No Walking!

Tendons of the foot
Tendons of the foot

It’s been a bit quiet around here recently and that’s because this is a walking journal and I’ve not been doing any walking!

For several weeks now I’ve had a slight ache in my left foot after any sort of walking – it wasn’t uncomfortable during a walk and only slightly painful after the walk. This would persist for three or four hours after exercise, gradually diminishing to nothing more than a dull ache. Next morning it would feel fine.

I thought it would go away of it’s own accord if I left it long enough and it wasn’t impacting my training at all, so I did nothing about it. My Southern Upland Way training in January was going really well, I was managing about 5 miles a day at lunchtime and a longer walk in the hills on a Saturday. That was, until I caught the flu half way through the month and that forced me to sit out several days and a couple of weekends.

This enforced rest didn’t seem to completely heal the foot though, as I’d hoped. There was still an underlying dull ache when I walked about the house. As I raise my heel from the ground, I get a pain in the outside, upper area of my foot. It doesn’t seem to bother me when exercising though.

In February I returned to exercise, free from flu and again managed several days at 5 miles per day and a single long walk around the local area. It was on one of my lunchtime training walks when things all went horribly wrong.

About a mile from home. my left foot suddenly went very sore, in just the place where I’ve been having the pain previously. It felt very painful to raise my left heel from the ground, so I stumped home as best I could. It felt like this could be quite serious, so I rang my GP Surgery and made an appointment. The earliest one they had was 8 days away! I booked it, then headed to the local Minor Injuries unit – this is like A&E, but without blood.

I had my foot X-rayed and a very thorough young doctor told me there was no break, no stress fracture and nothing he could see on the film to suggest a bone injury – he suggested it was a soft tissue injury and to see my GP. In the meantime rest it and wait.

I stumped about the house all week (I work from home, so that helped), the pain gradually receding and movement becoming easier. A week later, the day before I went to the GP I tried a short walk. It didn’t feel too bad when walking, but afterwards the pain flared quickly and brightly and I felt gutted.

The next day my GP recommended Ibuprofen to reduce any swelling and plenty of rest – until I told him I had BUPA (through work) and he said – “Oh well, in that case you should see a Podiatrist and he can give you a proper diagnosis”.

I made the arrangements – three days later (yesterday) I went to see the foot doctor. He was very thorough, did lots of probing, had me standing on tip-toes, jumping on the spot, lots of case history and eventually came to the conclusion that it was a strained tendon – he told me the name of it but he may as well have been talking Chinese.

The worrying conclusion is that this is a repetitive strain injury and isn’t going to heal until I leave it alone, stop aggravating it (by walking on it) and give it plenty of rest. The Podiatrist reckoned it could take 2 months to heal properly, but told me to use my own judgement in terms of how the healing process was going and how much exercise it could take.

I have the Southern Upland Way in a little over 9 weeks – if I have to rest the foot for 8 of those I’m not going to be in any sort of shape to tackle the rigours of the walk. So I’m left with a dilemma: Rest it and not be ready for the SUW or train on an injured foot and be forced to cancel the SUW (and possibly much more summer walking besides).

I know, it’s a no-brainer really – I have to rest it and deal with the consequences of poor fitness – so I shall concentrate on losing some additional body-weight, in order to reduce the burden I’ll be carrying on the walk.

I hate being poorly!!

12 thoughts on “No Walking!”

    1. Thanks Jimmy, it’s certainly feeling better, so not walking on it has helped immensely.
      Problem is the impending long walk, I have to balance letting the foot heal and trying to get fit enough to tackle 220 quite hilly miles in 14 days.

  1. Say, my unsolicited advice is to work with a physiotherapist while you rest your injury. I’ve found from both an arm injury and a soft-tissue foot issue that if things are left solely to rest, that the road to recovery is compounded by atrophy. Good luck!

    1. Yes, I have been worried about atrophy, so I’ve been doing some static exercises and some upper body strength exercises – not exactly cardio, but hopefully enough to stave off the complete loss of tone and stamina I’d been starting to build up in the first few weeks of the year.

  2. Corine van Kapel

    Hi Stuart,
    Just ran in to your Walking Diary and I think you’ve done an amazing job. Really enjoyed reading your blogs on the long distance paths. Since 2008 we are keen visitors on a yearly basis of the Lake District (done 78 fells so far) and this year we plan to do the Pennine Way. That’s how I discovered your site. And now I read you have this foot injury troubling you. Hope it will get better soon and give it a good rest. Take care,
    The Netherlands

  3. Hope all is going well with your recovery – after breaking my left fibula last year, I know what it’s like to have all your plans curtailed! I’m sure you’ve made the right decision in resting it, although I would probably be more impatient than you……Good luck!

    1. Thanks Chrissie, I’ve come to terms with no walking now and each passing week is a little easier than the last. The foot doesn’t feel like its making any progress, but I’m a born pessimist, so I’m not reading too much into that.

      Thanks for your thoughts, much appreciated 🙂

  4. The long walk to Dalry looks like a challenge even for a very expereinced walker like you and even under ideal conditions I should think. One option that occured to me before deciding to backpack the length was to bring (post) some minimal sleeping equipment (i.e., sleeping bag, mat and bivvy bag) and tough it out for a night (at White Lagan Bothy). Not ideal but tenable I should think. T

    1. I like a ‘challenge day’ in a long walk. This one is similar to the last long day on the Pennine Way, it’s a bit longer, but less height gain. I can imagine if the weather is miserable it’s going to be a tough one. It’s also akin to the Yorkshire 3 Peaks walk, which I’ve done, so although it worries me, I feel confident it’s within my abilities.

      I did consider using Bothies, with a bivvy bag and sleeping bag, but if they’re occupied and theres no room for me, I’d be up a certain creek without a paddle – so couldn’t really take that risk.

      Your schedule looks good, and you’ve picked some of the same accommodation as I have; Clachan Inn, Tibbie Shiels, House O’Hill.

      Should be good, really looking forward to walking somewhere completely new to me 🙂

  5. Bad news about your injury Stuart! Yes, I think it is a no-brainer. I was just about to send you our walking plan for the SUW 2013. Will forward it to you nevertheless in the event you feel up to joining us for a bit of a limber up later in April. Do take care. Tim

    1. Thanks Tim, please send it, if I’m not walking by the end of April I’ll be in big trouble! I leave Portpatrick on the 28th April 🙂
      Using no lifts or transport I have a couple of really long days, I think it’s Day 4 into Dalry that worries me, as that’s 26 miles and 3000+ feet of ascent – eek!

  6. I wish you speedy recovery and I think it’s better to rest it! Getting into shape might mean ruining your foot and that’s no shape really. I’m sure you will do just fine in Scotland provided your foot has recovered. Good luck!

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