After months of resting, icing, not getting better, not knowing what was going on, I have finally FINALLY figured out where my stupid foot pain is coming from and what I need to do to start to recover.
Just to review how my injury happened, and what’s been happening since, about 2-ish months ago I was walking down the street minding my own business, when I felt a sharp, stabbing pain in the ball of my right foot. I hobbled the rest of the way to the coffee shop, thinking that the pain would go away if I gave it a moment to rest, but two hours later, I still found myself hobbling home. When I took off my sock to examine my foot, my second toe and the area behind it was red, tender, and swollen. I RICE’d the shit out of it, but the next day, the red had turned to purple and the swelling had gotten worse. I went to the doctor who told me it was either a bad sprain or a mild stress fracture, but either way, REST. Try to stay off the foot as much as possible for at least 6 weeks. This at a time when I had just ramped up my training again. This was about a week out from a 2 and a half week trip to BC where I had planned to spend at least part of every day trail running through the forests of the Sunshine Coast. I tried to find other activities to occupy me. I tried yoga, and that hurt my foot. I tried swimming, and that hurt my foot. I tried pilates, and I hated it.
7 weeks in, my foot wasn’t improving, so I went and had an x-ray to confirm that it was not a stress fracture so that I could start physio. I’d been going for 3 weeks, and it was helping a little, but what had actually gone wrong was still a complete mystery. I was pretty sure that there was some kind mechanical weirdness happening in my feet, but it as just a strong inkling on my part, with nothing concrete to back it up.
Well, this week in physio there was FINALLY a breakthrough. I kept talking about how things weren’t improving, and how my other foot also has similar but different issues. And this week my physio started remarking about how the callousing on the bottom of my feet is really unusual (the middle of the ball of my foot has a heavy callous), and pulled in the foot expert from their practice to take a look. He remarked that not only is my medial arch fallen, but that my anterior transverse arch is also 100% not there. WHAT. I didn’t even know that this arch existed. And suddenly everything made sense. After more exploration, my physio and I realized that I was essentially using only my second toe to stabilize my entire foot. We tested out the strength on my outer toes, and they are basically ornamental at this point. What the hell?!?! I can’t actually even begin to express how exciting it is to finally have an explanation for the weird pain I’ve been having in my feet (left starting 3 years ago, and right starting 2 months ago). I’ve talked to GPs, Sports Medicine experts, osteopaths, and other physios, and they have always done some exploring and then given me a big ol’ shrug when nothing showed up in my scans.
I’ve still got a lot of work to do, and mindfully trying to walk while focusing on my arches and how they SHOULD be working rather than how they HAVE been working is really really difficult. It’s kind of like I have to relearn how to walk all over again. I’m continuously baffled by bodies, and how we seemingly have to teach ourselves over and over again how to actually use our own bodies properly to keep us from injuring ourselves. Shouldn’t something as simple as walking just be intuitive? Apparently NOT.
ANYWAYS. Mystery solved! While I’m still in pain, I now have a plan, and can actually see my road to recovery. Can’t wait to be hitting the gym, and road, and trails, again very soon.
PS. Giant thank-you to Ossington Chiropractic and Rehabilitation for helping me to finally solve this horrible mystery.
PPS. As an aside takeaway from this whole ordeal. You know what is going on with your body. You have intuition. You have feelings. And never doubt that you should listen to them. I’m very lucky in that I’m assertive, English is my first language, I’m extremely health literate, and I am fortunate enough that I was able to afford access to physiotherapy. If even one of the pieces of this puzzle was not in place, I would likely still be hobbling around in the dark in extreme pain. I would likely have an incredibly frustrating couple of months ahead, before finally being told that I should probably just not be a runner, and should try to find something else. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be an advocate for your own health, and to trust your gut 100%.