I promise never to walk for miles in flip-flos again if this pain goes away.
March 18, 2007 5:12 AM   Subscribe

I walked around in flip-flops all day, and now my big toes really, really hurt.

So I´m doing one of those "backpack-for-awhile" trips, and while in Barcelona I ran out of socks. "Easy enough, " I thought, "I´ll just walk around in my flip-flops and do laundry tonight." So I walk all day (Thursday)--with a bit of mild hiking up to the big park there--and my toes really started to hurt. I took it easy that night and pretty much stayed in, walked in shoes the next day and the same thing happened. I guess, technically, the pain never went away.

It hurts most when I try to rub my big toe on top of the toe next to it. I´m not sure if that´s a common thing to do, so I understand I could be freakish for that, but the same movement/bendability is also needed for walking. So basically it hurts to walk. This morning when I tried to flex my big toes it really felt like my tendons running up the to of my feet were dry rubberbands. It was painful (and mildly nauseating).

My questions are:
A) What did I do?
B) If I spend a couple of days off my feet will it go away?
C) Can I rub out the pain/put leeches on my feet/etc. to get out the pain while I´m travelling?
D) If I can't do anything to solve it, will I do any pemanent damage by continuing to walk without treatment?

I 'm travelling until May 2nd, so this will be quite the bummer, potentially.

I also realize someone might have asked a similar question a few months ago, but perhaps are problems are different/maybe there's some new toe-pain specialist to the scene.

Kids: never walk all day in flip-flops,
posted by mwachs to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I did something similar to the big toe on my left foot while I was abroad last year. I thought I'd broken it, but I think in the end it was just a tendon or something, since I'd been really active and had hurt it when swimming.

Anyway, I used some Ibuprofen gel on it, but didn't really give it any time to heal up for another good week or two, and that meant it ended up lasting another 4 or 5 weeks. The sooner you can rest it the better basically, otherwise it's going to continue to hurt for longer.

As for damaging it further, I can't say as I'd know. I suspect that would be the case, seems intuitive, but I haven't had any lasting problems with it.
posted by opsin at 6:12 AM on March 18, 2007

Sounds like you've over-worked the tendons or something. I often get that sort of thing (particularly when travelling - I guess it is the combination of "on your feet all day" and wearing footwear that you're just not used to). What I use is Arnica massage oil: it's a herbal anti-inflammatory with analgesic properties.

Weleda do a massage oil which is great for bruising and this sort of thing, and as I had the exact same problem in Tenerife lately I can pop upstairs and read the bottle. This is what it's called in Spanish: Aceite para masaje con Árnica. It's sold in a lot of the pharmacies, and you could do worse than to chat with a pharmacist about the problem. In Spain, like in France, pharmacists seem to be good at giving advice.

If you don't want to talk to the pharm, or your spanish isn't up to it, I'd try to combine liberal applications of this oil with ibuprofen and rest for a few days.
posted by handee at 6:57 AM on March 18, 2007

I know people who have trouble with the strap-over-tendon thing; ie flip-flops bother their feet not because of lack of support, but because of the strap structure.

I assume you've gotten some socks and are going to wear real shoes now? IANAD but I would guess the problem is temporary, and will gradually get better once the injurious straps are out of the picture. (Assuming you take it easy for a little while)
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:13 AM on March 18, 2007

Second the Arnica. Also take 2 ibuprofen tablets. Ibuprofen in the US is usually 200mg per tablet, in Spain you'll either get 200mg or 400mg. It's called ibuprofeno. You can also ask for Nurofen, and then ask if there's a less expensive version.

If you want to go to a pharmacy today, any pharmacy will have a list posted on the door of nearby pharmacies open on Sundays. Check the date; they rotate. Ask them for advice.

Don't massage a tendon much, you might inflame it more. Instead, try stretching it very gently by standing on the other foot, bending your knee slightly, and putting the top of your painful foot on the floor. Press down GENTLY and you should feel the stretch.
posted by fuzz at 8:29 AM on March 18, 2007

I had very bad wrist pain in my mid 20s from a word processing job, and the thinking at that time (which is about 15 years old) was that you wanted first to stop the inflammation in a tendon and THEN to start stretching and strengthening it. From that knowledge, I'd tend to suggest you not try to stretch your toes much, as that probably won't help until the inflammation is relieved.

When my wrists were hurting, my doctor had me taking 800mg of ibuprofen 4x/day. That really, really works, given a few days to build up in the blood. From my own experience with wrist pain, I don't think you have too much to worry about with 'pain masking', because if your tendons are seriously injured, you WILL KNOW IT. The painkilling in ibuprofen won't mask anything serious. However, the anti-inflammatory properties are wonderful, and if your stomach can take 3200mg/day, you'll straighten out fairly quickly, assuming you're just a little inflamed. And the analgesic properties will ease you past the uncomfortable bits over the next couple days.

Again: if there's anything seriously wrong, you will be excruciatingly aware of it. Tendons HURT.

It sounds like the topical remedies would also be useful over the short run -- the pills will take at least a day, and probably two or three, before building up to a useful level. You'd probably want to do both, and then back off on the creams as you felt better, and then drop your oral dose steadily over a few days as you remained asymptomatic.
posted by Malor at 10:43 AM on March 18, 2007

Wear something which has an ankle strap like crocs or tevas in the future. Right now, take ibuprofen.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 12:07 PM on March 18, 2007

Caveat: Megadosing on ibuprofen could cause a very painful and long lasting ulcer. Trust me it sucks. The normal dose is fine for minor pain. Don't megadose without the blessings of a doctor who can examine your past medical history and see if it may affect your stomach. Even then there are prescription anti-inflamatories which are safer.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:08 PM on March 18, 2007

A couple of summers ago I travelled to the US and on a particularly sunny day in San Francisco decided to dump my practical, sensible and ugly shoes and wear some nice and "pretty" flip flops and a skirt. I walked to Golden Gate park from where I was staying (I misjudged quite how far it was).

We then decided we must find the buffalo.... well…. we never managed it, we must have walked up and down the park at least twice (again misjudged distance), ended up at the beach and watched the sun go down for a few hours, then when we tried to move my feet and legs really really hurt (cry out in pain hurt). My feet had swollen slightly; my toes were soooo damn painful.

For the next 10 days we had planned to hike up some damn big hills, and I could barely limp.

After experimentation (with ice, foot supports and various other contraptions), the only thing that seemed to allow me to walk were full on HUGE hiking boots.... with big socks. My feet were a little bit too toasty but at least I could get from A to B.

Needless to say I have never worn flip flops since; I believe they have been sent by the devil!
posted by informity at 5:15 AM on March 19, 2007

I know exactly what you're describing, because unfortunately I've got something like that constantly, warded off only by decent shot inserts and supports.

How are your arches? I'm willing to bet the total lack of support and cushioning is what did you in. Dose liberally with an anti-inflammatory, do the standard RICE (you can probably skip compression) and put your feet up for as long as you can, and wear thicker socks than normal, if at all possible.

Walking around with no support, particularly if you're not a spritely 16-year old, can really mess up your feet.
posted by canine epigram at 11:34 AM on March 19, 2007

Flip flops are about the most ridiculous excuse for footwear known to the modern world - they don't protect your feet from injury, and they are really bad for your walking and your posture.

I wore a pair of strappy sandals once that gave me similar pains - soaking my feet helped only in a pyschological way, but I agree with the ibruprofen....
posted by agregoli at 11:52 AM on March 19, 2007

I used to get that when I lived in Africa for two years and wore flip flops everyday. It seemed to go away after a few days and you get used to the flip flops. It does hurt a lot but it should be fine unless the skin is broken.
posted by dela at 9:55 PM on May 30, 2007

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