This week I bit the bullet and went in for a podiatrist appointment to try and determine what the heck was going on with my left foot - specifically, my left big toe. I've been having some pain with significant upward flexion of the joint. I notice it most during lunges in Body Pump when that left leg is back and quite a bit of weight is placed on that big toe. How important is your big toe in running? Pretty darn important as it turns out. That big toe can carry up to twice the load of the lesser toes - and up to 40-60% of your body weight! I've noticed when I run up hills and push off forcefully that there is some discomfort in that first metatarsal joint. While the discomfort in running has been minimal, it was the significant pain during lunges in Body Pump that prompted me to finally go in and get it checked.
I was nervous and braced myself for the doctor to tell me that I had to take some time off. He poked and prodded a bit, watched me walk in bare feet, and moved the toe this way and that and asked if I felt any pain. After a "hmmmmm" from him, he had me go to the next room and get some x-rays. Gulp. I knew that a stress fracture wouldn't show up on the x-ray unless it was already healing, but I was still nervous about what we would find. Three x-rays later, I was sent back to the room to wait. I had asked for a copy of the x-ray, and a few minutes later the doctor came in and handed me this:
I almost hugged the podiatrist. I refrained, but just barely. That picture up above? That is my mostly healthy, albeit slightly deformed, foot! No stress fracture suspected, no injuries to the sesamoids, no plantar fasciitis. But see the reduction in space between that first metatarsal and proximal phalange? That's where it hurts. He basically concluded that I have a bit of "hallux limitus" (stiff big toe) due to the fact that my big toe (over time) has bent to conform to the running shoes I have been wearing, causing the very early stages of a bunion. The bend in that big toe has reduced the space available for the first metatarsal to move the toe into proper dorsiflexion, causing pain. The good news? He's hopeful we can help that big toe move back into place by moving to roomier shoes and using a product called "Correct Toes" to help restore the proper spacing between the toes. While I'm not thrilled to hear the word "bunion", I am very happy that nowhere in the diagnosis were the words "stress fracture". WIN.
The (slightly) bad news? Time for new roomier shoes. I may have to say goodbye to my beloved Mizunos (or at least go a size up) since he fussed at me for running in a shoe where my toe is so close to the end of it. I have tried to go up in size but feel like I'm running in boats. Guess I'll just have to get used to that if I want to stay in the Wave Riders. I'm not loyal to one particular brand though (I have Adidas and New Balance shoes in my rotation), so I'm hopeful I can find something I like with a wider toe box, but that still feels okay on my narrow feet.
I'm a very happy camper in that I am able to keep running and have the green light to continue training. That was the best news I'd gotten all day! I left the podiatrist's office with a much happier disposition. For now it's time to order some Correct Toes, pick up a pair of roomier shoes, and take it easy on the lunges. Thank you for all of your positive vibes - they must have worked!
Anyone have recommendations on shoes they like with roomier toe boxes? Has anyone used a toe spacer like Correct Toes?