This is likely one of the most important blogs I will write on Cold Thistle.
I figure if you are reading this blog you are into climbing. All sorts of climbing, rock, ice and snow. That means being out 12 months of the year on you feet besides just the climbing.
If you are like me, enough miles and you eventually get injured. Major or minor injuries have a way of adding up. Something I didn't really believe when i was 18 and now realise just how wrong I was on that myopic perspective.
"The human foot is one of the best-engineered parts of the body.
Each foot has 33 joints, eight arches, 26 bones, more than a hundred muscles, ligaments, and tendons that all work together to distribute body weight and allow movement. Unfortunately, many people pay no attention to their feet – until they start to hurt.
Foot disorders must be diagnosed and treated early, before they become very painful and incapacitating. In some cases, some painful foot abnormalities are already warning signs of even more serious ailments such as diabetes, circulatory disorders, and nerve problems. Do a self-check while it’s early.."
Few things will really slow you down in the mountains. Knees will. But everyone who has had a bad blister on their foot will acknowledge just how disabled you can be when you feet start hurting.
Staying mobile will keep you climbing in one fashion or another. There are other joints that will slow you down but the ones that seem to most easily effect us are the feet, and knees.
If you look the first set of feet with the taped toe, pictured above with the title, the thing most obvious is the over size joint at the ball of the foot, base of the big toe. It is called a Bunion. Sad as it seems , your feet change over time and generally get bigger. Bunions can be hereditary, but for climbers it can exacerbated by abuse of long walks, tight rock shoes, or rigid soled boots.
I replaced several pairs of perfectly good winter boots last year for just those reasons. Capsulitis of the second toe, Hallux Abducto Valgus (bunions) and a few other issues of simply wear, tear and age means bigger boots and prescription orthotics to slow the progression. If left unattended you will end up with some seriously damaged feet and a long term loss of mobility. Below is a good sized bunion on the left foot and hammer toes on the right foot..
Here is a look at just a few of the common foot issues climbers (or anyone might) have. Do your self a favor and take a look at your own feet. Address the issues sooner than later.
When there is increased stress on the arch, microscopic tears can occur within the plantar fascia, usually at its attachment on the heel. This results in inflammation and pain with standing and walking and sometimes at rest. It usually causes pain and stiffness on the bottom of your heel.
An enlargement on the side of the foot near the base of the big toe (hallux). The enlargement is made up of a bursa (fluid filled sac) under the skin. The term bunion is also commonly used to describe a structural (bony) deformity called hallux abducto valgus (HAV). Bunions can be painful and can be aggravated by activity and wearing tight shoes.
In the foot, a neuroma is a nerve that becomes irritated and swells up. If the nerve stays irritated, it can become thickened which makes the nerve larger and causes more irritation. Pain from a neuroma is usually felt on the ball of your foot.
Corns & Callouses
Corns and callouses are areas of thick, hard skin. They usually develop due to rubbing or irritation over a boney prominence. The hard, thick skin is called a corn if it is on your toe and it is called a callous if it is somewhere else on your foot.
Toenail Fungus (onychomycosis)
Fungi like a warm, moist and dark environment (like inside a shoe). A fungal infection in your toenails may cause the nails to become discolored, thickened, crumbly or loose. There are different causes and it is difficult to treat due to the hardness of the toenail.
Ingrown Toenail (onychocryptosis)
An ingrown toenail can occur for various reasons. The sides or corners of the toenail usually curve down and put pressure on the skin. Sometimes the toenail pierces the skin and then continues to grow into the skin. This may cause redness, swelling, pain and sometimes infection.
A hammer toe is also sometimes referred to as a claw toe or mallet toe. It involves a deformity of the toe where there is an imbalance in the pull of the tendons. Either the tendon on top of the toe pulls harder or the tendon on the bottom of the toe pulls harder. This results in a curling up of the toe.
Plantar Warts (plantar verucca)
Plantar warts are caused by a virus. Plantar means bottom of the foot, but warts can occur other places on the foot and toes as well. Plantar warts can be painful depending on where they are located. Sometimes they are mistaken for callouses because layers of hard skin can build up on top of the wart.
Flat Feet (pes planus)
Just because you have flat feet does not mean you will have problems or pain. If you do have pain, there are various treatment options available. If you only have one foot that has a flat arch, it may be due to another problem and you should get it checked out.
Athlete's Foot (tinea pedis)
Athlete's foot is a common skin condition that can affect everyone, not just athletes. It is caused by a fungus. It may cause redness, itchiness, tiny bumps filled with fluid or peeling skin. It is most commonly located between the toes or on the bottom of the feet.
Achilles tendonitis involves inflammation of the Achilles tendon. If the tendon stays inflamed long enough, it can lead to thickening of the tendon. Sometimes nodules or bumps can form in the tendon. Achilles tendonitis can become a long term problem or can lead to rupture of the tendon."
Capsulitis of the second toe, (or any toe)
Hallux Abducto Valgus (bunions), hammer toe, onychocryptosis, and Plantar Fasciitis have all plague this pair of feet. Much of the damage is a given from hereditary. But much of the damage could have been mitigated by the use of a prescription orthotic early on ( or even a well fitted off the shelf orthodic) and more carefully picking the approach and climbing footwear to be used.
Foot injuries and broken bones from martial arts, accidents, cold injuries while working, skiing and climbing, the use of overly tight rock shoes, and rigid soled alpine boots all add to the long term damage. And slow recovery. But as much as anything your genes, your heredity, will have much to do with how your feet fair over time. That is luck of the draw. A good Podiatrist may be able to limit the damage or fix what you have been given.
More here on what to look for and avoid:
I think there should be much more concern with several issues on mtn boots. First is the low quality generally worthless, insoles boots are delivered with today. I have $700 and $1000 production boots that come with insoles that sell for less than .10 cents a pair. Come on!
The other concern in recent boots is a super rigid sole and a very flexible ankle. Our feet don't work that way. You are bound to have feet issues with a bad insole and a dead rigid sole.