I’ve got a sore foot. Again. The pain has been coming and going for a year, it’s unpredictable. Twelve months ago my big toe joint became painful and swollen. This mystified two G.Ps and I was sent for an x-ray to see if I had broken it (you’d think I’d remember doing that!). There was was no broken toe and no arthritis either, so I went on the waiting list to see a podiatrist. In the meantime my foot improved a bit and I was able to start walking my daughter to school again, but oh my, the pain of using the clutch pedal in the car was awful. Crawling through traffic jams could really make me dizzy with pain.
Diagnosing my foot pain
I waited five months to see a podiatrist on the NHS and when I got there the diagnosis was interesting. (Here comes the science bit!) The pain and swelling is caused by my toe joints bending and stretching in the wrong place as I walk. This happens because I have fairly hypermobile joints. I was born this way, quite flexible overall. It seems to be bad luck that my feet have got so bad at the ripe old age of forty-mumble.
The podiatrist gave me orthopaedic insoles and advised me to take ibuprofen and buy very expensive stiff shoes. Sadly that did not include any Jimmy Choo’s or Louboutin’s but I found a pair of acceptable black trainers on the podiatrist’s list and bought them – only for my husband to have a momentary paddy over the cost. All this treatment and shopping did not produce a miracle of healing. Still, a few months later things improved. The pain lifted and for several weeks life seemed almost normal. It was only when I tried to keep up with the walking speed of other adults that I realised that I was still in trouble; my stride had shortened and I was stiff.
Getting off the couch
Then I made a strange discovery: It hurts less to run than to walk. How ironic! It turns out that there is less rotation on the toe joints in running motion, than in walking. As you run, your foot takes off from the ground before it has fully flexed, so there is less bending action on the toe joint. Well, I have never been a runner. I would normally say that if you see me running, you should run too because something must be chasing me! But now I had to give it a try. It was January and time for new years’ resolutions so I downloaded the NHS Couch to 5k running app onto my phone and began.
This wasn’t as simple as it sounds. I did try running some years ago and my heart began to pound, I got hot and sweaty and breathless and very tired. My whole body seemed to be telling me this was a bad idea; I couldn’t understand why anyone would think this was acceptable! To top it off I came out in a ferocious itchy rash. Running in public with one hand up my t-shirt scratching was not a good look. I gave up. I turned to google and discovered there are several reasons why I may have got a rash, some minor, some requiring hospitalization. Brazenly, I ignored the prospect of urgent medical attention and hoped it was internet flimflam. I decided that if I carried on getting itchy when running I would try antihistamines before throwing in the towel.
My Couch to 5k started in the house. I cleared a path from the front door to the back window and did the first podcast and scratched shamelessly in private as my rash duly developed. I proudly told my husband of my achievement that evening to which he growled “the floorboards aren’t designed for that you know”.
Two days later I braved the garden path. There’s a nice big hedge in once place sheltering me from the neighbours and once the run got me all itchy again I could shove my hands down my trousers and scratch my thighs without causing an offensive local incident. Then two days later I did the third podcast and at this point the whole rash thing really started to ease off. In fact that was the last time it happened. I was amazed! I would have taken up running years ago if I had known the itching would just stop.
I began to really enjoy myself: The music playing in my ears as I wooshed along, the feeling of achievement, the skill with which I avoided meeting anyone I know on my local streets, the extra calories which the app My Fitness Pal told me I could scoff. It was brilliant. I got to week 5 of the 3-times-a-week plan, with a few breaks due to the weather. Then disaster struck. On Tuesday morning a pain began to shoot through the side of my right foot and I could only limp. I hope it eases off soon but after two days there is little improvement and I would really, really like a walking stick.
I’m in limbo with my lower limbs. I never really know if I should plan to walk somewhere or drive in case pain comes on and I get stuck. I’m on the waiting list for some injections but I don’t know yet what that will achieve. So as things stand, I mainly sit. Haha. Wish me luck, I’ll let you know if I ever get all the way to running 5k.