Big toe joint pain, aging - do higher tech edging shoes help?

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 BruceM 20 Apr 2022

There have been a few threads on ball of foot/big toe pain and shoes over the years, and I know there are a few fellow aging codgers out there with these probs.

Usually the advice is to go for a more beginner friendly shoe.  But beginnery shoes aren't what they used to be.  I've tried some variations recently, and they only provide significant support for your big toe if you get them very tight, which isn't good for ball of foot pain either. 

Anyway, I've basically used beginner shoes all my life.  Low-tech comfy shoes like LS Mythos and 5.10 Gambit.  These have worked so far, but are now too soft and flexy and kill my big toe joint for Euro limestone where I normally climb (in my lower grades!).

I'm wondering if anybody has had success with stiffer edging shoe, like the LS Otaki or the like?

However, although stiffer, these kinds of shoes are usually designed to transfer power to the big toe, so maybe they actually make matters worse?

My big toe likes to be kept straight, so asymmetric is good.  TC Pros I think are more pointy so probably not ideal.

Any success stories for some slightly techier edging shoes?

I don't live near any big stores so I might have to start the mail-order tennis-rally thing.

 Inhambane 20 Apr 2022
In reply to BruceM:

I have big toe pain at the 2nd joint down where it meets the foot. I had an x-ray and the orthopedic Dr said it was arthritis or degradation of the joint, he was a bit vague and said I just need to manage it. What seems to aggravate the most it is long mountain trad days on slabs or chimney climbing, spending long times placing gear with my toes flexed   

Shoe-wise it is very nuanced on what works and what doesn't work. I went into V12 and asked for their stiffest flattest shoes.  I came out with some scarpa vapor lace sized snug with only slight toe bend, (they seem to fit my foot shape really well).  These shoes also work amazingly well on vertical limestone.  When I'm having flare ups in pain these will be my go to shoe as they don't make it worse, I'll use them indoors too.  If the pain is really bad i'll modify my climbing such as easy big hold routes, one legged climbing or cave bouldering. 

I can use more aggressive shoes but these are very hit and miss and some cause instant discomfort in the joint and some are fine.  Mago, booster are fine, old furias, aripas are not.  Magos are also very good on limestone IMO as they are very stiff around the big toe.        

In reply to BruceM:

I have wrecked toe joints on both sides (Osteoarthritis + spurs), neither of them bend more than a few degrees. I find the trick is suitably wide shoes so that the toe can stay straight.

I use Katana Laces and Ocun Bullit...both wide-fitting in the toebox, the former being a stiff edging shoe, the latter a soft squishy one, both very capable technical shoes that I can wear for hours at a time without it aggravating my toes joints.

Post edited at 12:54
 wbo2 20 Apr 2022
In reply to BruceM:  Scarpa instinct lace ups seem to sit for me in a magic spot of comfort, good performance, little bit downturned, good shape for preserving my feet.

 GrahamD 20 Apr 2022
In reply to BruceM:

Not really very helpful, but all I've managed to find is Nabroxen when its too painful and to take the shoes off at every possibility - never walk off in them !

OP BruceM 20 Apr 2022
In reply to BruceM:

Thanks folks.  I guess as expected it is a case of:

> "Shoe-wise it is very nuanced on what works and what doesn't work."

But good to hear that some of you are getting by.  And some ideas of shoes to try.

I'm lucky that it's only one foot at this stage.  So might be able to get by with different shoes on each foot -- especially as my other foot has heel problems

 Alpenglow 20 Apr 2022
In reply to BruceM:

Try Scarpa Maestro?

 DaveHK 20 Apr 2022
In reply to BruceM:

Katana velcro are fairly stiff and not too aggressive. I have narrow feet and they suit me but a mate with wider feet likes them too.

 climbingpixie 20 Apr 2022
In reply to Alpenglow:

I was about to suggest the same. I have problems with big toe joint pain and soft shoes really aggravate it. I got some women's Maestros last year and they've been an absolute revelation - stiff and technical enough for climbing up to V6 but comfy enough to wear for long trad days. Heels are a bit shit but they're pretty good all rounders aside from that.

OP BruceM 21 Apr 2022
In reply to climbingpixie:

I tried on Maestros years ago and thought they weren't perfect for my feet, but should have another look.  I recently remembered about the Maestro Mid, apparently even stiffer than the short version, so could be interesting.

What is wrong with the Maestro heel for you?

 climbingpixie 21 Apr 2022
In reply to BruceM:

I have really annoyingly shaped feet - narrow heels mean men's shoes don't fit me but wide forefeet rule out a lot of women's models. Happily the Maestros seem to accommodate them well but obvs YMMV.

The heels are fine for most of what I do but are dismal for anything other than the most basic heel hooking. It's not a fault with the shoe, it just wasn't really designed to be aggressive in that way. I tried a problem recently that required a secure heel-toe cam in a roof and there was no way I could get my foot to stick in them! It's probably not helped that they're about half a size too big after stretch so the heels are a little sloppy. But for technical wall climbing, crack climbing and general trad they're superb.

OP BruceM 21 Apr 2022
In reply to climbingpixie:

Cheers.  I got a massive calf cramp last night on only a very basic hooking move, so a shoe's heel isn't really going to be my Achilles

I've got Scarpa Helix Lace up which are pretty nice on the toes. Not sure how stiff they are compared to other shoes but they are very flat. 

 donuthead8 21 Apr 2022
In reply to Inhambane:

I too have arthritis in my big toe joint. And I agree my scarpa vapors seem to be the best fit for me as well.  Too much flex is painful and to much is just as bad. 

Post edited at 19:46
In reply to BruceM:

TC Pros are asymmetric, flat, straight toes & remarkably stiff given the sole thickness. I’m heavier than my toes are strong and like them a lot. See pic below :

Post edited at 20:04
OP BruceM 21 Apr 2022
In reply to sbc23:

Thanks very much for that picture.  Not what I was expecting.  Must've read the wrong reports.  So now definitely worth a look .  Thank you.

OP BruceM 21 Apr 2022
In reply to donuthead8:

Cheers.  That's a few of you with Vapors.  Pre-pandemic I tried the velcro versions on in a store on the first night of my summer hols in Chamonix and wrecked my toe joint for most of the following weeks.  Too much flex -- although nice and wide.  But I think the lace versions are stiffer.

 Baz P 21 Apr 2022
In reply to BruceM:

I had a great toe problem a few years ago and after putting up with the pain for some time I made a small thin but stiff plate and Feet First in Chesterfield inserted it between the sole and insole of my climbing shoe. This helped but felt a bit weird.

I eventually had an operation on the toe to remove a spur where the bones had ground in to one another. The surgeon also put in a piece of wire to slightly bend the toe upwards to ease walking.

The toe has been fine now for about 10 years. I had the plate removed from the shoe and resoled. Still got them.

I think that anything other than an operation is just a patch. I also had my elbow (medial flexor) repaired as life is too short.

 papashango 21 Apr 2022
In reply to Baz P:

I've just had this double approach surgery. It's great to hear you've had 10 good years!

 Inhambane 22 Apr 2022
In reply to BruceM:

Yes the lace has a full sole and the velcro only half , they are very different. 

In reply to BruceM:

Another vote for TC Pros here. I'm not a hard climber by any means, but after struggling with wide feet / sore big toe for aaaaaages, I found a second-hand pair of these in my size. Subsequently ditched all other shoes and do everything in these now. Comfortable for all day trad and technical enough for bouldering up to V5/6 for me. I even bought two more pairs of the old style to stash as backups...

OP BruceM 22 Apr 2022
In reply to BruceM:

Thanks all for the recent updates. 

I'll see if I can check out the lace versions of Vapors.

The TC pros may be good for other reasons as I have a problem heel and need to do shoe surgery to accommodate that.  The higher the back of the shoe the better once you start chopping bits away.

As for surgery: if you could guarantee all surgery will actually work (and can be obtained at not too high a cost), then I agree that it is much better to spend money on than on a prettier coffin! 

But unfortunately surgery doesn't always work.  And so many things affect how much better you are afterwards.  Luck one of them.  Plus the 6 months to a year down-time afterwards.  So always a last resort.  We've flown overseas to a brilliant world expert to fix heels on two separate occasions.  One worked really well, the other, not really - although the pain is different.  (COVID came and screwed up exploring getting the bad one addressed.)  The service was certainly way more pleasant than trying to get help via our NHS GP.

So toe surgery may be required eventually.  But not yet - hopefully

 Baz P 23 Apr 2022
In reply to BruceM:

Call me lucky, or unlucky, because apart from the toe and elbow operations I had a full hip replacement last year and was back on the climbing wall after 5 months, pain free. For the previous 18 months I was only able to limp a quarter of a mile. Due to COVID I was about to pay for this but the NHS came through just in time.

These operations were done on the NHS with a choice of hospital and attention second to none.

In reply to BruceM:

Broke my ankle 2 years ago and suffered from ligament damage in my big toe because of it. When I started climbing again I really struggled with pain and just not being able to stand on my toe or inside edge comfortably. Bought some Boreal Aces, the new ones and they have a very flat but supportive last. Really made a big difference. They may not be the stickiest shoe out there, but I find them really really good, even now that the pain has dropped away. I haven't tried out tighter slip lasted shoes since getting them and so far haven't felt the need, although they could do with a resolve and maybe I will do it with another manufacturers rubber...

 wbo2 23 Apr 2022
In reply to BruceM: I tried the Vapor lace and didn't like it nearly as much as the instinct - the instinct lace up is wider, and stiffer , tho' it softens.

The TC Pro is a lot stiffer than either

OP BruceM 25 Apr 2022
In reply to Baz P:

> Call me lucky,

> These operations were done on the NHS with a choice of hospital and attention second to none.

Definitely lucky!

Unfortunately where we live, we have made many attempts at getting investigations into chronic Achilles, and knee probs, and, as well as having been literally laughed at (!!), have been told to not come back until you cannot walk at all.  Also "What do you expect if you go hill walking and mountaineering."  Wear flip flops and rest more.  Friendly bunch.

 icehockeyhair 25 Apr 2022
In reply to BruceM:

Another vote for the Maestros from me. I've got a similar problem in my PIP (knuckle) joint on my left big toe and was wearing basic shoes for a while (the old scarpa red ones). Tried the Maestros at a Scarpa shoe demo and loved them. Found them better than the basic shoes due to the extra stiffness. They also fit my wide flat feet very well though.

As others recommend take them off when you aren't climbing. Taping the toe to prevent the joint bending also helps for me.

OP BruceM 25 Apr 2022
In reply to BruceM:

Thanks folks.  Thanks for all the suggestions.  Will try some of these models suggested. 

Aces never used to fit my feet, but that was way back around 1998 or so.  Might've changed.  Will have a look at the fit of Instincts.  

If TC Pros were actually to work, then at least with the latest version I wouldn't get lost on Freerider or Dawn Wall.  Win win!

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