Sometimes on a run we make a bad decision….”of course I can overtake that runner in front”, or “shall I just just have a quick explore down that track”, or even “that probably isn’t really a bull in that field.” Usually they cost us a breathless few minutes, a telling off from your better half for getting back late with muddy shoes, or a surprise sprint out of the bull’s field.
At the start of December I made my worst decision (so far) when out for a run. It cost me a day’s work through not being able to walk, two visits to the doctors, a fortnight of no running, and worrying my family. And I think I got off lightly!
I walked the dog as usual before my Sunday long run, and thought “wow, it’s really cold and frosty. If I run barefoot today I must be really careful.” The reason I was even contemplating any barefoot miles was to hit my final goal for 2012 – 500 barefoot miles. I was currently at 443 miles so my goal was just about achievable.
Within the first quarter mile I ran over a few patches of thick, crunchy ground frost with slight discomfort. But once the blood got properly circulating my feet warmed up and I settled in to the run. At mile 7 I felt a new sensation at the back of my heels; almost like coming out of a numb state. I stopped and checked my feet but they looked and felt fine.
Another 1.5 miles over really hard frost and I was back in town and a mile from home. However, this was a 13 point something mile run so I carried on for another half loop. At 10 miles I made the decision to carry on barefoot, rather than slip on the xero shoes I was carrying. I wanted those 3 barefoot miles to add to my goal. Bad move Bob!!
Most of the frost had melted by now so I was also running on very wet roads, although towards the end I began to feel cold, but I put it down to the wind. At exactly 13 miles I reached a patch that had been dried by the winter sun, and within seconds I could feel something wasn’t right. Something felt vague, almost mushy. I stopped and found large blisters on the balls of both feet. Bugger! At his point they were only partially filled with clear fluid. I popped on the xeros and ran a quarter mile, before having to walk the last quarter mile home. The last few hundred metres became progressively painful, and when I got home the blisters had become fuller and had turned pink.
My partner insisted I saw the out of hours nurse, who diagnosed frostbite. I had antiseptic pads and bandages applied, and she advised not to pop the blisters so as to maintain a sterile environment for the skin to heal. The blisters had filled with blood now, which indicated damage to the blood vessels underneath.
I could hobble around for the remainder of the day, but when I woke up the next morning the blisters were so full I couldn’t put any pressure on them, making walking too painful. After a day off work with my feet elevated, walking was bearable using the outer edge of my feet. My partner wanted me to see the doctor for a checkup, and this was a good call as he put me on antibiotics due to the redness and temperature around the right blister, indicating a possible infection.
Another few of days shuffling around, and the fluid in the blisters started to become absorbed, until slightly over a week later there was just dried blood under my thick skin.
Things stayed like this for three weeks until the Christmas holidays, when I ran off road almost every day. Due to the flooding, my shoes and feet were sodden for hours at a time which softened the skin allowing it to peel away. The new skin looked very healthy and pink, but is was baby soft!
When I did my first barefoot run almost four weeks later, the rest of the skin on my forefoot also started to come away, so it had been damaged by the cold too.
I took a series of photos and video clip over the initial days and final weeks of the healing process. So as not to offend any the casual browsing folk they can be viewed by clicking here or on the top photo.
So although I had made a mental note to be careful before my run, I completely ignored this and ran for almost 2 hours over frosty surfaces. I should have been checking my soles regularly. The very last point at which I should have stopped barefooting was when I started to feel cold, as that is when my core temperature dropped and the blood supply to my feet wasn’t adequate enough to prevent frostbite.
Happily, my feet suffered no long term damage and I only lost a couple of weeks running (and that was being safe). However, a lesson was well and truly learnt!