My left foot

No, this is not that infamous Daniel Day Lewis movie. This is my darn left foot.

While my ankle feels fantastic and I truly believed that that I was conquering 18 years of it being snapped in half, constantly rolled, out of sorts, and the fourth and fifth metatarsals getting hairline fractures at the halfway point on my foot, five surgeries later I believed it was done. My ankle has performed far better on the Camino than I ever expected. I thought it would be sore every night; I thought it would feel strained; I thought that I might be in trouble at least at some point. So far so good.

I really did not make the connection that the terrible blisters on my left foot were in anyway related to the chronically injured ankle. They are blisters on my toes, nowhere near my ankle! There can’t be a relation.

Boy, have I learned how wrong I was. Here’s the scoop:

The blisters came after a week into the Camino, the day I walked from Montjardin to Sansol. It was a gorgeous day that started out a bit overcast and cool (yay!) and ended bright and sunny but not very hot (another yay!). However, I literally hobbled into the albergue, and once my boots were off I never left that albergue/restaurant for the rest of the night. You might remember that I first wrote about the blisters that night, and it was very much a “wtf?” post. How could I get that far without blisters but then suddenly have them?

I asked a number of other pilgrims for advice, as well as the major Camino forum. Two theories emerged that I worked from:

1. The fact that my boots were soaked then dried in heated closets, soaked then dried under radiators, soaked then set by a fireplace (three times!), and the same wet-dry pattern was happening every day. My all-leather boots may have shrunk.

2. Good old inflammation.

But why my left foot and not the right? My right foot is perfectly fine.

Here’s the key: I may have aggravated the inflammation of my left foot by buying a compression sleeve for my ankle in Pamplona. I noticed that my ankle was swollen at the end of the day but didn’t hurt. That’s pretty common for me every day at home so it made sense to get a sleeve — just in case.

Is it possible the sleeve kept the inflammation down on my ankle but pushed it into my left foot? Does physiology work that way?

I don’t know, but what I can tell you is that I took a picture of my boots in Atapuerca to say goodbye to them. I thought for sure I would be buying a new pair of shoes in Burgos and either ditching them (so sad, I love my boots!), or mailing them home to my husband to later face the criticism of spending most likely $100 to ship home muddy boots.

(Do you see the chickens in the background? I loved Atapuerca, too.)

One of the reasons I had been walking so much every day and covering so much ground was because every time I stopped to rest my feet, my left toes would scream in pain for the first kilometer or two once I started again. It was better to just never get off my feet.

Yesterday when I reached the outskirts of the airport, my left toe just started throbbing. It was very hot out and I still had about 7 kilometers to go. When I stopped at the bar for a drink and the banos, I never sat down. Even using the banos, I tried to keep weight/pressure on my left foot. It was just awful.

The thought crossed my mind during the long slog into the city that I may actually lose my little toe. Maybe it’s dying?

When I dropped my bag off at the hotel before leaving to find the sporting goods store (Declathon, wrote about that yesterday), the hotelier put this card in my hand:

I just threw it in my bag, but pulled it out again when I read a message from my cardiologist. She read my blog. She’s happy my chest/heart are doing fine. Make sure I’m drinking plenty (I’m trying!), and seek medical help if the blisters look infected. They are definitely not infected (I’ve emptied half a little spray bottle of antiseptic on them thus far), but still… seek medical attention.

I heard you, Dr. Bobbie!

So I pulled the card out again last night before the mass and sent them an email with the help of google translate.

Sara emailed me back right away. They could see me today at 11 am.

I took this appointment seriously! I wasn’t just getting a massage — my very first one ever, by the way — I was seeing two specialists who might really help me.

I put my boots, the new shoes, my first aid kit, extra insoles, inner and outer socks, everything I could think of into a bag for the appointment.

Drs. Felix and Sara literally welcomed me with open arms. Once I explained the problem — my back and legs and arms and ankles feel great — they were both a bit shocked to see all of my zipper scars all over my ankle and the one up the back of my calf. I think they immediately made the connection between the scars and the blisters, that these are related despite the fact my ankle has been fine since the last drastic surgery in 2009.

Dr. Felix highly recommended acupuncture and massage of my left foot/lower leg so I went for it. Needle phobia be damned.

Yes, the blisters were caused by inflammation that happens when it gets warm out, and the hotter it is, the worse the swelling. My left foot was affected worse most likely because of all the hairline metatarsal fractures I’ve had. Oh right. D’uh! And the next 4-5 legs are crossing the meseta, a stretch of no trees, no shade, and very few services. Uh oh.

It got very emotional when Felix told me if the pain does not go away I need to stop in Leon. That was absolutely not what I wanted to hear and I found myself frantically telling him through google translate that I can’t quit. I have to reach Santiago and that’s why I’m seeing him. He gave me some GREAT inspirational pep talks (also via google translate), and prescribed the following:

1. Return the Columbias and get shoes like these — mesh, breathable, flexible:

Back to Declathon I went as soon as the appointment was done.

2. Cut the elastic bands on my socks do they don’t construct above my ankles. Done:

3. Keep my boots because it will be rainy and muddy in Galicia again. Don’t mail them home. Got it.

4. Don’t walk more than 20 km per day when it’s hot. Oh dear. That changes my schedule a bit but I will work on it.

My new Asics trail runners feel like pillows on my feet. They never would have gotten me through Navarra, but they will get me over the meseta.

Let’s go, feet! We have a cathedral and museum to visit now!

I have acquired another pair of shoes now, though. I may have to ditch my Sketchers and just wear flip flops after the walking portions of each day.

I am so grateful to these two for probably saving my Camino and possibly saving my ugly little toe.

PILGRIMS: When you are in Burgos, you must see Felix and Sara at Ultreia if you are experiencing body aches or problems. I owe them a debt of gratitude.

2 thoughts on “My left foot

Add yours

  1. Hi Jen,
    Wondering if you know Seafair Commodore named Kim For sell? Last summer was her last summer. She has been a friend/employee of my sister Sandy Rice. Keep walking…!!


    1. Hi Mamasan- The only Kim in the Commodores has a different last name and currently lives in Oregon. She was our second female Commandant ever (I was the 4th). Could your friend be in a different Seafair family?


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