I have two spectacular bruises under two toenails of my right foot. This is notable because a) I haven't broken any toes and b) even though they don't come from the same injury, or even the same type of injury, the bruise patterns are identical.
One is on the ring-finger toe, and came from catching the nail on the edge of a new Birkenstock, first time I wore them back in mid-late October. I felt it happen. It hurt at the time. I hopped around and cursed because I fucking knew better than to wear new Birks out anywhere until I'd broken them in. Those flat footbeds are slippery. There's nowhere to grip.
Anyway, I cursed, hopped, and then promptly forgot about it until the bruise appeared a week ago. It crept up like a five o'clock shadow, gradually growing darker and darker. Given the color of it, and the amount, I'm surprised I'm keeping that nail.
The second is on the toe next to it, and I have no idea of its origin. It hurt last week, during a run, and I thought I must've tied the shoe wrong and jammed a toe in against a seam. It was only after I saw the bruise that I realized I must've done something more traumatic. What, I do not know. Pain can't be expected to deter me from stupid behavior if it comes around this late and I've already forgotten whatever the hell I did.
Okay, no more toes. Well, kinda toes. More like, the incredible and unsung uses of toes, and why you should be nice to them.
I dislocated the long middle toe on my right foot about a decade ago during a martial arts class. I took out both the central joint and the lowest one in the foot itself (knuckle? Do we call toe joints knuckles?) The dude who reset the central joint either didn't see that the lowest was out too (on account of the spectacular swelling and immediate bruising), or we were both glad to get the first joint back without me throwing up, and decided to quit while we were ahead. I suspect the former. Anyway, it took me months to realize what'd happened, and by then, the toe was healed out of joint. It looks like a crescent moon, curving out of the foot to the right. Makes putting on nail polish a PITA, which is how I even noticed it. Eh, I thought, and moved on. My only takeaway lesson was: curl your toes when kicking. No really. CURL THEM.
Fast forward a decade. Chronic hip pain, which I assumed was from running. One hip. The right hip. I reckoned it had something to do with that out of joint middle toe, because that's a guiding toe, and it's clearly not able to guide anything or bear weight. It just shunts its responsibilities off to its neighbors (one of which is bruised now). But as I was trying to take pressure off the bruised toe, I realized that I swing that leg out in a semi-circle, from the hip socket, rather than driving straight forward. The hip flexor is doing more work, which is why it's usually stiff. The piraformis is doing more work, and the socket is super flexible because all the tendons and ligaments are used to stretching and flexing. That's also why the left hip is less flexible. It's stabilizing for two. And that bad habit while running is 100 times worse when I walk. Go fig. So I am trying to retrain my gait with two bruised toes.
But I'm really glad I figured out how that sickle-toe was messing me up. Hopefully I'll get the hip realigned and the muscles balanced in fewer years than it took me to mess them up.