It feels like a drunken construction worker with a bright yellow hard-hat dropped a huge red brick on the top of your foot. It’s a dull, nagging pressure wedged between your big toe and the center of your foot. Worst of all, its cause is a mystery. You haven’t upped your mileage or even done any speed work. The phantom ache is a strange Halloween ghost haunting the spaces between your metatarsals and phalanges.
Has phantom top of foot pain ever struck you after a barefoot run?
I had my first scuffle with Top of Foot Pain (TOFP) this summer. At first, I thought it was from increasing my mileage or from doing wind sprints, but as it turns out it was from something else.
What’s the real cause of TOFP?
The number one cause of Top Of Foot Pain is TERRAIN! Most unshod runners ignore terrain; instead they focus on mileage or kilometers. But terrain plays a HUGE ROLE in injury. 4.8 barefoot kilometers on a steep, rocky mountain trail is more likely to ignite TOFP or whip-up pain in your Achilles than an 8 kilometer run on flat, smooth asphalt.
When to See a Doctor?
If the Pain increases when you walk or run. If you have sharp, shooting pains. If it’s fractured, running on it will only increase the size of the fracture, which means longer recovery.
How to Treat TOFP?
Terrific Terrain Tips:
Avoid Stepping on small stones–especially on flat surfaces; they will pop pain into your brain and damage your foot. Stepping on small stones is the main cause of TOFP. Tiny pebbles push the foot apart and crack bone. It’s a good idea to wear sandals or minimalist trail shoes such as Merril Foot Gloves when running on uneven, rocky terrain.
New Years Nineteen Hundred and I Don’t Remember. I said “Goodnight” to my girlfriend and I headed home. While driving, I kept thinking about my younger brother. I remembered that he had just broken up with girlfriend a few days before the Big Ass New Year’s Bash. Something inside me told me to check on him. So, I flipped a u-turn and headed towards the scene of the party. Most of the guests’s cars were gone, but the lights were on even though the sun was almost up.
I opened the front door to a frightening scene. My younger brother sprawled on the floor with blood all over his t-shirt. His jeans were covered with vomit and he had no shoes. Two of his drunk-ass, dumb-ass “friends” had black sharpies and disposable razors. They were staggering towards him ready to start writing God Knows What all over him. I ripped them away from my helpless brother.
I heaved him up onto his bare-feet and slapped his face until he awoke. He could barely talk. I lifted his shirt and checked for stab wounds, but found nothing. I supported him as he stumbled to my car. I repeatedly asked him if he was OK, poking and checking to find out if he had any pain anywhere. He just gave me bewildered gazes and kept saying, “I’m fine, I’m fine…” Other than being wasted drunk while wearing a blood spattered shirt, he didn’t show signs of injury or pain.
When I got him home, I could see that he was OK–no signs of blood loss or anything else sinister. I told him to shower and sent him off to bed.
That afternoon, I asked him about the shirt.
“How did it get the blood on it?”
He burst into a fit of laughter. “Dude, ” he said through tears and giggles, “Never mix tequila with Cherry Koolaid” (I was thinking more along the lines of NEVER mix my younger brother with tequila.)
Do your muscles remember the time Ryan’s buddies held you against the wall while he punched you in the gut? Do they remember the twist in his face when he realized he couldn’t hurt you because you did sit-ups everyday? They must remember how the sneaky bastard waited for you to walk past the blind alley and the hard thump, the sharp bolt of pain, the breath knocked clean from your lungs; they might even remember the sound of that cracked rib.
The body never really lets go of the anguish of past; instead it just twitches some of it out every now and then. It’s like wringing a towel. You can twist it hard and furious, but it’s always going to have some damp in it. If you want it dry, you have to give to the sun.
At some point everything goes to the sun, muscles, bones, the ones we love. Maybe that’s why the body tries to hold onto everything to store it in everyplace it can find; so one day you can remember everything: the first time you mother hugged you, your first barefoot run, your first kiss…
Muscles, muscles, my army of movement, I praise you, I sing your hymn. Without you I am a pile of flesh. May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you carry my memories, my pain, my pleasure, my very life with ease.