Watch out for Numb Toes!: Looks like that might... - Couch to 5K

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Watch out for Numb Toes!


Looks like that might be the end of my brief life as a runner.

Lately I've been waking up with numb toes (along with a few other recurring sore spots, but it's the toes I was worried about), so I went to the doctor to get checked out, this morning. Provisionally, it looks like I've got herniated disks, which are getting inflamed, and impinging on the nerves to my toes. I'll find out more tomorrow. If you leave this condition, it just gets worse and worse, and eventually you need surgery.

:-) She told me I'd get permanent numb toes if I went on this way (carrying on running - ever again), and I actually heard myself, say, "Just numb toes? ... " I was weighing up the choices. Maybe just get the numb toes, and carry on running? They're only a mild irritation, really.

Anyway, I suppose I'd better spend the next day or so rather hoping that somehow I have "the other numb toe condition", where they just give you an injection, and away you go. She hasn't looked at the X-Rays yet.

I suppose this just means I'm going to have to adapt. I need exercise, and I like going out there where things are happening, so I'll have to switch to cycling. Is there a cycling "couch to 25 km" programme out there somewhere, I wonder?

I'm already scheming about sneaking in the occasional Parkrun for old times sake, too. This is cumulative, so if I can postpone the surgery for say 5 years by only running occasionally, maybe that's a reasonable trade-off. And maybe I can walk them. Even race walk. Race walking may even be preferable to cycling.

26 Replies

Thats bad news, I would think about a bike, This what I will do when my hips and knees ect are shot.

Yes, I think that's probably going to be what I turn to. Luckily I already have 2 of them, and one has a motor. :-)

I think I must start "pushing outbound" with the electric bike for starters, and get as far from home as I can, just on muscle power, and then limp home, using the motor when it gets rough. I could get almost all the way to the beach even when I was unfit, if I let the motor do most of the work (about 12 to 15 km), so I could probably manage a lot of that just by cycling, now, so it would be interesting to test the range c25k has given me a bit more.

Actually I went through a phase where I would cycle to the starts of my runs. (Too many dogs round here, so I go to a busy road which forces dog owners to be responsible). The motor needs help, but it doesn't take a lot of c25k to give you quite a bit of extra push to help things along.

The main problem with bicycles on our roads is that we have terrible drivers. We have a road death toll of more than 15 000 a year (about half of those, pedestrians), and lots of drivers who just make up their own road laws. It's dangerous. Not as dangerous as Egypt, but much more dangerous than most places in this world.

The last time I looked, we had a more murders per annum than that (and many more rapes than murders), but that's another matter, mainly. The impact of that is that being in the wrong place at the wrong time, here, can be the death of you. Route planning is a matter of survival in a way. (No point in being paranoid, but the stats say you'd better be careful).


Oh Gary, that is sad news but...don't write off running completely yet. I had a bulging disc when I was in my mid twenties resulting in nerve pains and my back going completely in to spasm! I had of course, tried to work through the pain, looking after horses at the time, mucking out stables etc - not things that are good for a bad back with hindsight! I remember the pain all these years later ( I am now 50) and honestly it was worse than child birth! (And one of these was pretty horrendous!) Anyway, I found myself a brilliant chiropractor who helped me back on the road to recovery. I learned to love ice packs and still swear by them today. Cycling was tricky for me, and I had trouble with my back on and off for several years. I still have to be aware of it now, but it is not something that effects running or cycling for me now. Obviously, we are all different, and of course I can't comment on your back but listen to your doctor and take advise because I would not wish a really bad back on anyone. I also would really recommend a reputable chiropractor. Either way, good luck and fingers crossed that this will not be the worse case scenarios.

gary_bart in reply to Sandraj39

Thanks Sandra. At least this is not really painful. I just went to the doctor because I knew that that was the responsible thing to do. Hopefully some rest fixes things up. My main worry is that it's rest that triggers it. If I go for a run now, in half an hour's time I'll be nice and relaxed. No perceptible niggles. Those will all start again during the course of a nights sleep. So then how does one rest for this?

Anyway, yes, I'm hoping that it somehow clears in time.


I am really sorry to hear this. Hopefully, once the docs have looked into it further it may not be as final as it seems (on the running front). My husband is unable to run (knee in his case) as so cycles, but I know from talking to him that it is not the same. Let us know how it goes and good luck.

gary_bart in reply to LyndaM

Thanks Lynda. If it's final I'll just have to adapt, but it would be great if it were not. And coming from me, that would have been the strangest thing ever, just a few months ago.


Oh I'm sorry to hear that Gary. I would go by medical advice and do whatever they suggest. I hope the results are much better than expected once the doctor checks your xrays etc.

gary_bart in reply to Hidden

Thanks Mimsickle. Yes, I'll do what the doctor commands. She biffed me very gently when I started to negotiate with her about the amount of numbness I would have to pay to keep running post operation, so at the moment she's not prepared to conceed a lot, unfortunately. But so be it.


How will you know where the coffee tables of the world are with numb toes?

I hope it is not the complete end to your running life!

Maybe you could do c25k on your bicycle and just ride a bit faster instead round your park?

You wouldn't need the crazy hard techno though and I know that's what upsets you the most 😉

I hope tomorrow they give you better news!

gary_bart in reply to jamsammich

:-) I think with enough hard techno blasting away (and it would have to really blast to keep up with the kind of wheezing I can manage going uphill on a bike) I would probably not hear the next pschopathic car driver telling me to get out the way or prepare to die. I tell you, sometimes they come down this suburban road of ours (and it's windy, too) at over 100km/h.

Hey, I need some excuse for not properly appreciating it.

Yes, there might be better news tomorrow, but I somehow doubt it. Better to just get on with making the most of the bad news. At least I found out what it was all about, hey? I know that running can actually be enjoyable, and it's been a wonderful thing learning just that.

jamsammichGraduate in reply to gary_bart

Where on earth do you live?!

I'm surprised you're outside at all!

Maybe just do week 1 forever so you can keep posting on here 😊

gary_bart in reply to jamsammich

Home is approximately Durban, South Africa (actually Westville, but Durban is slightly less unknown than that). A very high percentage of the drivers on our roads bought their licences instead of wasting all that time on the test. Also some cars come so fast down our road that I sometimes wonder if there isn't a "chop shop" on the other side of the highway where hijackers strip vehicles down to parts. A lot of cars are driven down this road exactly the way I'd drive if I was on the run. In a way that would be almost better than just having a lot of reckless idiots driving that way for no reason. But if I'm on my bicycle, and the guy whose car is on the edge of totally out of control comes down as I'm going up, if it's not tickets for me I'll be longing for just a nice little bit of numbness in the toes (it's out of control if you're cutting the corners, and totally out of control if there is no possible way of avoiding a cyclist, pedestrian, or dog you encounter on the way).

We have crazy levels of crime here. Our neighbour on one side was stabbed by robbers in his own house, and died a few days later of the wounds. He was 83 years old, so they didn't need to do that to him. Our neighbours on the other side were held up by the same gang, but somehow managed to drive them away. Our neighbour directly behind was held up in her house just recently. She was 8 months pregnant at the time. And then I don't know the people across the road, but they had something happen there that made them put their house up for sale. So the possibility of the mad (or stupid) drivers being hijackers is not as far fetched as it seems.

Yes ... so sometimes I'm amazed that I'm out there, myself. But then if I think about it, it's probably safer than being at home ...

Hmm... putting it that way, maybe I should just keep doing Week1? I'll only get very slightly numb toes from it, and it should take long enough for the surgery to be needed to make it worthwhile. :-)

jamsammichGraduate in reply to gary_bart

I would be living in a very paranoid state of mind if I lived there!

It's quite hard to fathom that home invasions are just a commonplace activity and not much in the way of road safety laws / enforcement of.

I am sorry about your neighbours and I hope you aren't targeted 😯

You have got a lot of guts being out there just being there never mind choosing to go out running!

gary_bart in reply to jamsammich

Thanks. Yes, they were a nice old couple. (She's gone to live with her kids now). I skipped the detail that I've stood there by our kitchen door with a bit stick, watching a drugged kid keep smashing away at a door he failed to force, while the alarm was going, and the cops were on their way. It's not so much a matter of being targetted as just having a lot of crime pretty much everywhere. The drugged kid trick is to do with us having basically no juvenile justice system. Juveniles get a slap on the wrist, so can be sent to do the riskier jobs like forcing the locks etc. Behind the kid, somewhere, would've been the big blokes - at least before the alarm went off.

But once you're out and about, you can see around you for miles, and you can limit your value as a target of crime quite a lot. (I don't run with a smart phone, for example. Haven't bought one, either. A robber can have my phone if he wants, and I can offer him a cup of tea with it, too.)

Yes, and I think we've been especially hard hit by crime, just in this area. There's a lot of crime everywhere, but here there's even more. It's not completely like this everywhere.

jamsammichGraduate in reply to gary_bart


I would suggest moving but I know that is pretty difficult no matter where you are.

It's such a shame.

I've only ever seen a couple of documentaries about places like Durban and they mainly covered social and familial type crime and glossed over the more violent types - until one of the women being filmed husband was shot during a robbery so they kind of had to show it.

My worldly knowledge is not that vast so please forgive my astonishment.

I'm glad your neighbour has moved in with her children and I hope the pregnant one and the baby were and are both ok.

gary_bart in reply to jamsammich

This is on one of the far ends of the Earth. Most people don't even know it exists, I think (and why should they?). So you knowing it exists probably puts in the group that "know something about Durban". :-)

Our pregnant neighbour's robbers were nice guys, almost. Very calm, very quick, and they didn't hurt a hair on her head .. after having smashed down her security gate, though.

Yes, it's really a shame. Maybe one day things will improve. We actually are moving in the beginning of next year to somewhere a bit quieter, so there's a bit of light down the end of the tunnel.

One thing that can't be faulted (except when it gets sticky in February/ March) is the climate. It's "mid-Winter" and I'm wearing shorts and a T-shirt.

jamsammichGraduate in reply to gary_bart

I watched an interesting one about men who save up for jazzy clothes, Swenkas I think they are called but i am not sure of the spelling. That was like watching a parallel universe for the equivalent of teenage girls.

I suppose "small mercies' resonated with your neighbour. (Who'd have thought, a nice criminal?) Hooray for moving somewhere safer!

I am not really a weather condition hater, I just hate having to bring my washing in if it looks like it might rain but then it doesn't.

Is it wrong that I'm trying to read back your posts in a SA accent? It's going Welsh halfway through so im only internally embarrassing myself.

gary_bart in reply to jamsammich

The accent shifts all over the place, but it centres on "Natal South African" (which is sort of sefricken wuffout the RRRolling RRrs).

When I was young and impressionable I ended up with an Aussie twang after a year there, and sometimes that comes back. (I'll hear my own thought in my mind's ear, but it's being spoke in "Strine"). I had to deliberately unlearn the Aussie, because people wore expressions that said, "What kind of a fake are you?" at me (and I was still young and impressionable, so I gave a damn what they thought).

I had quite a lot of Welsh friends when I was young, but never noticed anything especially unusual about their English. They must have all come from near the border or something.

So there you go. If you use the old BBC English, you won't go far wrong. :-)

Yes, and one thing about having lots of criminals, is you eventually discover there are various grades. If the worst ones are really horrible (and they are) then the least horrible become "nice". (I mean it would be easy for them to just sink straight down to bottom-feeder level, but they maintain a few standards, so it's possible to respect them a bit.)

We have all sorts of parallel universes here. For instance a lot of people still believe completely in witchcraft. That can be amusingly eccentric if it simply involves putting your bed up on bricks so the "tokolosh" can't come and bite you at night. It can also be the stuff other people just have as horror movie scripts. ... I was a prosecutor once upon a time, so I got to know of some very strange things. The one that stands out was the man who came to make sure I didn't mess up his case against the "traditional healer" and friends who once pretended to give him a lift home to the Transkei, but took a turn on the edge of town, stopped, and tried to cut off his head for medicine. Yes, really. And it's worse. It's not the head that makes whatever medicine his was meant to be for; it's the crying out, the pain, the struggling, that makes it good, strong medicine. They could have killed him quickly (5 of them vs one of him), but they sawed away at his throat with a blunt knife, after they'd gotten him pinned down. Somehow he managed to fight them off, run away, cross a fair sized river, run about 2 km up a hill which was mainly ploughed field, and collapse at the filling station by the main road to live to tell the tale. All that time he had to hold together the parts of his throat that had already been cut, somehow. Basically we have one universe full of diverse people who all belong to the 21st century, and could come from anywhere. Then we have a small remnant who live in the dark ages. We have Vikings here, you could say. Real Vikings, in all the things that matter most about being one.

There are more parallel universes than just those, too, but I see I seem to be going on a bit too long here. Oops.

I think instead of saying sorry, though, I'll just blame you. :-)

I'm sorry about your toes. My advice would be get the correct diagnosis then find a specialist who deals with it. Some gp's say stop running because they treat it as cause and effect. Whereas a physio will treat surrounding muscles and joints so the pressure is relieved. I'm no expert but with something as difinitive as no running ever I would get a second opinion from an expert in this particular field. I'm on the injury couch because of my shoulder at the moment but keeping my fitness up with fast walking and cross training. Happy healing.

Good idea. I'll ask my GP to recommend one tomorrow. Can't just give up without a fight, hey? The one thing in my favour (I think) is that I've gotten this seen to reasonably early on. That might change the prognosis. Some of the descriptions of herniated disks I've read are real nightmares.


So sorry to hear that! Let's hope and pray for a miracle that the final diagnosis may be less severe. Did you get back ache as well?

gary_bart in reply to dagshar

The first time I tried c25k I got back stiffness that just got worse all the time. Then I went on holiday (no running because it was in a game reserve with buffalo - which I've seen trying to tempt a leopard into taking a little chance on them before -- they're not cows, and they look after their space actively; put it that way) ... er ... holiday without running due to insufficient death wish, which gave me the break I should have taken. And then subsequently it got better because I put in a lot of work on core strength.

Basically, after the holiday I stopped pushing on from week to week, disregarding the discomfort. I went back to Week 2, and I stayed there a long time, building some speed, trying to find that running pace where I felt I was thumping along less. All of that took care of the back pain.

And then the numb toes started some weeks ago. They'd go away as soon as I got active, and I wished them away from week to week. So here I am, now.

Yes, I really hope that in my case I've got the curable numb toes. I just know that cycling etc is not going to be the same. Thanks for the good wishes.


Lots of sympathy and hugs - I hope they find out it's something fixable/short-term.

gary_bart in reply to Mary_O

Thanks Mary. At the moment it's still looking provisionally long term, but the doctor has said she'll re-evaluate in about a month's time. I think I'll post afresh on today's developments so any future runner with numb toes (numb toes; do you think the tags will now say numb toes?) can follow my case and get some idea of what happens.


I'm so sorry to hear this! I hope the doctors have positive news when you go back.

gary_bart in reply to laurav33

Thanks. I suppose I've just shaken out something that was waiting to get me at a more vulnerable time in my life, so I mustn't complain too much. One benefit of running is that you get to "test drive yourself" on a regular basis, and rattle out all those loose bolts, so you have some chance of fixing them before it's too late. Who would've thought there's even a positive side to the injuries you pick up when running?

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