Tag Archives: Toe sprain

Sprains cost. And you start paying…in sweat

A grand stretch in the mornings.

A grand stretch in the mornings.
Pic: Clare Kleinedler

I don’t listen to Joni Mitchell when I’m running.

Her light-as-air voice and folk-jazz stylings jar with the lung-exploding, grunting, existential trauma that characterises my regular circuit.

But if I did I might have paid attention to her Big Yellow Taxi warning: we don’t know what we’ve got ‘til it’s gone. I certainly should have in the lead-up to a recent injury.

Neglecting to listen to my body (until, eventually, it grabbed me by the collar, shrieking in pain) saw me out of running shoes and onto the physiotherapist’s bench. It also introduced me to cruel, unusual and wholly necessary punishment of foam rolling. More of that below.

The background to all this goes back three years to a New York Times’ article I read on the pointlessness of stretching before a run. My mistake was extending this advice to after my run too.

The result was chalking up five 10km runs a week with minimal (read: zero) warm-down stretching. Maybe a dozen times in three years, and just hams and calves to boot.

The eventual outcome of this should have been apparent in advance – not least when I found myself crawling off the table in agony after a couple of leg massage sessions last year.

But no. I jogged on and on, approaching the painful reckoning one 10k at a time. It eventually occurred when I stubbed my toe on a crack in a concrete pavement in early May.

That was painful, but still not enough of a wake-up call. So for two weeks I continued to run on a big toe which, I later discovered, was sprained.

A day after I blogged about my injury I attended my physiotherapist who, deftly masking her horror at the condition of my feet and legs, ordered me off running for a month.

Like a pulling a piece of muscular string the toe sprain had kicked off plantar fascisitis (swelling of tendon on the sole of the foot) in both feet, strained my peroneal muscles (on either side of the shin) and my vastus medialis (the muscles above the knee).

My gait had wrenched my overworked muscles so tight that I could barely walk.

And so began a programme involving various types of stretching, golf balls under the feet, leg strengthening exercises and the foam roller. Oh – and having steel needles inserted directly into my knotted leg muscles, which feels exactly as it reads.

Foam roller

Foam roller. Agonised roar not included.

The icing on the rehabilitation cake though is my foam roller, a piece of molded plastic that I roll under my knotted leg muscles, producing fist-chewing levels of discomfort and instant sweats. The roller’s improved the condition of my legs considerably, and my lexicon of swearwords.

The treatment’s ongoing and the pain’s still present. But the physio’s allowed me three 5k runs a week at this stage, which has saved me from losing my mind (and my ever-patient wife from losing hers). I’m getting back from the sofa to the street, slowly but surely.

And I’m loathe to see a moral in all this, other than ‘don’t be an idiot, you idiot’.

As Joni Mitchell might say, I’ve seen toes from both sides now.

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The aching is the hardest part

Here’s two things all runners hate.

ibuprofen

Runners’ little helper.

Anti-inflammatory meds and empty shoes. One of these is bad enough, both means you’ve either overdone it or been unlucky.

And so it’s been for me this week.

What started as a careless impact onto a piece of cracked pavement three weeks ago became, by last weekend, a darting pain in the joint of the big toe of my left foot.

The two weeks in between were where, as they say in the west of Ireland, Aughrim was lost.

I continued to run on the sore toe, and this led to a sore foot, which led to a second sore foot (as one overcompensated for the other), a sore leg and, eventually, (there’s a pattern developing) two sore legs.

There’s a simple question here, of course, that you don’t even need to ask.

But why couldn’t I stop running? Despite the darts of pain, the dull ache afterwards, the stiffness, the interrupted sleep and the frustration of all of the above, I kept it up.

Shoes

Kicked to the kerb.

So, 120k later and in considerable discomfort I eventually decided to take a week off.

It’s my first week’s break in 21 months, a period which encompassed two Irish winters, one Irish summer (indistinguishable from an Irish winter, for the most part), my wedding and a couple of transatlantic and other trips.

It also covered a couple of weeks of shin splints and sundry bloodied toes.

So I’m probably due a break before I suffer one – at least that’s what I tell myself. But, as most runners know, a short-term injury spells at best boredom, at worst outright frustration.

In my case it’s constantly checking my foot and counting down the days to the end of my time off (having self-diagnosed the injury as a minor toe sprain).

As I’ve waited this week, fidgeting, glancing at my running shoes and thumbing through my albums, I’ve wondered why no-one’s written a suite of songs about sport injuries.

Perhaps they have. I vaguely recall seeing a Tom Petty interview in which he spoke of writing his song The Waiting while he recovered from a broken arm, unable to play his guitar.

Beyond that though there’s no Chariots Of Fire for the hobbled set.

Maybe it’s time to write one.

Or crank up Blood on the Tracks.

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