My mother always told me “Point your toe straight” because I tended to throw my polio foot out to the side. This unconscious gait, along with my rolled-in ankle prior to the operation I had at age thirteen, was creating a bad habit for my leg, training it to operate in a way, with the knee also slightly pointed outward, that would be detrimental. It also emphasized the crippled kid aspect dramatically. I hated being constantly corrected, and remember especially the times she’d do that when we either walked the three blocks to church, or walked into the church after driving there when we were, often, too late to walk the distance. (Three blocks for me now is at least a ten minute walk, but I was a little faster as a child.) But her prodding made a difference, and I did learn to be aware of pointing my foot forward much of the time, which did make it easier to walk, and less likely I’d hit my foot on something. So I’m grateful for her persistent corrections in this regard.
Ironically, much later on, it would become clear that the left, strong foot was then the one being thrown out to the side, taking a circular track to allow for my strong leg’s extra two inches in length. (Imagine if you had no shoe on one side and a two inch heel on the other foot. You can try this for a little gimpy fun.) I did not realize this until I accidentally kicked a box of oil paints while an art student, and dislocated and broke my little toe on my strong foot; I immediately saw what the problem was; I didn’t know where my strong foot had been going in its longer arc to clear the floor. This was at age twenty-one, a bit of a long time coming, but something I immediately incorporated into my walking awareness. Probably when I’d been throwing the polio foot out to the side, this made it easier for the left foot to travel forward in a straight line. Now it had to change its trajectory. I tried walking with the strong knee a little bent, as I’d learned to do earlier in life to mask my limp a little. It’s hard to keep that up, though.
Every change you make in the functioning of your body will affect some other part. Evolution has favored balanced parts. For an unbalanced polio patient, there are more than the normal changes and adaptations throughout life; they are constant; yearly if not monthly.