A few weeks ago I was contemplating quitting running. It was serious. After 35 years of pounding I was convinced my feet had said F-it. Months of awful runs. Not plantar fasciitis. The pain only came when I ran. Physio, massage, ball rolling, stretching, strengthening didn't help a bit. The same thing would happen at about mile two. First the heat would begin to spread, like a small bush-fire. Then this weird-AF feeling of numbness that would take over, followed by last-but-not-least an intense but somehow dull pain that would radiate from the base of my toes to the middle of my foot. Like my foot was being murdered by some unseen force. Yup I was more than ready to give up all that glorious impact. It's not like running is the b-all and end-all and I enjoy plenty of other challenging physical activities. But shit, it had been with me for so long, through all my major life milestones. With every run I solved the world's problems (and mine) and the thought of living without it made me sad and angry. My mother would have held up her hands in surrender and simply said "Old age is a bitch!" Lol - I'm turning fifty next year and am feeling anything but old (except for my f'ing feet).
Then a few weeks ago I ran into my "old" friend Matt who is a slightly more "experienced" runner than myself. As I described the various stages and sensations that were happening within my shoes, he rather brilliantly suggested that my shoes were in fact strangling my feet. (Even though they were supposed to be like the most awesome shoes.) His theory was that my $$$ Mizunos were literally cutting off my circulation because they were too narrow for my feet. He recommended I go see this guy at the local running store and told me he was sure he would fix me up.
Sounded good to me so the next day I met with Chris down at the Athletic Store. (I should mention that he was far younger - and cuter - than I expected and seriously buff.) I was sure he could help! Now I won't bore you with all the details of dressing and undressing my feet. Let's just say that I now own a pair of Brooks Glycerin which have a nice wide toe box and a fair bit of cushioning. They were pricey but cheaper than the two sessions of physio and massage I paid for.
Thanks to Matt and Chris I am running enthusiastically and comfortably again. As a bonus, one of my toes which had been "dead" for months (can you say self diagnosed Morton's Neuroma?) has been reborn. I can now feel a little something when I prick it with something sharp and pointy. Hallelujah!
I cannot believe how blind I was to the possibility that my shoes were the cause of the problem. Every professional was convinced it was due to my super tight (slightly over-developed calves - I mean weeny). Lol. I was in denial because although my "old" shoes were newish, they were the same brand and model I had been running in for the past four years without pain or discomfort. It turns out that the manufacturer has been making them narrower every year and I guess they just got to the point where they were just too narrow for my "wide" feet. Actually my feet are most lady-like...see?
The moral of the story is that obviously the right or wrong shoes make a huge difference. Pain is often not due to some physiological flaw. I don't know too much about all the technical stuff but I now know for sure what works for me. A little bit more cushioning in the forefoot, a wider toe box and a bit less *drop (the difference between the back and front of the shoe measured in mm) does the trick. It's gonna be different for everybody, every foot. You should just go with what makes your foot feel more like a natural extension of itself. At least that's what the running experts say. Makes sense.
Happy feet, better running. Never quit!
*less drop (flatter shoe) is recommended for forward foot strikers; more of a drop is usually recommended for heel strikers. More importantly make sure that if you significantly change your drop that you progress slowly to avoid injury and strain especially to your calves and achilles