!

  12. This will sound strange, but I often think of you when I put on my shoes or buy a new pair. I really admired the way you shed those shoes which were no longer appropriate all that time ago, so I am delighted that you have found a pair of very-Kate sandals to wear. One realises more and more with age how very important comfortable feed are. May you have many more happy miles.
    Cx

  13. And dont just limit yourself to a few years – my best friend from school who has MS for thirty five years – has been wheelchair bound for at least the last twenty years has been working with the physio continuously using bobath techniques is now able to use her right arm and hand again and stand with support for a brief period Love Ma

  14. You warm my heart and shake me out of a poor me state. Thank you for opening your heart and mind to us.

  15. Kate,
    Your efforts are so very inspiring. I am grinning while I focus on how can I change up my world today to promote my long term growth! Love, peace, blessings…

  16. I was pointed in your direction by a lady in the knitting group I go to here in Dunblane. I’m so glad she recommended your Shetland book as it’s meant I’ve discovered your lovely blog (one of only two I read on a regular basis -the other belonging to my sister)
    I hope your recovery continues to progress & I wish you well.
    Take care F xx

  17. A little over 8 years ago, I broke my right leg, and was told that what I accomplished in 6 months would be all I could expect at my advanced age (62). And about 2 months after the break, while I was still on crutches and in a tracker brace, a friend who was 6 years older than I told me that she had had a similar break 6 years before and she was STILL feeling improvement year over year–her measurement was always the range of her first golf swing of the season! I’m convinced now that progress will always keep happening, and have been eternally grateful that she pointed it out! Keep expanding your limits…

  18. That’s really interesting – thanks for sharing, Kate! Good luck on your moving process, and enjoy summer!

  19. Congratulations on making a simple change that has resulted in significant improvement. What a hopeful experience.

  20. oh, i don’t know where to start! i must agree with all of the above :) first of all, a belated happy birthday!! and congrats on the new house and getting out from under the redoing of the flat. i have heard about the efficacy of wearing different shoes but didn’t equate it with strokes. makes perfect sense. and thank you for kick starting me, i broke me left wrist and ‘can’t do anything’…but the good news is i can still wipe me bum with my right hand!!!!!!!! small things. you are truly an inspiration, thank you yet again and super shoes. love them.

  21. Cheers to you Kate!
    Always glad to hear of your improvements. You are the driving force of your recovery, the little engine who could!

  22. shame on me!
    You have the cutest face, figure, hubby, doggie, wittyknitty talent.
    BUT you had a stroke and continue to fight the odds &realities???
    o dear.

    I’m always wishing I was someone else; someone without problems or someone with more yarn.
    You have put me in my place!!

    T H A N K Y O U, for the reminder that life is for living, not lusting.
    Life is for learning and for holding hands.

    And for remembering that, “IT’S GOTTA BE THE SHOES.”

    Here’s a knitty-kitty hug to you, my dear x-x-x-x-x =^,^=
    teri —x

  23. It is great that you posted your experience. You really are something with your persistence!

    As they say, “question authority.” I think more is being learned about the plasticity of the brain but brava to you for moving forward!

  24. Is it really three and a half years? Goodness. I celebrated my own 3 year anniversary (of my brain injury) in April, and thought then what a long way I have come. The damage no longer dominates my life: it has faded into the background of a very subtly different, new normality. And that is something to celebrate.

    Like you, I felt very pressurised by the deadlines assigned to recovery. No matter how much progress I had made, if I wasn’t fully recovered by some arbitrary date tossed to me by a doctor (‘a year’, ‘two years’) I felt a failure. It took ages to realise that deadlines are unhelpful; that recovery takes its own sweet time; that subtle improvements continue to develop long after the initial damage was done. All of which makes me feel sanguine for the future. So I second your encouragement to other sufferers of acquired brain injury, and I applaud your energy in working on your own injuries.

    Oh, and I love your socks. :)

  25. Thanks for sharing your creative problem solving. I so much admire your resilience, courage, and resolution. As I am dealing with my knee arthritis, I think of you often, and that helps immensely! Later this year, when I have my knee replacements, I will be repeating my little mantra as I learn to walk with my new knees — “If Kate can do it, you can do it.” Keep on keeping on, Kate!

  26. I love your approach to recovery. Very creative, and successful! Your sandals are so cute! You mentioned orthotics…do you have hard plastic orthotics? Do these sandals accommodate them well? I have orthotics too and I find it nearly impossible to find shoes that are both suitable for walking and cute enough for a moderately fashionable late-thirties gal. Any shoe advice you could offer would be wonderful.

  27. I love those shoes, they remind me of a pair I had made by Roots in the 1970s… You are amazing and it is always a joy to read your posts. Think of all the new places you will soon be walking.

  28. Lovely post and bravo to you. Current neuroscience research tells us that any brain can grow and change through the lifespan depending on the information/input it receives. This can be for the good as in you case- or the use it or lose it thing can happen. One of the best things you can do for positive brain change is to introduce variation as you are doing with the different shoes.

    Full disclosure – I am a “physio” from across the pond, but mostly I practice the Feldenkrais and Anat Baniel Methods. Jill Bolte mentions Feldenkrais in her book My Stroke of Insight. If you know of a practitioner in your area- it could be something to at least consider. The idea that stroke survivors don’t improve after 6 months is “rubbish”.

  29. You, my dear Kate are an inspiration to all…I applaud you :)

    Those lovely shoes of yours reminds me of my Kickers when I was a little one…thank you for the info on where you got them and the socks! I love the colours of your socks…

  30. Dear Kate,
    we nearly have the same anniversary, my stroke was just 1 day prior to yours. After hospitaI I get great help from a healer. She also makes an old lady knitting again. This lady had a stroke too and was forgotten on the hospital floor so that she got hemiplegic. The healer starts her work where the school medicine gave up. Perhaps a possibility for you, too?

  31. Three and a half years ago, I broke every bone in both my legs, so your progress is always important to me, because I really do understand. But I, too, keep moving ahead, with titanium plates and 55 pins holding me together! I love your words of inspiration and wisdom, dear Kate, and of course I love your knitting! All those months in my hospital bed…to a wheelchair…to a walker….to being able to walk! Its a miracle, isn’t it? LIFE is GOOD ! Thanks to everyone who responds to Kate’s messages; I treasure every comment! We learn and grow from one another!
    I have shoes just like yours!

  32. Ooh I have Red or Dead shoes and they are great aren’t they? I applaud you on your unstinting attempts to improve things for yourself. I just love your blog, I subscribe to a few knitting blogs and yours is absolutely the best one.

  33. Hi Kate – check out this website http://www.modcloth.com/shop/shoes for a vast collection of flat shoes (I may just be waiting for a pair to arrive!). Some time ago I read an article that recommended doing things with the other hand to the one you usually use, as it is good for the brain. Being very right-handed, I gave it a try, and I found it made a big difference to my dexterity.
    We’re off to Woolfest on Saturday – I’ll try not to spend too much!
    Anne x

  34. Recent info here in Canada points to ongoing recovery and gains well beyond the 6 month window – your hunch regarding the ethical/financial – insurance included – is right on – so keep at it & prove the “experts” wrong!

  35. Very interesting. It’s depressing to think that some people may resign themselves to no more progress once they have passed a certain point.

    The shoes remind me of the Clarks sandals we wore in my childhood. They had thick white crepe soles that soon turned grey. They were the most comfy shoes I’ve ever had.

    • Thanks for jogging the memory of Clarks school sandals – how the soles turned grey, and when being fitted for them, the xray machine which showed how much room there was around your toes. Probably very bad for everyone who worked in the shop being exposed to the xrays – but great fun for the children who loved to see their bones wriggling.

      Kate, you are an inspiration to us all – I don’t know how you fit it all into your day – keep up the exercise for your own sake and Bruce’s, continue to provide us with delightful insights into the history of fashion and knitting, wonderful patterns and of course, the scenic photographs which make us all homesick for a distant place.

  36. you are truly an inspiration and it is so wonderful of you to share all this information with others
    thank you
    alos love the shoes!

  37. What an inspiration you are Kate! Your “changing shoes” lesson applies to life in general… Hard work and dedication can change conventional wisdom and outcomes! Keep it up and know that we are all on your side, cheering you every step of the way.

    PS. I am sure that Bruce is very to have helped you put 350 miles on those new shoes!

  38. Que lindo depoimento, desejo muito mais e mais progresso nessa longa caminhada com seus sapatos
    muito fofos, parecem sapatinhos de boneca.
    Um grande abraço.

  39. My husband had a hemorrhagic stroke 18 years ago. We were told that acupuncture might help but NOT after the first year. For many reasons he did not avail himself of acupuncture then. Sometime later he wanted to try acupuncture but was told he had missed the “window.” Over time he has had sporadic and slow recovery of some sensation (he initially had lost all sensation: touch, temperature, position, etc) on the left. Two years ago he began acupuncture for an unrelated back problem. We quickly saw rapid improvement on his left side 16 years after the stroke. The acupuncturist was dumbfounded since it was out of the window. He realized that since acupuncture is not usually done past the first year window, who knows how often people might have responses years after a stroke. Now my husband is having acupuncture particularly directed to the stroke deficits and the results are amazing, His doctor is filming him and intends to write a paper about this,

    it is hard to explain to people who have not had a catastrophic medical event, how hard it is to fit everything one needs to do in the “window” suggested. This leaves families and patients anxious and guilty about what they didn’t do “in time.” I am enjoying your blog immensely and believe that we must support each other in healing on our own time schedules and devising our own ways of doing it,

  40. I’m sure you’ve read “My Stroke of Insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor (2009). If not, put on those gorgeous shoes and walk to the bookstore now! (It’s also available at the UK Amazon; I checked.) Taylor was a brain scientist before her stroke, and a very different brain scientist after it. She, too, found her “recovery window” to be much more flexible than the received wisdom had it. She has a pretty amazing TED Talk too: http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html

  41. Thank you for sharing this!! My dad had given up on recovery after his stroke, and then came his grand-daughter! We have been seeing small improvements over the past 8 years. His movement, energy, and speaking have improved with time because there is a little bundle of energy pulling him along. I think the biggest recoveries come from the *desire* to recover and the discipline to keep going, even if it’s hard or the results are small and prolonged. Congratulations!

  42. Pretty snazzy shoes (and socks of course!)
    Yay for stroke recovery post 6 months.
    I wish you continued improvement.
    Walking four miles a day is a huge accomplishment.

  43. “Any progress is progress” has become my new mantra. My physio has recently been drumming into me the advantages of pacing myself..something my brain just won’t compute but i’m trying!
    I’ve recently discovered Clarks ‘Funny Dream’ shoes which are amazingly comfortable and even my podiatrist approves. I now have 3 pairs (brown, black &shocking pink). I still cant walk very far but my old pooch doesn’t seem to mind too much. I salute your mileage..and choice of footwear xx

  44. I am so impressed with your approach to recovery. As a lover of footwear I am doubly impressed with your ‘foot discipline’ strategy!

  45. I am a physical therapist and have seen many patients who have had strokes but always learn something new when you discuss your personal experiences. Part of the problem is we usually treat patients soon after the stroke, as you mention, then may never see them again. There has been research that seems similar to what you have found on your own, called forced use, or constraint induced techniques that force the affected limb to perform by not letting the other limb take over. Also the brain can continue to remap its self with practice and experience. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us.

  46. Thank you so much for sharing your inspirational experiences. I work as a Bowen practitioner and see post stroke patients from time to time. Your experiences are enormously helpful both to people in similar circumstances and to practitioners. I have seen some remarkable improvements still several years after a stroke, but due- to a very large extent- to the person’s own ingenuity and positive attitude, as your experiences with footwear demonstrate beautifully. I will file this away for future use if I may, as I am sure others could benefit from this approach. I wish you further continuing progress Kate and a wonderful time ahead in your new home! x

  47. my sister forwarded your site to me today. it has been two years and five months since my stroke. I was, I thought, in the best health in my life and surely at the highest point of my surfing ability when at 2:30 a.m. January 23, 2011 at 63 years young I fell off and out of my bed. Only these past few weeks have I, for the first time, felt my balance issues improve. I have an adorable young therapist who comes to my house twice a week. I believe she has made me her project. I was pretty pathetic. could not move my left arm at all without excruciating pain along with a left leg and foot that seemed to belong to, wee, not me. your gift in articulating our journey is enlightening and your ability to be mobile is enviable. several very bad falls up to this time have held me back as now I am terrifed of losing my balance. I should was terrified. my new therapy regiments seem to have snapped me into the once happy gal I used to be. I still walk with a drop foot brace and cane. I recently had my husband of 30+ years roll the wheelchair into the garage. it has not seen the light of day since. I am finally seeing a flicker of light at. The end of the longest darkest tunnel on the planet. I still have a long long way to go before my arm becomes useful. I have set jewelry making/ repairing projects out on the table that need to be addressed. in April and again yesterday my two nephews have blessed us with the birth of daughters. I will have to buy a watermelon soon to use as a prop in building up the muscle strength to hold them this coming Christmas. I hadn’t meant to blabber on like this. your blog is inspiring. thank you.

  48. I went straight away to tell my father about your different shoes technique and as a former research scientist his immediate reaction was ‘she should write a paper about it. It might be of help to other people.’ He’s recently had a stroke that is affecting his left side so I thought it might be of use to him, too.
    Fascinating, Kate.

  49. Hello Kate – I could not agree more with your post. I had (fortunately just) nerve damage when giving birth to my son – it affected the nerve that goes down to my left foot. 4 years later, I could comfortably run to the bus. The first few years I was forced to just carry on (push prams, carry a baby), and my left leg works well again now. I just topple over when squatting down from time to time! I have an older colleague who was in a major push bike accident that had him in traction. He has since gone on to be a silver medalist in world masters surf lifesaving championships. It helps to be fit – both before and after.

  50. Thankyou Kate!! An inspirational post in every way

    I am off to try new shoes and to remember your advice!!

    Love the photo too

  51. Oh goodness! Reading these other posts reminded me of my father. Terrible, terrible motorbike accident, 35 or 40 years ago. Before he ever even met my mother. 6 months in hospital taped to a board while they waited to see what happened to his shattered pelvis. Always walked with a limp, and would trip over the tiniest thing (foot drag, I guess, though I never thought of that till now). On a permanent painkiller prescription. Anyway, he is still, now, this far along, experiencing improvements. About 10 years ago he started getting sensation in his left foot again. He dropped the painkillers somewhere along the line (not sure when). Now I think about it, he doesn’t trip over so much anymore. The recovery might be slower, but I don’t think it ever stops.

  52. Well done!
    And a family story….a conversation between grandfather and grandson:
    Grandfather observes, “Harvard, you’ve got your shoes on the wrong feet!”
    Harvard looks down at his feet, and back up at his grandfather with dismay and cries, “But these are the only feet I have!”

  53. Kate, your tenacity and ability to share all of this is just so amazing. My respect for you knows no bounds – congratulations on being a true hero to so many of us! Three cheers for you!!

  54. On a lighter note, those are an exact replica of my junior school shoes. Except they were navy. And Professor Mulley, a well known geriatrician that I worked under at St James in Leeds, used to tell me that strokes were funny things that happened suddenly, like a stroke from above, and healed slowly. But that improvement could come even as late as 2 years or more. He was a wonderful and wise man who took a lot of flack from a younger generation of academics, but really they stood in his shadow. And now I’m getting off my soapbox…

  55. I am endlessly impressed by your continued focus on recovery. I am in my last year of nursing studies and just so appreciate you sharing your stories of what works for you as they influence the way I communicate with my patients, support them, advocate for them and encourage them. I will never forget the story you shared about how important it was for you to plait your hair soon after the stroke – your words helped me appreciate how essential this was to your recovery, the preservation of your dignity, and being able to hold onto your identity as Kate Davies, not just a stroke patient. Since reading this story, every time I help a patient with their grooming or bathing or dressing, I think of your plaits and make sure to take the time to find out what’s important to them regarding their appearance, how they like to look, what they want to do for themselves and what they want me to help them with. Your doggedness Kate – and your willingness to share the successes and difficulties you experience throughout your stroke recovery – have made me a much more thoughtful and patient focussed nurse. Thank you. And I’m soooooo pleased for you that your walking continues to improve everyday. Your resilience is so inspiring.

  56. Ah Kate, I know too well the frustration of finding the right shoe! Last year I successfully managed to almost separate my ankle from the rest of my leg while bush walking and now have at least half a dozen pair of shoes that will no longer accommodate my puffy appendage. Clogs and a pair of high-cut Rockport boots are the only shoes that don’t induce my hardware-encased ankle to swell up like an angry cane toad … pretty, strappy sandals are but a pipe dream now. But hey, I am walking again (albeit on the flat), admiring the wintry landscape, throwing sticks for the poodles and playing with my grandchildren. Life is good :)

  57. You are such an inspiration. I want to chime in about neurological improvements taking longer than the experts predict. I had numbness in my leg due to lower back problems and it took at least 18 months for me to see significant improvement. Also, six years ago I had a mastectomy and had several lymph nodes removed as a result of breast cancer. I’m still experiencing improvement in the tissue under my arm due to continued exercise.

  58. (first thing that came to mind….)
    These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do
    one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you. (Thanks to Nancy Sinatra)

    Really way-cool shoes! They look uber-comfy.

    Good on’ya for walking. CVAs really suck. I’m a nurse, I’ve seen plenty of patients with them. Hand-knitted socks?

    Your post is heart-warming and touching and brings tears to my eyes. Prayers for you and your ongoing recovery.

  59. I’ll stick to the shoes being a flat shoe afficiando myself (can’t do heels). I have a huge love for El Naturalista shoes. Very funky, great colours and an ace range of styles. They have really good and solid soles (rubber or leather depending on the shoe) and don’t wear down very quickly. Not the cheapest but you can find them on sale on various sites. Plus they really go with handknitted socks :-)

  60. You are doing so well, and your determination is amazing. I had very major spinal surgery 10 years ago and I too was told after a period of one year that “this is as good as it gets”. It takes a great deal of determination to keep plodding away on your own to facilitate further recovery, but slowly, slowly things can improve albeit hardly noticeable. It’s only by reflecting on what you can manage now is an improvement on before. I hope you continue to make headway and believe that things will get better.

  61. Ordered the shoes! Am in Suffolk so there shouldn’t be any awkward clashes and I went for red. Thank you for sharing. Every step I take will be in honour of your quiet persistence and a wish will be sent up for your continued improvement.

  62. I do research in neurology, and one thing they’re learning is that a lot of conventional wisdom about neural plasticity and stroke recovery just isn’t true. Our brains and bodies are more adaptable than we think. I’m so glad that you discovered it for yourself :)

  63. There have been plenty of occasions in my life when dr’s got it wrong. I don’t presume it is an exact science healing people but they have such sway, especially when you’re ill. Well done for persevering and fantastic to hear you’re getting back to your former self one step, one mile at a time.

  64. I believe you worked as hard as you possibly could have, and a hellofalot harder than most could possibly have. Now things just seem so much better, that you can wear your jolly wee shoes with hand-knit socks !

  65. As a knitter I discovered your blog around the time you had your stroke. I wanted to tell you about Jill Boldt Taylor’s book “Stroke of Insight” but someone had already mentioned it in the comments. As an OT what I had found most important was that she said improvements were continuing 7 years post stroke. As your therapists had, I too had learned the 6 month rule when I was in school. So I am so excited for you that you are verifying what she had written. And your brilliant therapy idea of changing shoes. Genius. I’ll share that idea with other OTs I know. Keep sharing your insights on stroke, and of course, keep knitting and designing.

  66. Thank you for sharing. And you have given us all a wonderful insight to being our own best healer. May you continue to have fantastic discoveries on your good health!

  67. Have you tried functional electrical stimulation on the slow leg? It might improve walking speed and help you tire less. I have to say that as someone with m s who fights a constant downward progression I understand how you feel except that I am always in that place of wishing I had fought harder in the six months before. I guess you can in the end only do what you can do and it sounds to me like you are doing very very well. If ever you visit Birmingham the conductive education people are very helpful too. Shoes are everything and these are lovely. LizSeville.wordpress.com

  68. Keep up the hard work. My mother suffered a stroke(aneurism) when she was 39, right after my sister and I were born. She had to learn to walk, talk and use the side of her body the stroke affected. She recovered and lived to be 93, and this was when physical therapy was unheard of. My aunt(my mothers’ sister) helped her recover. I’m pulling for you

  69. Do you know what, it’s not just neurological injuries. I have a joint condition and your post really resonated with me. Through continual work – and the right shoes! – I can continue to make improvements.

  70. Really good to hear you’re still noticing improvements :-). Noticing them is helpful in and of itself, as it encourages you to continue with things that otherwise might seem pointless because they work so slowly. And I totally agree with your philosophy, little changes are the best! I actually do the shoe-changing thing to help my injured knees along, but a friend of mine has been making me think lately by emphasizing her variation in the ways in which she goes about her daily business. My sense of orientation is atrocious, so taking off in unknown directions seems counterproductive :-), but it’s been helping. And she does it also to cultivate a sense of adventure, which is such an important part of life..

  71. Hi Kate – Reading this blog entry made me want to recommend your trying my favorite orthotic-friendly brand, Naot. Among their many great styles for difficult feet, their low boots feel incredibly secure. My feet are a trial for other, less challenging reasons, but I feel as if I am constantly on the lookout for useable footwear. Best, Yvonne

  72. I love your blog and you are such an inspiration. I live in the Hot south of USA and can’t wear wool. But if I could I would so make you knitting patterns. My 3 Grandparents were born in Scotland and I have been there many times. Even planning to come over next week. Your photos make me feel like I’m home. Thank You Laura

  73. Everything I have read on neuroplasticity and the brain insists that the six month window is malarky. The brain continues to lay down new neural pathways constantly. The key is to force it to do so, by doing exactly what you are doing with the new shoes. The book by dr. Jeffrey schwartz entitled Neuroplaticity and the Brain” explains it far better then I c as well as the book Spark.

  74. It has occurred to me that you would probably find the Alexander Technique helpful to support you in your investigations. It is subtle, powerful and often illusive. Ten years of practice has made it an invaluable part of my tool bag. The other plus is that its a physical therapy that you can do in everyday clothing!

  75. Hi! I wanted to let you know i linked to your article from my blog. Please let me know if you want me to take it down. I write about healthcare (and recently wrote about the importance of good challenging footwear!) and your article says so much, so well. I wish you continued success in your recovery!

  76. Hi Kate,
    may I recommend another book: The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge.
    It is about the plasticity of the brain and how the brain can be trained to change its functioning, especially after injury. It says that brain healing can take several years, but that you have to work at it. Sounds as though you are on the right track.

  77. This is fantastic! And very helpful. Thank you.
    I so admire your design work, tenacity, and stamina for life. Again, thank you.

  78. My 98 year old father had a stroke 5 years ago, with an almost complete inability to talk. He was given that same 6 month window, but has persevered with speech therapy twice a week ever since and improves weekly. You could have a conversation with him and never realize he has an issue.
    One of the real problems that the 6 month window has is that people deny themselves the extra sleep they desperately need to recover.
    Great blog!

  79. Kate – it is so good to hear that you are walking better and farther. I think all of us have struggles in one form or another. Me, I’m a Shetland sheep farmer. No days off and some days it is hard to even want to roll out of bed. But with 200 charges in your care, you just gotta. Plus, they lift me up.

    As far as the shoes, they are too cute. Just bought a pair of similar type the other day that were on clearance. I find that they are quite different to walk in than my normal shoes (which consist of either muck shoes/boots outside, or tennis shoes, or leather walking type. These ‘Mary Jane’ type just seem to make you walk more like a female and your feet react differently, and for me, more confidently. Maybe they just hug my feet better and conform to it, making it more natural in shape. Hard to describe, but definitely what I need to wear out to town more often. So, your reactions to your shoes are a good validation.

    Keep strong!

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