I’m writing this in hopes of helping other people get more information on a debilitating foot condition called Morton’s Neuroma (warning, graphic photo below).
In October of 2011 I spent 16 days riding a bicycle ~700 miles from Bogota, Columbia to Quito, Ecuador. Days in the saddle were long, hills were steep, and I wore trail runners for the utility of having around the town shoes. After moving to Missoula, I got back into a regular pattern of long trail runs, and shortly developed an annoying pain in my left foot. I had high deductible health insurance and a healthy distrust of western medicine, so I tried ice baths and acupuncture and strengthening exercises and anything else I could think of. No luck.
I started biking more, and got away from running all together, until I found 5 Fingers. My toes splayed out wider, my calves got stronger, and I got back to running. Morton’s Neuroma describes damage to nerve tissue in the web spaces between your toes, and normally feels like shooting pains. I felt the pains strongly wearing normal closed toed shoes, but the 5 Fingers seemed to keep me pain free. In June of 2012 I fractured my second metatarsal after a 14 mile run in 5 Fingers. I saw a certified Podiatrist, he gave me a walking boot, and confirmed my symptoms as Morton’s Neuroma. Not my finest moment, but I didn’t have any trouble with the Neuroma for a while.
I got back to running in 5 Fingers in September 2012, and even started to wear closed toed shoes with a substantial metatarsal pad in the footbed. Things seemed to get better, until they got worse. Real pain returned in October, and I went back to the podiatrist in November for a cortisone shot. This seemed to provide some substantial relief, but I wasn’t up to running, and by the time ice season rolled around in December, ice boots didn’t feel very good either. The podiatrist wasn’t even interested in the followup appointment, let alone giving me further options for treatment. I stumbled out of his office and hoped for the best.
I went to Australia in January of 2013 and wore flip flops and 5 Fingers for a month. I was pretty much pain free, and even got out for some longer running. I took closed toed shoes, and wore them on occasion, but I had fallen in love with the 5 Fingers, so I didn’t worry about it. Coming back to work in February and something flared up in my foot, and things turned ugly for real. While in Seattle, I happened to talk to a client that had had the same problems. I had avoided even thinking about another surgery on my left foot. The bunion I had removed in March of 2011 was enough to turn me off the idea. This guy though, said it was required and I was starting to get desperate.
I boot the walking boot back on after a tough construction job in the beginning of April and got the name of a good surgeon in town. Walking without the boot became purely impossible over the next week. The surgeon and I talked on April 30 and it didn’t take long for me to realize cutting things open is sometimes the best way to go. Last Friday morning, Dr. Heid cut a 1.25″ bag of seriously pissed off nerve tissue out of the top of my left foot.
I’m taking it slow and dreaming of running in the gorgeous evening light outside my window. A big thanks to the team at Northern Rockies Orthopedics, my lovely girlfriend Sarah, and the many different Missoulians that have come out of the woodwork to trade cars (Steph&Noah!), make meals (Krista&Nate), and generally make life easier (Meghann, Tess, Paul, Kim, and many more). I think life is going to be better this way.
- Don’t ignore the early symptoms. Toughing it out is a bad plan.
- Don’t rule out the options. I’ve passed up more adventures than I’d like to admit in the last year, mostly because I didn’t really dig into dealing with the problem.
- I’m still not sure there’s a way to avoid surgery, but I suspect early treatment is always better.
- Dr. Heid suspects that my leg length discrepancy+an improperly adjusted touring bike probably put my feet over the edge with all the other abuse I’ve put on them. Get your bike fitted and make sure your body mechanics work. $300 bike fitting >> $3000 surgery.