Thursday, October 28, 2010

Vibrams and Busted Toes

Unfortunately all is not roses in the land of the barefoot-style runner.  Or at least those of us who are trying to become barefoot-style runners later in life.  While certain running injuries become less likely, certain others become more likely.  One of the most painful injuries is the busted toe. Nathan asks the unfortunate question at Barefoot Ted's Minimalist group, and here's the answer I gave him:

I may well be the group's expert at slamming toes into rocks. At least I hope so. ;)

My experience has been that you get less hurt all in by busting a pinkie toe than you do when you kick a rock while running in shoes. If you do that, you fall flat on your face, generally hurt your knees, hands and/or elbows.

If you break a pinkie toe, you will curse, but you won't fall, and you won't have to stop running. You will also be able to keep running after a day or two when the swelling goes down.

Unfortunately breaking pinkie toes seems to be a part of the Vibram experience. You do seem to get better at paying attention after a while.

I busted a toe running with Gordo in Colorado; he was in his barefeet. Gordo can attest to the cursing, but also to the fact that I finished the run. I kept running for the rest of the week I was in CO (trail and road runs, barefoot and Vibrams), and continued training for and ran a 200-mile relay race with the busted pinkie toe.

I will note that the Speeds, Bikilas, and leather Treks (in that order) are the most comfortable to wear after you've busted the toe. The smooth interior on these models allows you to slide your toe right in. The KSOs become virtually unwearable, and the Sprints are difficult.

The first toe I busted running in Vibrams was not from hitting a rock.  I turned left, and my dog continued straight.  I kicked him in the leg, and broke my fourth toe.  Lord it hurt.  He seemed completely unharmed, aside from being mystified as to why I was jumping around and cursing.  Having no better idea what to do, I finished the run. 

If you do break a toe, make sure you keep running.  Evolution has ensured that a broken toe will not slow you down, but once you stop running, you're done.  It will swell up and you'll be unable to run for a day or two.