Monday, August 24, 2020


My right foot has been slightly swollen since February, but for the past few months, it had seemed as if it had begun to settle down, albeit only slightly. Now that I've started distance walking again, though, the foot has swollen back up—not to the point where it was in February, but to a point where the skin feels tight. I also have a nice little ache in my right foot; it started last week, and it's been with me ever since. Yesterday's walk intensified the ache a bit, so I'll be watching (feeling) its progress over time, but ever since I took my orthotic insoles out of my size 12s and put them into my size 13s, life has improved.

So there are several factors I'm keeping track of: the tightness of my shoes, the pressure of my socks on my toes (I try to leave some toe room in my socks before I put my shoes on, but the socks creep backward toward my heel as I walk, becoming tight over my toes), the general swelling of my right foot, and a few other, minor things. I'm trying to lose a few kilos before the walk begins; the lessened pressure might help with some of these problems. For the moment, I'm optimistic that I'll still be able to walk come October, although I admit it's a bit disturbing to have to check my readiness.


John Mac said...

Interesting, I've never had that issue with socks before. What happens when they are snug against the toes? Blisters?

Kevin Kim said...

I'm pretty sure that my socks have done more to hurt my feet than my shoes have. When the socks pull tight against the toes, the sock fabric pushes hard against the toenails. Repeat this pressure tens of thousands of times over the course of the day, times twenty-five days, and you start cutting off the circulation around the cuticle that keeps the toenails oxygenated.

As the oxygen is depleted in that part of the foot, the skin underneath a given toenail will start to blacken, giving the impression that the toenail itself is blackening. Eventually, the tissue surrounding the toenail, i.e., the tissue keeping the toenail moored to your foot, dies and shrivels, weakening to the point where the toenail is no longer attached except by a few stubborn fibers of tissue. A simple tug with the nail clippers, and the toenail comes off. If the toenail takes a long time to get to that point, the new toenail will start growing under the dead toenail, and that growth will help push the dead toenail off. Lovely image, ja?

I've gone through this cycle about four times, now, so I've become very familiar with it. It's always amusing to think of myself as a human salamander that can regrow lost body parts.

The stopgap solution to the pressure-on-toenails problem is to periodically take off your shoes and tug on your socks to loosen the fabric around your toes. That's a pain in the ass, and I rarely do the proper maintenance while I'm on the trail.

Upshot: it's not blisters.

John Mac said...

Fascinating. Is this a common issue with distance hikers? Surprised someone hasn't invented a non-slip sock.