Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Turf Toe

My toe is doing very well thanks to my body's miraculous healing abilities. Luckily, it held up for SDIT on Sunday. However, after injuring it at the last Aquathlon, two weeks ago, I did a little research. I thought I would share.

Apparently, my injury is termed, "Turf Toe" aka a metatarsalphalangeal joint sprain. No wonder they call it turf toe instead! It can be caused by repeated impact to the ball of the foot (e.g. wearing shoes that aren't supportive enough or running on hard surfaces--running barefoot in my particular case). It can also be caused by "a very vigorous upward bending of the big toe". Sound familiar? As I was hauling ass barefoot through the sand during the Aquathlon, my big toe got hooked in the sand while flexed as my leg continued moving forward, i.e. my big toe went one way, my leg went another. OUCH! Then, to make matters worse, I finished the rest of the run.

Afterwards, it hurt to walk. A lot. It hurt to go down stairs. It hurt to flex my big toe. At all. And there was swelling. I was not happy. I figured I had probably sprained my big toe (pretty close self-diagnosis, don't you think?--f.y.i--not recommended).
For treatment, I decided to use R.I.C.E.:
1. Rest: stop running completely for the next 10 days and hope that it would heal in time for SDIT.
2. Ice (and Ibuprofen)
3. Compression (I used an Ace bandage to compress the ice to my toe)
4. Elevation (then I kept the foot elevated)
5. Tape (while walking and for running, tape the big toe to remind me not to toe off; see link below for how-to instructions on taping for turf toe)
(R.I.C.E. works for almost all injuries)

Luckily, I was still able to swim and bike during this time, which actually helped push the fluid out of my toe and reduce stiffness. I just had to be really careful not to aggravate the injury e.g. pushing off the wall = very BAD! Unfortunately, the penalty for forgetting about my injured toe and flexing it unwittingly would produce pain so sharp, I was howling for mama. I mentioned this to a friend of mine, to which his response was, "Hmm, that sounds like a fracture." This was the day before SDIT. Can we say ancy?

On Friday, I tried a slow, conservative 1-mile practice run to test out the toe. The first half mile felt great. I relaxed and settled into an easy pace. I found that I could avoid pain completely by altering my running stride. I focused on landing lightly mid-foot with my feet solidly under me and taking off quickly, as if I had no toes at all. Turns out, this is correct running form anyway. Maybe this injury would force me to run more efficiently?

100 yards later, my focus faded and I forgot about my new running form. And toed off. YOWCH!!! Mama! On a pain scale of 1-10, it was an 11. I hopped about on 1 foot for a few steps before gingerly trying the foot again. Doubt rose up in me. Should I really race tomorrow? 10K is a looong way to go on one foot. I decided I would at least do the swim and the bike. For the run, I would hoof it conservatively. And hold back. Walk if I needed to. I really wanted to race...just for the fun of it. I decided I would rather race slowly than not race at all.

Turf toe takes 3-4 weeks to heal (as do most sprains) but I was asking it to heal in 10 days. You should always go to a specialist and get an x-ray to make sure the toe hasn't been fractured.

Links for Turf Toe:

Taping for Turf Toe:


Kevin said...

ouch. sounds painful. Hopefully you will recover quickly

teacherwoman said...

Wow. That does not sound like fun to run with. Rest up!

Sherry said...

Turf Toe bites the big one! Been there and experienced it last fall after I jumped around a bit too much during a high-impact aerobics class.

I was pretty much out of commission from anything that caused that joint to bend for about 2 to 3 weeks (just like your articles said). Eventually I was able to ease back into things... but it took a good 2 months for it to feel perfect. Even now, about 8 or 9 months later, I feel a little 'weirdness' in that joint every so often. Unfortunately, I think it's one of those nagging injuries. I hope you heal up quickly!!!

Anonymous said...

I have just achieved a "Turf Toe" by doing housework, what makes matters worse am 36 and jump bikes on ocassion. I felt a little of a "fake" with my head hanging low coming out the sugery after explaining to the doc how I achieved such a sprain by "hoovering" on my toes... Am in pain right now and it is sore... At least you guys can say you injured your foot with pride...


Scotland ..

Grey Beard said...

1500-2500mg of vitamin C might be worth a try too. It aids in the production of collagen. Great for the knees too.

You might also try moving your cleats back 5mm to keep the weight transfer from foot to pedal slightly behind the ball of the foot. Most people ride with their cleats too far forward anyway. This can add a hundred pounds of extra load to the calf, and make the gluts and hams work against a longer lever arm and all for zero gain. You might want to try it anyway. You'll be amazed at how much power you can put down, especially on shallow climbs.