Untangle our hands unravel ourselves

Dressed and ready for Chris's Yin Yoga class but sadly there was a problem with the yoga studio and the class was canceled. Why waste a good opportunity for wall sits and stretching?

Dressed and ready for Chris's Yin Yoga class but sadly there was a problem with the yoga studio and the class was canceled. Why waste a good opportunity for wall sits and stretching?

A few days ago I got a thoughtful email from MapMyRun letting me know I have half the mileage left on my shoes since buying them and linking them to my runs.  This is significant because I’m wearing the discontinued Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14s.

The GTS 15s run short and even with orthotics they don’t give me the support I get when I run in the 14s.  I’m pretty sure at this point I’ve bought every last pair of the 14s in my size and have them sitting in their boxes in my closet.  My plan is to wait out the 15s until the 16s come along, which I’m hoping will work better for me. 

Now that I’m halfway through one of the new pairs, I’m starting to panic.

The email also came just after my long run on Sunday when I was starting to revisit the whole issue of foot and toe pain.  I suddenly became aware that I clench my toes on my left foot when I run, which could be a contributing factor. 

And it occurs to me I can measure time by how long it takes for my bruised first toe on my left foot to turn black while a new nail grows underneath and the damaged nail falls off.  In reality this has only happened once and the whole thing took 9 months and under the skilled precision of Helen at Blue Zen in Bethesda.

Actually I’m only wearing Pinking of You on my toes for a total of two weeks before I’m sure I’ll need to go back to Lincoln Park after Dark.  


When I talk to runner friends everyone seems to have a black toe or toenail that regularly falls off.  I will preserve the bruised toe as long as I have to, even if I have to use super glue, because I’m that vain about having all 10 toenails the same color especially in the summer but actually in the winter too.

When all of this first started in October 2014 I spent a lot of time revisiting the fit issue of my shoes but also researching possible reasons for bruised toes or foot or toe pain. Ultimately I settled on the issue of balance for me.

My shoes fit me perfectly, which is important because apparently you can bruise your toes if your shoes are too small but also if they’re too big.  A specialist at R and J Running in Bethesda suggested I stuff a newspaper ball into the toe box of my shoes after a run to keep them sufficiently stretched or the night before a long run.  I did this in the winter when I was running in wet weather and didn’t want the shoes to shrink when they were drying. For at least one pair, the ones I wore at the Sagicor 6K in Kingston in February, the ball stretched out the toe box too much.

Now my toes slide around when I’m running and obviously I can’t wear those Brooks anymore.

But I also think I clench my left foot when I run.  I was hyper focused on my feet during my run yesterday because I could feel the same toe on my left foot start to hurt, and I really did not want it to bruise and turn black. Whenever I visualized my toes relaxing, or my foot hitting the pavement lightly, I ran without pain, but not for long because of course my mind began to drift to other topics, other places.

It was my first trainer, Reuel Tizabi, who mentioned balance as a possible cause of foot pain while running.

At first he had me standing on one foot whenever I could manage it – while brushing my teeth, cooking, whatever.

Then he suggested balancing on one foot with my eyes closed.  Not so easy. These and other balancing exercises in the gym are a focus of my training and now that I’m paying attention to this, especially on my weaker left side, where I had my knee surgery, I see a lot of other runners doing this too and much more. They’re balancing on a bosu ball and playing catch with their trainers all while standing on one foot and nailing single leg RDLs.

Ultimately my sense is when I’m having trouble balancing on one foot I naturally clench that foot as a way of finding stability.  I know it sounds weird, but I think that's what's going on.

Seriously I have as much un-training to do as training.

I even asked marathon finisher Harriett Thompson in my interview with her for GovLoop if she ever runs through foot pain or needs to take her feet out of her shoes during a race. 

“No,” she said without any hesitation. “I never take my shoes off during a race.”

Wake up call for me to resolve this one.
I was sharing some of my foot thoughts with my husband, Bob, on Sunday while we were in the car, and a little bit later, he sent me a link to Maximalist Shoes Fail to Cushion Impact of Running, an article in MedScape.  The article focuses on shoes that are designed to protect against impact while running – especially your knees and your back. I’m not that surprised by the study because at times, when I’ve tried on super cushiony shoes, such as Hokas, I actually felt a little tippy and not at all in touch with the ground, throwing my balance off even more.

My new physical therapist, Kevin McGuinness at Washington Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine's SMARTherapy, is also focusing on my balance.  Everything on my left side is weaker than everything on my right side, probably because I never properly rehabed after my surgery on my left knee in 2012.  So to begin, he wants me to intensify my core work.  I mentioned this to Nancy Accetta, my new trainer, and her eyes lit up. She's got abs of steel so I'm looking forward to seeing what she's got up her sleeve for me in the coming weeks.

See you next time!