About a week ago I was visiting a friend. We walked to the store to get ingredients for dinner and I noticed a pain in my foot. I thought this was odd but it seemed mild.
Later that night I was limping.
A stress fracture is a fracture that comes out of nowhere. It usually happens in the foot behind the toes. There are two people who are at high risk of stress fractures and I don’t fit either group:
- Women with osteoporosis
- Athletes training too aggressively
I know what you’re thinking. “But Rogue Priest,” you say, “You are training aggressively!”
That’s just the thing. To train aggressively means doing too much, too quick, with no buildup. It means going from 10 push-ups to 100. It means punishing your body.
I’ve been going for six and nine mile walks, but that’s after building up to it with three and four mile walks. And one mile walks. I’ve been increasing my walking for six months, and my physical activity for a year. And I stretch before I go.
I’m careful because I have trained too aggressively—irresponsibly—before. And it snapped my ankle. It broke it right through. Two years and a surgery later I was finally back on track to walking across the world.
An experience like that scares you. At least, it scared me. So I’ve been cautious and gradual in my training since then. But still, now I have a stress fracture in my foot. Six weeks before the Adventure starts.
[space reserved for eff bombs]
But there is one thing about my training habits that’s still risky. I’ve been trying out different footwear. I’ve been comparing thin-soled flat shoes versus padded athletic shoes. And I’ve been strongly leaning toward the thin-soled option and very public about it.
So I want to disclose some things.
First, I never felt like I was abusing my foot in the thin-soled option. It was comfortable and made long walks nicer than athletic shoes. But there’s no denying it subjects your foot to more impact, especially on pavement. It definitely left my feet a bit more sore. I suppose my bones were taking some of that stress and had a hard time standing up to it.
Second, this is not the first stress fracture I know of related to lack of shoe padding. When I used to work at the art museum, a friend there got a stress fracture after she switched to Vibram Five Fingers for her jogs.
This doesn’t prove that Vibrams, or low padding, causes stress fractures.
But it does indicate that something as simple as trying thinner soles can count as “aggressive training” when you’re doing everything else right. I want to yell that across the blogosphere so other people don’t make the same mistake. Pass it on.
So here’s the question people are asking me now—am I going to be an idiot and keep using thin soled shoes, or come back to the land of padded hiking and athletic shoes with head hung low?
Neither one. The big problem with athletic shoes and hiking shoes is this: the thick heel. Having padding under your foot isn’t a bad thing, but a thickly padded heel and jacked-up arch support weaken the foot. I’ve witnessed firsthand how my arches have strengthened (I’ve actually lost a full shoe size!) since I went to flat, thin soles.
So there’s a compromise here. Wear shoes that have flat soles, without thick heels supports, but make sure they still have adequate padding. Put an insert in. You get the best of both worlds.
(I had already come up with this solution but hadn’t implemented it yet, so the stress fracture is my procrastination tax.)
Don’t worry about me though. I’m talking it easy (regrettably) and the fracture should heal in four weeks. With a little time to get back in shape before setting out across the world on foot.
Anybody have a stress fracture before? Do you know what caused it, or did you just have to guess like I am? Any tips on how to heal up quick?