Better late than never

I was 1,000 meters into the 5K corporate run when I felt sharp pain in my right big toe. I had run through every other lower body discomfort in my life, so of course I’d keep going too under these circumstances. Besides, after two steps, I could tell walking wasn’t going to make a difference anyway.

What interrupted my race that day was in fact an injury that had been building for years. My orthopedic surgeon diagnosed it as a bone cyst in my big toe, which he said was a type of arthritis. I had thought arthritis was something that only senior citizens worried about, but regardless, my doctor had a plan: He was going to make an incision on top of my big toe, and use a medical cement to fill the cyst. The CT scan revealed a second cyst that was not yet causing me pain, and the doctor planned to fill that one also when I was under anesthesia.

After my surgery, in my Google review, I wrote, “Dr. Srinath saved my life. I sought no medical care for months while I waited pointlessly for this injury to heal; every step was agony; the boot prescribed by the podiatrist did nothing to solve the problem and I wore it for far too long. Dr. Srinath gave me my life back, and I am grateful.”

How did I get to this place?

When weightlifter wise guys say that running makes everything worse, they’re actually not kidding. I have no doubt that decades of mindless pounding created an arthritic situation in my toe by the time I reached 40.

Second, when I was about 35, I started to teach myself jump rope, ironically because I was looking for a form of cardio that would be lower impact. I got carried away with practicing high-flying tricks, which often ended with a giant crash on my feet and toes.

What could I have done differently?

Like many things in life, you only go searching for a solution after it’s too late.

When I was teaching myself about proper running form, I discovered the 180 beats per minute running cadence. This step rate ensures a midfoot strike, as compared to the ill-informed, high impact style that causes so many problems.

I also wish I had done more barefoot lifting and barefoot exercise, including with the jump rope. Working out barefoot produces more natural mechanics, while also strengthening the feet. You don’t have to be in high heels to suffer from the way shoes impair stability, crush your toes, and cause structural changes in the foot.

Incidentally, the cascade of foot problems my bone cyst caused included a severe strain of my peroneal tendon. You can explore here my solution to rehabilitate this ankle injury.

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