Having in the last few months:
- run barefoot on asphalt for 9.5 miles,
- run barefoot at 37 degrees for a few miles
- danced energetically on cement for several hours, and
- been carefully aware of temperatures my feet were experiencing,
I was surprised to find myself apparently dealing with mild frost nip on my toes and the balls of my feet. It seems to have been the result of dancing on a cold cement floor New Year’s Eve.
The factors at the scene were:
- Very clean, smooth garage floor.
- Temperature just outside the garage door was about 20 degrees Fahrenheit
- Garage was heated with a couple of space heaters; the door access to the house remained open
- Estimated air temperature in garage 50 degrees Fahrenheit
- None of the dancers were wearing sweaters or jackets
- The cement felt cool, but not uncomfortable
- There were 3 other barefoot dancers, but they either didn’t stay as long or danced with more “air time”
- I danced for about 3 hours, with occasional excursions into the carpeted house for snacks, water, and snippets of conversation
I didn’t notice anything until about 16 hours later, when I felt a slight numbness and tingling in my feet. I was riding my spinning bike at the time, and some numbness is not unusual for me with biking. I did have a brief moment of noticing it was a little different, but after my workout the sensations mostly went away. That night I was treated to my monthly foot massage.
The next day my feet began to feel quite strange. I had hitherto noticed how my toughened soles were keeping me warmer this winter. Going barefoot in the house had been easy in spite of the general chill. Now, I was getting painful prickly feelings when my feet were cold. As the sensations increased, I took notice that my toes were red and swollen. There were a few particularly tender patches on the bottoms of toes, but it definitely wasn’t classic blisters. In fact, those areas had a mottled, slightly transparent vascular look. A couple of the outer regions on the balls of my feet felt intermittent sharp needles.
I did not want to go run. I did swim some after the initial symptoms, but was quite warm in my 80 degree Fahrenheit water. I did not spend more than a few seconds outside and that was with flip-flops to get back in the house.
The day after that was even worse. I resorted to my wool socks while indoors and that brought some relief. For two days, I couldn’t walk without thinking about how to do it without pain. I was able to ride the spinning bike still – the pressure didn’t seem to make it worse. The thought of going outside seemed to alert basic subconscious survival instincts and I cringed.
During this time, I did some research. I had already had the benefit of discussions about frost bite and winter hazards from the Barefoot Runner’s Society friends. At first, I didn’t think I had done anything to cause that type of injury, but after a while I began to look again at the symptoms of frost nip. The websites I saw only mentioned frost nip being caused by exposure to sub-freezing temperatures, but my feet were screaming frost nip at me based on the symptoms. It has to be possible that prolonged contact with a very cold, but above freezing, surface could do the same thing. I must have accidentally refrigerated my feet!
One website mentioned that massaging the affected areas could exacerbate the condition. bummer. It did flare up the day after that lovely foot massage.
With 9 days gone by (as I write on 1/9/2013) since the dancing, my feet are finally on their way back to normal. They no longer look red and swollen, but are still fairly sensitive to cold and have regular prickly sensations in a few places. Sadly, the feet still send me messages of aversion to running. Since the outside temperature has rarely been above 25 degrees Fahrenheit lately, I am going to be a bit more patient. Then, both running and dancing will be on the agenda again.