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Help me diagnose and treat toe pain

Original Post
Lou Hibbard · · Eagan, MN · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 225

Symptoms: Throbbing pain in the three middle toes that wakes me up at night. Only starts after laying down for a while. If I take a ton of Advil that helps but don't like taking that much medicine. 

How it started: Took a 3 week trip with no climbing. When got back tried to toughen up my feet and hands by climbing a lot of cracks at the gym right away.

Correlations noted: Seems to correlate with arch support. Doesn't affect my climbing other than my arches get sore.

Definitely correlates with tight shoes as breaking in some new shoes made it much worse. 

Dangling my foot over the bed and wiggling my toes helps but can't do that all night.

The affected toes seem rather stiff  and rigid as a normal state but a normal color. 

It is only on my left foot. 

Climbing cracks makes it occur more. 

I was using a very old rock shoe that may have pinched my foot some when it started. Switching shoes helped but it still persists.

It's been getting worse starting in December. 

I am generally in great shape with good circulation - can hike20 + miles with many thousands of feet of elevation gain. 

I have a pair of bigger shoes on order. 

Any thoughts/suggestions?

More than willing to seek medical advice but thought asking climbers is a good place to start. 


John Ryan · · Poncha Springs, CO · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 165

I busted out my super overly tight Testarossas when my Solutions needed a resole a couple months ago. Once when I was cramming my left foot in, my foot seemed to fold along the longitudinal axis of the foot, and it felt weird but didn't really hurt. Since then my left toe and beneath it hurt when loaded. Like you, I probably need to rest it a week or two but am too stubborn. It does seem to be getting better, and I've got new Solutions that are snug but not tight. 

Charlie Proctor · · Somerville, MA · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 45

Sounds like it might be Morton's Neuroma that's manifesting itself more in toe numbness than the normal pain in the ball of your foot. Basically I'm thinking that the nerves are getting squeezed in between your metatarsals and that's what's causing the toe numbness. Wear wide shoes for awhile, stay away from the cracks, and massage/ice your feet and it should get better. I had somewhat similar symptoms with Morton's Neuroma and really it's the tight shoes (in width at least) that sets it off.

Lou Hibbard · · Eagan, MN · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 225

Thanks, guys

I will definitely look into the Morton;s Neuroma

Aerili · · Los Alamos, NM · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 1,970

I don't know why but my gut feeling is something like arthritis. Your details aren't really precise enough in location for me to say that with more "intellectual" assurance though 

I would definitely see a foot doc. Don't assume it will just resolve on its own. If it does happen to be something like arthritis, the joints can become damaged more and more if you just let it continue without any formal treatment.  

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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