A couple weeks ago at a new (to me) yoga class, the instructor was helping me with a pose when she glanced down at my feet and actually gasped with horror.

"Is that from running? It looks like a running injury," she asked me as nicely as possible after a quick recovery of her composure.

In a way it was. Running had recently destroyed my feet, resulting in black and blue nails and blood blisters. But while this particular set came courtesy of indoor soccer, I've experienced my fair share of ugly feet from outdoor soccer, running, and hiking. It's a universal problem for those who are constantly on the move.

Cheryl Strayed's famous hiking memoir Wild starts with Strayed losing one boot over a cliff and then pitching its twin after it. Strayed explained, "In the six weeks I'd spent in those boots, I'd trekked across deserts and snow, past trees and bushes, and grasses and flowers of all shapes and sizes and colors, walked up and down mountains and over fields and glades and stretches of land I couldn't possibly define, except to say that I had been there, passed over it, made it through. And all the while, those boots had blistered my feet and rubbed them raw; they'd caused my nails to blacken and detach themselves excruciatingly from fear of my toes. I was done with those boots by the time I lost them and those boots were done with me..."

While most of us have this experience in a much more "Leave No Trace" appropriate manner, the truth is that is exactly the reaction that ill-fitted footwear deserves: chuck 'em. CHUCK THOSE VICIOUS KICKS AS FAR FROM YOU AS POSSIBLE! (And then go find better-fitting shoes).

Black toes in soccer may be a result of getting stepped on, but in running and hiking (and in soccer, too) they usually indicate your shoes are too small: your toes are rubbing against the front wall of the shoe, causing friction and shearing under the nail. And once a nail is black and blue, the odds are good that you'll lose it.

I tried replacing my indoor shoes over Christmas break, but after multiple shoe failures, I reverted back to my old pair. With my current injury though, it's time to go shopping again, and I won't stop until I find my perfectly-fitting shoes. Either that, or I'll end up with a closet full of shoes like all my runner friends.


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