‘Hallux limitus’. It doesn’t sound too sore. In fact, it hardly sounds like an ailment of any sort.
But it is, and those who’ve experienced it know exactly what those words mean – and what they feel like.
The condition is a stiffening of the big toe joint, caused by osteoarthritis. Not only does the joint stiffen and flare up in pain, but a bone spur begins to emerge on top of it.
If you’re a runner this spells trouble (likewise if you want to wear those Italian dress shoes). You can hold it off for a while, by way of inserts and cutting your distances, but once it’s underway it’s unstoppable – without intervention at least.
In my case, I’ve been managing a worsening case of the problem for the past four years. Almost two years ago I wrote that it would, untreated, surely stop me running.
To date, it has not. But I run less. My onetime 50k a week is now a distant memory – anything above 20k causes problems for me at this point. This has meant more time than I ever envisaged, or desired, on an exercise bike in my local gym, and long, long, walks on the weekend.
Despite such workarounds, and the availability of cortisone shots, I’m edging closer to the day when I make an appointment with my physician to be referred for surgery.
For now, I’m running in denial – or a form of denial, at least. This is why I occasionally attempt something I used to do regularly – a handy 10k on a Saturday morning, for instance – knowing, but refusing to recognize, that I’ll likely spend the rest of the weekend dealing with the effects.
This mentality, common among pavement pounders I imagine, fascinates me. If any other activity was causing me pain and damaging my body, I’d stop. Who willingly courts pain? And if you do, what does that say about you?
For now, I tell myself that the fitness and endorphin rush payoff trumps the discomfort. But only just. And the scales will, shortly I’m sure, start to tip in the opposite direction.
Until the, and the day I make that physician call, it’s grin and bear it – and ice it immediately.