Shoes and the Drama (Trauma?) They Cause

Disclaimer: this post will be a bit TMI. If you don’t like reading about runner’s toes, flee now!

Anyone who’s read this blog for a while knows that I’m a big fan of kit… a gearhead, if you will. Back in March I wrote an ode to my running shoes, proclaiming my love of the Saucony Guide. I wore the Guide 6 for most of my running “career,” and recently switched over to the coveted Guide 7. The first time I gave them a trial run (you can read all about it if you so desire in my “OMG Shoes” post) they felt like they were part of my feet, and were the most comfortable running shoes I’d tried yet. I was beyond stoked when I finally bought a pair.

Saucony Guide 7

Saucony Guide 7

I was delighted to find that, after switching to the 7s, my splinty shins calmed down, and actually even went away completely. Huzzah! I concluded that my 6s had racked up enough miles to start bothering me and embraced the 7s even more.

Sadly, it’s starting to look like the 7s might not be as magical as I originally thought. Ever since making the switch at the Old Wethersfield 10K last month, my runner’s toes have been more angry than usual.

Quick TMI background: my right foot is disgusting. The nail on my second toe (next to the Big One) has turned black and fallen off 3 times in the last 15 years. Too much activity in ill-fitting shoes has its consequences! Currently it’s black and has been threatening to fall off once again for close to a year. My baby toe is angry as hell because it’s been rubbing constantly in pretty much every shoe since childhood, and the trauma of running has only made it worse. (Interestingly, the nail part has only been angry for less than a year – usually it’s a knuckle blister that’s the problem – and I’m not entirely sure what started all the nail drama.)

Now, ever since switching to the 7s, angry second toe has a big ol’ perma blister to go along with the bruised nail, and 4th toe (next to baby toe) has both a blister and a big, angry bruise. Initially I thought the new damage was from running in new socks for my 10K – lately I’ve been racing in double-lined socks and these were single-lined – but after subsiding in the week after the race, the anger and bruising have come right back after my long runs. I’ve tried a bunch of different socks but none have helped the blisters or bruising. All I can say is, thank god for super dark nail polish!

This drawing is amazing and sums up pretty perfectly how I imagine my toes (source)

This drawing is amazing and sums up pretty perfectly how I imagine my toes (source)

So, if it’s not the socks, it must be the shoes, right? I haven’t changed my running style, just my mileage, and this worries me. I love 5Ks but don’t want to be confined to that distance forever! I’ve been considering trying Altras because I’m curious if their wider toe box would help, but am hesitant to buy new shoes because I only just started wearing these new Guides. Plus, the Guides feel perfect in every other way. I’ve been scouring the web for Guide 7 reviews to see if anyone else has had the same problem, but reviewers have been praising them for their wide toe box and anti-blister rail (?!) and fabulous support.

On the other hand (foot?) this might all boil down to feet, and not shoes. I know I have weird feet (flat, really narrow) and messed-up toes (my second toes on both feet aren’t long like the big toe, like most people’s are, so my big toes put more strain on a smaller area and poke holes through socks like no one’s business… plus my toes point up whenever I take a step/flex my calf muscle/try to kick a ball) and this has made buying shoes a pain in the neck my whole life… if my toes don’t bump the shoes are usually too loose, but if the majority of my foot fits well, my toes will crash. Maybe the title of this post should be “Feet and the Drama They Cause;” it’s not Saucony’s fault that my feet are so bizarre!

So here are my questions for my fellow runners: Have you experienced crazy toe bruising like this and if so, have you figured out how to treat/prevent it? Do you think this onslaught of bruising is because I’ve been upping my mileage, and if so, will it get better or will I be doomed to run 4 miles or less for forever?? Does this sound like a shoe issue, or a sock issue, or is it an issue just because I have really weird feet, and toes that refuse to behave like normal toes? Do I need to win the lottery and have shoes specially made for my crazy feet? I’m at a complete loss and any advice at all would be greatly appreciated!

Happy running and happy feet!


12 thoughts on “Shoes and the Drama (Trauma?) They Cause

  1. I don’t have problems with my toes, but I’m having lots of trouble with the balls of my feet. I have had perma-blisters on the outside of the balls of my feet ever since I started running. They pop, sort of but not really heal, and blister again. They penetrate through several layers of the skin. It’s gross and incredibly painful. And lately, the blisters are spreading to the bottoms of my feet and under my pinky toes. I wear nice socks and shoes, but this has always been my trouble area, no matter what socks or shoes I wear. I’m beginning to think it’s just me and that nothing will help. I’ve even tried wearing blister prevention bandaids over the area, but they just slide off, or slathering them with Body Glide. Nothing helps. I would also be interested to see if anyone has similar issues.

    So, in short, I have no idea how to help you, since I can’t even help myself. Someone help us?

    • Yikes, that sounds pretty terrible! So far *knocking on wood* I’ve only gotten blisters on my toes and have been able to cover them in bandaids and have them actually mostly stay in place while I run, but the ball of the foot is so tricky! I got a sample of Blister Shield powder ( in the RunnerBox I got, but haven’t tried it yet… though if you’ve tried Body Glide and that hasn’t worked I don’t know if this powder would be any different. (I’d be happy to send it to you though, if you want to try it!)

      I second the “someone help us”! 🙂

          • I had the same issue with blisters under the balls of both of my feet. Once they popped in August after a Spartan Race, I stopped using the socks I had and switched exclusively to Thorlo Experia socks. They are padded under the ball of the foot and the heel. I also use a little bit of Trail Toes (instead of Body Glide which didn’t help) before I put the sock on. That’s what ended up working for me (mostly just the sock), so hopefully that can help you. They’re not cheap socks, but I think they are totally worth it.

  2. Do you have enough room at the end of your shoe? When I first started seeing my sports chiro, she had me switch from size 8 regular, to size 9.5 NARROW WIDTH shoes. Made a huge difference in allowing my foot to spread out and fit better overall. I was buying the smaller size to compensate for how narrow my shoes were. Make sure you at least have a thumb width of space between your toes and the end of your shoe. And maybe the brand has something to do with it as well? You could ask at your local running store if you’re able to get to one. That’s just my two cents. See also my comment about the padded socks. They also have those silly Injiji toe socks or whatever those are. I’ve never tried them (they freak me out) but people rave about them.

    • Hmm, these are definitely some things to look into! When I’m standing up, it seems like there’s about a thumb’s width between my big toe and the end of the shoe, but apparently my feet are sliding forward… maybe I’m not tying my shoes tightly enough? A narrow width shoe might be the ticket. I think I need a trip to my local running store to ask some questions!

      I tried the toe socks (well, I tried one… my left foot/toes have given me NO trouble at all so I wore a regular sock on that foot, and a toe sock on the other) for the Blerch race and I’m not sure if they helped. My bad toe started hurting right around the 3.5-mile mark, but it doesn’t look more bruised than normal. Argh who knows! Thanks for the tip anyway! 🙂

  3. Ouch! I always lose the same two toenails, I’ve lost count of how many times. Have you tried those toe socks? So your toes don’t rub together? I’ve heard good things about them. Maybe a wider toe box? I know that my new Sayonara’s are a normal width but the toe box is huge, I feel like I need thicker socks. Something like that might work?

    • Thanks for the tips! I tried the toe socks at the Blerch race (see my reply to Courtney above) but their effect remains to be seen. A wider toe box is something I’ve thought of too… definitely something to chat with a running store person about!

  4. Pingback: Weekend Wrap-Up, 9/21 | Slow and Steady(ish)

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