I love these little tootsies, although you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise based upon what I inflict upon them.
From the moment I was up on them I was on the go, and the toddler who was ever reluctant to settle for a nap most definitely gave up her afternoon naps. They have quite literally carried me for thousands of miles, well over 2000 this year alone and from pole to pole via a desert and a volcano.
I have to say that I am rather proud of my ankles and feet, my long straight toes and general lack of lumps and bumps. People often remark how unlike a ‘runners feet’ they are. Whilst fellow runners treat toenails like scalps to be proudly taken as part of the battle between foot, shoes and terrain I take a slightly different approach. I like having toe nails. I like painting my toenails. Since becoming a runner I have only lost 3 toenails (and a 4th courtesy of an accidental stomp from my daughter) which I regard as carelessness on my part. I do my best to look after them selecting my socks with care; not too thick, nor too thin, not double skinned and no seams. X-socks and Feetures are favourites with Teko Merino for cold conditions. Likewise my shoes, I always ensure that there is a thumbs width of space between my big toe and the end of the toe box. Any less and your toes hammer off the end; any more, and your foot moves too much which can also result in your toes hammering off the end or other issues.
My nails are always trimmed and short, no sharp corners and cuticles pushed back and tended, and any dirt or ‘gunge’ removed.
Blisters are rare too. As with the nails I attribute this to socks and the fit of my shoes. In the early days I would sometime get blisters under a toenail, but the swift application of a needle would generally deal with it and leave the toenail unharmed. Indeed I deal with all blisters similarly, release the fluid and relieve the pressure. The worst blister I have ever had, and it was a corker, was a huge, deep blood blister that came up on the underside of my heel during the West Highland Way race this year. I am not sure what caused although I think it was a bad combination of hard/calloused skin and bad placement of my orthotic when changing shoes.
At the time I was chastised rightly for not dealing with hard skin. Even when not running I was and am prone to a build-up of hard skin and I have to admit that I was a little slapdash in dealing with it. It never seemed until this point to cause a problem. I now, thanks to regular application of a Scholl Pedi, have it fully under control, so hopefully no repeat of the giant blister. I also have started to treat my feet more frequently to a liberal application of my favourite foot cream L’Occitaine Shea Butter Foot Cream: an expensive indulgence? Possibly, but I think my feet are worth it.
Remarkably, my arches remain intact which is apparently quite uncommon. Many long distance runners eventually lose their arches and become flat footed.
The feet however are not perfect. I have arthritis in the bottom joint of one of my big toes. There is restricted movement and it hurts a bit after the long ultras. It hurts less than it used to, but it was pointed out to me that it has probably fused itself. About 5 years ago I went to see an orthopaedic consultant. He advised me to stop running marathons. If not? He predicted I would be back to in about 12 months to get surgery to fuse it. I chose to ignore the advice and am still running and no surgery. I try not to overdo the abuse. I try to mobilise it regularly and take natural anti-inflammatory foods such as ginger and turmeric. High heels are not an option any more, but I would rather be running.
Finally the toe ring: yes, I wear a toe ring. It was once described as being ‘very sybaritic’ by a friend; clocked by a senior manager who was unsure if it was suitable ‘dress code’ for client site and has caused amazement and rendered people speechless at a checkpoint whilst changing my socks. I never take it off not even on the longest runs. I take the rings off my fingers but not my toe! I even forgot to remove it in Antarctica and the North Pole, which with hindsight might not have been such a good thing to forget. Something tells me that my feet may not be quite so lovely minus a toe.
Don’t neglect those twinkle toes.