I first encountered foot pain last October after we had been in North Carolina white water kayaking for several weeks, as well as hiking and playing pickleball. Basically, we kayaked every other day. On the days we didn’t kayak, we played pickleball in the AM and hiked in the PM. My feet, therefore, got a pretty good workout.
I had no problems with my feet until we returned home. I had to mow about two acres of grass with my walk-behind mower and, all of a sudden, my left foot started to burn. The pain was so extreme that I actually had to stop mowing. I thought my work boots had suddenly gone bad, so I tried Dr. Scholl’s inserts, thicker socks, and so on. I also iced my foot whenever it felt hot and massaged it as well.
The condition came and went, but was fairly consistent. I finally went to see a podiatrist after suffering for a couple of months – that’s when I got the diagnosis of Morton’s Neuroma. The podiatrist offered a couple of reasons why I developed it. He said that participating in high-impact sports, like pickleball, may subject your feet to repetitive trauma. Also, activities that feature tight shoes can put pressure on your toes.
I suspect that the way you are squished into a kayak may have been a contributor. See picture below and note the pressure on my left pinky toe.
When we were kayaking, I wore my Astral Brewers. I love those shoes, but I think I might have to go back to the NRS booties you see in the picture. They are a bit roomier and don’t constrain my feet as much.
Anyway, there are three suggested solutions to the problem – Corticosteroid injections, surgery or “use your feet less.” The third option was not going to work for me. I usually work out on an elliptical trainer and/or do yard work in the AM, and then either play pickleball or walk about 3 miles in the PM. That is when I am not in my kayak. Using my feet less was definitely not an option.
How about surgery? Surgery involves either removing the nerve or removing the pressure on the nerve by cutting surrounding ligaments or fibrous tissue. Surgery is usually effective, but it can result in permanent numbness in the affected toes. Note the word “usually” and the cautionary wording.
So, I got a series of three Corticosteroid injections. They seemed to work pretty well. In fact, my wife and I went to the Bisti Badlands in New Mexico and went exploring on a path that was about 6 miles round trip. Everything was fine until mile 5 ½. Then the pain set in.
Some websites suggest changing your shoes and/or socks. I have tried Brooks Running Shoes for my walks, Altra Lone Peak Shoes for my walks my Astral Brewer shoes for WW kayaking. Sometimes I have no pain and think, “Wow. These are the shoes.” The next day, the pain returns. It seems to be totally random.
One day when I was out walking, I actually had to sit by the side of the road, take my shoes off and massage my feet. Some kind lady stopped and asked if I needed a lift home. That’s pretty embarrassing.
When I played pickleball, I found that I had to stop after an hour or so and massage my feet. Thinking that more cushioning would help, I tried different types of socks. First, I tried FITS socks. They actually work pretty well when I wear heavy boots for working outside, but not so well for just walking. They are also not appropriate for pickleball.
I rummaged through my sock drawer looking for other socks I may have had lying around. I found a couple of old (I mean old) pairs of what I thought were Thorlos tennis socks. Fifteen years or so ago, when I had my own business, I played tennis at least three times a week and walked nine holes of golf almost every day. These were the socks that I wore – what were left of all the pairs I had. So, I tried them.
My old Thorlo socks worked great for pickleball, so I decided to buy some more. First, I tried some Thorlos Thick Padded Ankle Tennis Socks, once again thinking that I needed more cushion for my feet. That didn’t work out so well for pickleball although, I have to say, the socks were quite comfortable.
Then I tried some Thorlos Thin Padded Ankle Tennis Socks, thinking that less padding would be better. It was, but after an hour or so of pickleball, I began to feel pain in my feet.
Because I was wearing my old Thorlos so much, I began to poke holes in them. That’s when my wife told me that they were not tennis socks, but hiking socks. (She remembers everything like that). She ordered some metatarsal pads for me and a couple of different types of Thorlos hiking socks. Unfortunately, the metatarsal pads only made the condition worse on my affected foot, but had a beneficial effect on my other foot. Too much detail to discuss in this blog.
Finally, I thought – I wonder if Thorlo makes pickleball socks. Guess what? They do! So I got a pair. Did they work?
DRUM ROLL PLEASE!
Today I played 1 ½ hours of PB in the AM, and 2 hours in the PM. No pain! I have always been a fan of Thorlos socks, and I am more so now. My thought is that Thorlos designed the socks with pickleball players in mind. They have good toe padding and heel padding and are similar to their tennis socks, but not quite as thick. They really work.
Here is a link to Thorlos. Use the dropdown menu to find the pickleball socks.
IF YOU SUFFER WITH OTHER FOOT ISSUES KEEP READING!
I have also taken other steps to alleviate the pain. First, my wife sent me a link to a web page that shows a variety of stretches, including toe stretches. The first time I did them my toes really hurt. Now, however, they feel pretty good.
Here is that link: https://www.protalus.com/pages/stretches
Next, she ordered me a pair of New Balance Pressure Relief insoles. You can’t really use these in tennis/pickleball shoes, but I now use them when I walk or wear my work boots. Recently, I did an hour on my Precor elliptical trainer early in the morning, worked outside for two hours (including climbing a ladder) and then walked 3 miles in the afternoon. After that I practiced my kayak roll in the swimming pool. So far – no pain.
Here is a link to a side variety of insoles on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2LJWSsn
Note: if you decide to try the Pressure Relief insoles, wear THIN socks. Don’t wear thick socks because they will only increase the pressure on top of your feet. Thorlos makes thin socks and well and I am going to buy three pair because of their wicking properties.
Finally, I also started using CBD cream on my affected toes. Yes, I know, it could all be a hype, but I am not going to change what seems to be working.
So, my suggested steps to alleviate the pain are as follows:
- Do your toe stretches.
- Wear Pressure Relief insoles when appropriate.
- Use CBD Cream.
- Wear the right socks! I recommend Thorlos.
- Wear the right shoes that are appropriate for whatever activity you are doing. Be sure not to wear anything too tight.
We just came back from 6 days of whitewater kayaking. On two of those days, we played pickleball in the AM and hit the whitewater in the PM. We also played a lot of pickleball on the way to WW kayaking and on the way home. During this trip, I had no neuroma issues at all. I attribute that to the routine I follow and the Thorlos pickleball socks that I wear.
So, everything was fine until I did a few stupid things.
- Don’t do activities that put a lot of stress on the foot with the issue. I was using a shovel yesterday to dig up some dead plants. It took a lot of effort, and I was pushing down on the shovel with my left foot, the one with the neuroma. I felt the pain begin and thought, “Uh oh.” Yep. I had a flare-up.
- If you are going to increase your exercise, do it slowly. While we were away, I was not able to use my elliptical trainer. I did not use it for the first two days we were home. Then I used it early in the morning as I normally do when home, worked outside for a couple of hours, and went for my 3-mile walk after lunch. My foot felt like it was on fire! That leads me to another point, discussed below.
- Stick to what works. I normally wear thicker socks when I walk or use the elliptical trainer, but I got lazy and wore my old, thinner tennis socks when I did my walk.
Also, my doctor told me not to walk around barefoot. I thought he was kidding, but he was not. When you walk without any support, your toes spread and that inflames the neuroma. I even wear socks with my deck shoes now. I don’t want to wear thick socks with my deck shoes, so I purchased three pair of Thorlos Experia socks. These are thinner than Thorlos designed for heavy athletic activity, but still padded enough to cushion my toes. They are low cut as well, so they don’t make me look like a total nerd when I wear my deck shoes.
Here is a link to the Experia socks on Amazon. The prices on Amazon are quite good: https://amzn.to/2KUarnn
FINAL WORDS ON CBD CREAM
Finally, I got a new batch of CBD cream. I have learned the hard way that the hemp creams don’t work as well as CBD creams, and you are going to have to pay a lot for the “good” stuff. I don’t know if it is the cream that is working or the cream in conjunction with everything else that is working, but I am not going to change routines now.
My usual routine when I am at home is to do at least an hour on a Precor elliptical trainer. I set the incline and resistance to 8, essentially meaning that I am walking “uphill.”
I have been on the road for two weeks now, following the routine I outline above. I have been whitewater kayaking, playing a lot of pickleball, and hiking. No pain (so far). I have thought in the past the the Precor may affect my toes. Think about it — you have to use your toes to work the incline. If you are using an elliptical trainer, you may want to think about this. When I get back home, I will conduct an experiment to see if I am right.