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July 5, 2010


(Warning: pictures of feet attached.)

Say ... does one of these toes look strange to anyone?:

So much for all those epic runs I had planned. I used to consider the pinky toe a generally useless appendage – but all it takes is a minor fracture (or hopefully just a deep bruise; I'm too cheap - and too much of a slacker - to hunt down a mountain doctor to find out for sure) and a decent amount of swelling to make you realize just how many small movements and muscle contractions that little thing does during the course of everyday activity.

And right now, every one of those little movements is killing me.

What you see here is a result of me playing around with my downhill speed in my FiveFingers on a rocky trail in Big Trees State Park. Apparently I wasn’t paying close enough attention when the trail got a little narrow, and the rocks got a little rockier, and … bam.

It happened about 45 minutes into a 2.5 hour run; needless to say, the rest of the run wasn’t exactly what you’d call comfortable.

So now I’m icing and splinting and taking meds in hopes that the pain dies down sooner rather than later so I can head back out to some of the killer trails right outside my door. Meanwhile, my wife is Googling all of the possible complications that might possibly befall someone who suffers a broken toe, and worrying that I’ll develop a chronic pain syndrome, traumatic arthritis, or some horrible infection that eventually necessitates amputation.

Painkillers and paranoia – I can’t say it’s my favorite way to start a vacation, but I guess things could be a lot worse.


John Hayes 7/6/10, 8:21 AM  

Too much information!

Tuck 7/6/10, 8:54 AM  

Been there, done that. Both pinkie toes in the last 12 months. According to Christopher McDougall, this is pretty common.


I know you're wondering if you can run; you can, and you've got the perfect shoes for it already.

When I broke the first one (downhill in Treks) I used my zeroed MT100s to run in. Basically, anything that has a platform under the foot will provide enough support to prevent the pinkie toe from engaging. If the pinkie toe can flex, it will, and it will hurt.

I'd expect your SoftStars will be perfect for this.

Unfortunately since you do use your pinkie toe all the time (who knew?), it takes longer than a normal break to heal. Figure six to eight weeks for it to be 100%. But you'll be out of the SoftStars long before that.

Jason D. 7/6/10, 2:34 PM  

Ouch indeed! Sorry to hear about your injury...and while on vacation just adds insult to injury. Rest up and get that swelling down. And just tell your wife if it goes bad you're counting on her to handle the amputation. ;)

mweston 7/6/10, 4:00 PM  

I had an injured pinkie toe that looked pretty similar, suffered running hard into a rock (I presume) early in PCTR's Big Basin 50K, in regular (not minimal) trail shoes (which had a new hole in about the right place, I noticed later). Since I had DNFed that race the year before, I finished anyway, and the pain was actually more manageable running than walking (or at least not worse).

I did get an X-ray, though it was inconclusive. My doctor (not a runner) told me to not run for 2 weeks, which I managed to comply with for 8 days. The toe seems pretty normal now in either Vibrams or regular shoes, though the toenail is still black.

Rob 7/6/10, 5:24 PM  

What is worse Donald, is that your feet appear to be on back to front.

Donald 7/6/10, 5:35 PM  

Tuck: Thanks for the link to McDougall's interview. I guess that's an occupational hazard of the VFFs, huh? Encouraging to hear that he was still able to run on it a few days later; mine is still hurting like crazy, but I think I'll give it a try again soon.

I only brought my Vibrams and Soft Stars with me, so I'm stuck without the MTs for another week or so, but we'll see how a tape job and RunAmocs work out.

Rob: legs were crossed! I thought the effect of both pinkies side by side would be dramatic. Perhaps not.

Gretchen 7/6/10, 7:29 PM  

Seriously, Kid?

You do recall what I promised would happen in the event you turned up injured at precisely this point in the summer? See, the upside is that you're in the Sierra, so I have less distance to travel in order to come kick your butt.

Anyway, it really doesn't look that bad. Right? Suck it up. ;) And rest up, too, would ya? I'm not sure an epic run is the best idea right now!

derek 7/7/10, 12:24 AM  

Fun! I had to do that three times to the same toe, all in two months (the first hurt enough...) to finally learn to pick up my feet.

Funny how important that little guy is.

Anonymous,  7/7/10, 9:12 AM  

I know what you're thinking: 'Same size shoe . . . I know exactly where I can get a transplant.' Well forget it. You'll have to pry it off my cold, dead foot.
Richard in CV

Deacon Patrick 7/7/10, 2:26 PM  

Try Arnica for healing trauma (Amazon sells it -- I use the 200 dose, five "balls" a day dissolved under the tongue).

Anonymous,  7/7/10, 6:58 PM  

Guess I'm late to the party - I so did want to be the one to point out that BOTH of my little toes are on the outside of my feet. I mean who crosses thier legs, take a picture of thier feet and invites us too guess what's wrong with the picture?

Looks worse than mine. I didn't loose a single day of running although putting the vibrams on did hurt.
Gorgeous here in Hawaii. Many trails to explore. Hope you are back on the horse soon.


msimpson 7/8/10, 2:52 AM  

Ouch! Yup, been there, done that, but in my house, not on a trail. Mine was fractured (Kaiser let me know that a month later) and they told me to tape the pinkie to the next toe as a splint, ice, and elevate. Drove me crazy having my toe taped, but it works. Arnica works great, and you could probably pick some up in the town closest to Big Trees.

Anne 7/8/10, 5:10 AM  

That's a decent owie you got there. And thanks for the cautionary tale on running downhill in stony areas without a lot of foot coverage.

ZeFreds 7/9/10, 6:31 AM  

I can relate...I did that 3 weeks before my first marathon...ran early morning in the dark and missed a redwood log on ground. My toe wasn't broken, just badly bruised, so I was able to press on with training after few days of resting it.
Regarding the mental aspect of it, I am with you again...I tore my calf on Monday...My running season is shot...I confined to watching runners on the streets, me with crutches.
I wish a quick and solid recovery!

carmen 7/14/10, 8:13 AM  

deacon patrick suggested arnica... i agree and since ur in the mountains, its likely a local can find fresh growing nearby and show u how to poultice ur toe...
i havent been barefooting long enuf to experience the broken pinky, but i have broken pinkies (and other toes) many times around my horses so i feel ur pain! yes, who knew such a tiny overlooked appendage played such a big role in one's life? im sure theres some existential metaphor in there somewhere...

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