Plan your Link Trail hike!

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I consider myself to be near the low end of the squeamishness spectrum. I grew up on a farm, and spent a few years in the nineties working in homes for developmentally disabled adults. Not only can I deal with the host of fluids that people and other creatures discharge, but in most cases I could do so with one hand while spooning Swiss Miss vanilla pudding into my mouth with the other. So when something makes me say "Ewwwwwwww!" it's noteworthy. Now you're probably thinking that this already sounds like a disgusting topic for a blog post, but I figure it's worth warning folks about the importance of adequately preparing one's feet for a very long hike. Hey, be thankful I'm not enough of a freak to include a photo.

My toenails had gotten longish by Saturday, and I suspected that was one of the main reasons for the pain in the big toe of my left foot after the hike. The farther the nail sticks out, the more of a moment arm it presents to any upward forces exerted on it, and that means more torque at the nail/cuticle boundary. I had made a mental note not only to cut my nails before I do any more hiking this weekend, but to always check their length - and, if necessary, trim them - before a hike.

So this morning I had a few minutes to spare, and I looked down and said "Hey, gotta trim those." I grabbed the clippers, grasped the toe in question, and started wondering again whether I might lose the nail. The pain had subsided since Saturday night, but it was still tender. There was a slight reddishness to the flesh beneath, like it was bruised. I began trimming. I nicked the cuticle and... there were fluids. No pain, just... fluids. Let's just leave it at that.

Again, this is not an self-indulgent exercise in being disgusting. Maybe this warning will keep you from losing a nail on a long hike. Or maybe you have much more experience than I, and can give me suggestions for preventing wear and tear on the toes. I didn't mind the full-body ache or the burning from the stinging nettles or the blisters, because I knew they'd fade in a few days. I'm going to lose at least part of this toenail, though, and that presents a more long-term inconvenience.

So, what can I do next time to treat my toes better? As I mentioned in the entry for that hike, I made the huge mistake of wearing only one pair of socks. Two or three pairs would have certainly mitigated the problem, but would they have solved it? I doubt it because I didn't have a problem with the big toe on my right foot. That means there's an asymmetry to my gait, because it stands to reason that my left foot is doing something that my right foot isn't. I need to correct that asymmetry if I'm to hike without damaging myself further. Luckily my fiancée, she gots th' mad physical therapy skillz, so she'll be able to set me straight - literally.

1 comment:

One More Stitch said...

You need a good pair of hand-knitted hiking socks for protection and I have been wanting to make some for a while!