Text by internationally acclaimed Yantrika, yoga teacher, artist and Kenkoh enthusiast Sarah Tomlinson.
Around five years ago I went to teach a Yantra Painting class. Yantras are a form of sacred geometry used for meditation, and I was wearing small heels to the event. When I came home I took off my shoes and I could not feel my toes very well. The middle of the soles of my feet had pins and needles, and I started to freak out!
Having had Type One Diabetes for the past twenty years and until then being pretty much “side effect free”, I felt a wave of gloom sweep over me.
Was this the beginning of the end?
Would I soon need a wheelchair?
Will I even have both of my legs by the time I am 65?
This sounds dramatic, but so was the lack of feeling in my feet.
I think the shoes I wore that day precipitated some numbness in my feet and the beginning of peripheral neuropathy. I set about researching the many ways I could restore the sensation in my feet. First the endocrinologist I was seeing said that the condition is irreversible, but maybe massaging some “hot chili cream” onto my feet would help, I tried this and my feet were burning. True it was sensation, but it was painful.
I teach yoga and started to wear dance-like cushioned shoes to teach in to avoid the hardness of the wooden floors at the studio, fearing the numbness would worsen OR I would step on something sharp and create an incision in the sole of my foot that could possibly get infected. I lived in dread of having to wear orthopedic footwear, ugly and padded, to protect my feet.
For about three months I went through this unsatisfying and honestly traumatic process. People suggested getting regular foot massages. I did massage my own feet with oil each night, and it helped a little. I ditched the chili cream. It was hard to sleep at night, as the pins and needles and the restless legs that accompanied this neuropathy was excruciating. I was on a long flight from San Diego to New York City and could not stand the discomfort of the restless legs and the lack of sensation in my feet.
Wow, this was the end of the life I knew.
One day in meditation I had the image of some shoes with massage points in the soles. I remembered seeing them in health food stores when I was in Art School fifteen years before and, thinking they looked cool, mmm I wondered if they still existed.
After some searching on the internet for “shiatsu point massage sandals” I came across the Kenkoh brand on the Happy Feet Plus website. I ordered two pairs of sandals and one insole.
I used one pair of sandals to go outside in during the summer, one pair of the sandals to wear around the house and I placed the insoles into my winter boots.
Within days I felt sensation come back into my feet.
I still wore other shoes that were comfortable for a few hours a day, but probably wore my Kenkoh for three hours a day, too.
I started to teach yoga in bare feet again.
I started to feel normal again.
After a month or so I noticed that I was not feeling any of the foot and leg symptoms. The restless legs had gone, the pins and needles had gone, the pain and/or numbness in my feet had gone, and I had and continue to have 98% of my toe sensation. That two percent is there as a tiny tingle at the top of my fourth toe, maybe as a reminder to wear my Kenkohs daily.
In the winter I have been known to wear toe socks (individual toe socks) and the Kenkoh flip flops around. I feel like the combination of the toe socks and the Kenkohs gives a great boost to my circulation.
I have worn out the nodules in my first pair of Kenkoh sandals. I still wear them sometimes with benefit.
I just ordered my fourth pair. I love that my latest pair are shimmering gold, and I love how all of the styles that I have are pretty and feminine.
Seriously…where would I be without them?
Thank you. I hope this offering of words can be encouragement to anyone out there who was told neuropathy was irreversible.
With love and gratitude,
Sarah Tomlinson is an internationally acclaimed Yantrika (Yantra teacher and practitioner), yoga teacher and artist, with renowned fans across the globe including Elena Brower and Sharon Gannon, co-founder of Jivamukti Yoga. Sarah worked extensively with her mentor Harish Johari in India. He initiated her into the spiritual practice of painting Yantras. She leads retreats and Yantra workshops around the world and enjoys lots of time by the ocean with her husband and two young boys.