January 31, 2022

How to Treat Toe Pain From Rock Climbing?

by Bernice

Table of Contents

Why do my toes hurt from climbing?

Your toes hurt from climbing because you strain them a lot when forcing your feet into little shoes and edge on tiny footholds. First, the small shoes cause the toes to curl and cram against each other.

The toe pain (especially the big toe pain) starts once your feet are inside the shoes. The curled posture of the toes means there will be great pressure felt by the toes when pressed against the rock’s face.

Additionally, if you are setting your toes in bad rock spots, there is a greater probability of twisting them at a bad angle, thereby causing toe joint pain.

Despite the perception that rock climbing is primarily a top-body sport, toe discomfort is quite common among climbers. 

Toe discomfort is most often felt in the metatarsophalangeal joints, which connect the great toe to the bones of the foot.

It would help if you considered several highly effective therapy options to help avoid or manage toe discomfort while climbing.

What causes pain at the top of the big toe?

Toe pain rock climbing is caused by either an earlier sustained rock climbing injury or mild underlying medical issues.

If you are experiencing pain in this region and are suffering from bone spurs, then arthritis, turf toe, or hallux rigidus might be the cause, as discussed below.

What is more, you may have forced it to support you in bad angles, which results in toe joint dislocation. Over-the-counter pain relievers may be used to treat major cases of big toe discomfort.

Unfortunately, specific causes, including sesamoiditis, might necessitate more intensive therapeutic therapy.

1. Arthritis

Various types of arthritis can cause toe pain. It might be osteoarthritis, or joint friction, which creates pain and rigidity in the mornings.

Yoga workouts, over-the-counter pain relievers, and perhaps steroid shots are all options to discuss with your doctor.

Further, if you are feeling inflammation at the joint lining of your feet, there is a high chance you have Rheumatoid arthritis.

It may be uncomfortable or painful to move your big toe if it has RA. Rest, ice, massage, steroid injections, and long-term drugs are alternatives to explore with your physician.

2. Hallux rigidus

The term “hallux rigidus” refers to a great rigid toe. It might occur due to arthritis, abuse, or an accident. If left untreated, the toe may become immobilized, making walking difficult.

If the pain you’re experiencing is due to arthritis, see a pain specialist who can corroborate the prognosis and prescribe a remedy. Using pain medication and icing the toe can help if you do not think you have arthritis.

3. Bone spurs

When the joints in the great toe hurt, it’s generally the one that connects the foot and the toe. It must flex as you press on as you walk.

A bony protrusion that protrudes from the joint top part, the bone spur, inhibits proper joint movement.

If ice, pain medications, and a well-fitting shoe fail to relieve your discomfort, your doctor may recommend removing the spur so that your toe bends more naturally.

The recovery time for the procedure might be many months, although it is frequently successful in reducing discomfort and regaining movement.

4. Turf toe

You could damage the major joint and get a turf toe when the big toe bends backward and upward. It’s a typical injury produced by continually pressing forcefully off the toe while moving.

It’s named because it’s frequent among footballers who play on synthetic grass, which has less bounce than natural grass. 

However, it can affect anyone, especially climbers, when their feet collide with the rocks. Relaxation, ice massage, elevation, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines may reverse the situation.

Still, surgical procedures can mend tissue and restore movement in certain severe instances.

What is a climber’s foot?

A climber’s foot is that point on a rock face where you need to move upward by squeezing your foot into microscopic cracks or balancing tiny rock protrusions to support and steady your body.

This implies your climbing shoes must be capable of forming that pointy form. 

The toes may squish into the sharp tip of this footwear, placing stress on your big toe joint. Most climbers have no problems with their feet, while others may have several difficulties.

Various injuries can be caused by the stress suffered by the big toe joints or bones. 

Do climbers get hammer toes?

Yes, climbers do get hammertoes, especially when trying to compensate for a hurting toe by climbing or jogging. You put a lot of pressure on better toes, and as a result, you may suffer from neuroma or hammertoe. 

When climbing, a hammertoe is likely to result from muscular imbalance pressure on the toe’s tendon and ligaments.

To extend and twist the toes, muscles operate in pairs. When the toe is flexed in one posture for an extended period, the muscles contract and becomes unable to release.

A typical source of this unbalance is wearing boots that don’t actually fit. Footwear that is narrower near the toes causes the small toes to bend.

Corns and blisters occur as the toes scrape against the unfitting shoe, aggravating the problem. 

A shoe with a high base will press the toe against the shoe top covering, causing greater force and toe flex.

Eventually, the toe muscles lose their ability to extend. Initially, hammertoe may be flexible and treatable with simple procedures. However, it becomes permanent and requires surgery if left untreated.

Is rock climbing bad for your feet?

No, rock climbing isn’t bad for your feet, but it’s just the carelessness of some climbers that make the sport seem bad for the feet.

For instance, when you place your feet in the wrong positions on the rock, you risk breaking them. Again, a long session of climbing might leave your feet weary. 

Although your entire feet may not ache, you may experience hot areas. To activate the nerves in this region, do flexes and massages.

If your feet keep hurting over a lengthy period, you might be dealing with a more significant problem. Anyhow, what needs to be done to remedy the situation?

  • Climbers often neglect the need to wash their feet. Because climbing footwear is not that breathable, it’s critical to wipe the moisture off your feet to help avoid athlete’s foot or similar foot illness. Consider employing an antibacterial wipe if you don’t get access to a bath right after your climb.
  • By extending and stretching your toes and feet between climbs, you allow your feet to breathe more easily. You may suffer from cramps or more serious injuries if you wear climbing shoes for too long.

How do you protect your toes when climbing?

You can protect your toes when climbing by doing the following. 

1. Get the right shoes

Protecting your toes while climbing starts by getting a quality, well-fitting pair of climbing shoes. Don goes for second-hand $300 shoes worn by some climbers in the FA competitions.

It shouldn’t be cheap anyway. Rock climbing shoes should fit snugly and allow the toes to touch the toe box while slightly clenched together.

90 % of your foothold should be on the little rubber cap at the end of the great toe, which runs from just above the big toe to toe number four.

2. Taking your shoes off between climbs

A climbing shoe’s pointed shape allows your feet to function as one unit. It concentrates all energy into one place, putting a tremendous strain on the great toe joint.

With the additional shoe tightness, the pressure becomes intense. You have to allow your feet to relax and breathe. 

3. Watch how you place your toes on the rock

Do not just smack your feet into the next grip. Please keep your eyes on the toe until it is exactly where you want it to be. The wrong placement of the toe can cause the toe joint to twist, thus causing injuries. 

What should I do if I experience toe pain when rock climbing?

If you experience pain during climbing, you might want to consider these precautions. 

1.  Getting the right shoes would be best to do it on your shoes, especially where the pressure bits inflict pain on you. Your climbing shoes need not be too tight but snug so that your toes endure less stress. After climbing, you must ensure you do some stretching but gently, then apply ice and massage them to reduce inflammation. Getting shoes with very firm and well-fitting sole inserts will help stabilize the joint.

2.  Staying away from slabs – if your discomfort worsens, stay away from slabs and choose top-roping rather than leading or wall climbing. You’ll go faster and put less strain on your joints.

3.  See a doctor – if you experience chronic pain, don’t use anti-inflammatories for chronic pain alleviation. You should see a doctor instead as the anti-inflammatory medication cannot cure this illness.

Pain during rock climbing may occur less often or more often. Some climbers may not feel anything, though. On the other hand, others may even develop conditions such as bunions, metatarsal pain, sesamoiditis, and small breakages in the bones of the foot. It will be best if you watch out for any discomfort. 

How to Care for Your Toenails?

The best way to care for your toenails includes keeping short nails and filing them. Also, you can strengthen your nails by using gel nail paint, so they don’t break or crack. You can still opt for 

  • Pedicure. Irrespective of your gender, a pedicure is a guarantee of getting your toenails in perfect shape and braced up for climbing. The process involves using nail care products to prevent fungal infections. 
  • Hygienic practices. If you can’t afford pedicure treatments or don’t have the time to go to one, maintaining basic cleanliness will help. When showering, use a pumice stone to remove dead skin from your heels and the middle of your toes and trim long toenails.

Remember, rock climbing in tight shoes can result in toenail damage. Their thickness may increase, or they may get brittle, or they may become dislodged from their nail beds. Persistent pressure from tight shoes and improper nail care cause ingrown toenails. Besides, exposure to warm, dark, and wet conditions is perfect for fungal growth.

Are climbing shoes supposed to hurt your toes?

No, as a rule of thumb, climbing shoes should be tight but not painful. It only gets uncomfortable if you are wearing them for the first time, but under no circumstances should they hurt you.

There is a thin line between shoes that hurt and snug shoes. Hurting shoes fit too tightly to cause unbearable pain, which reduces your attention to the climbing route.

On the other hand, snug-fitting shoes only feel uncomfortable with manageable pain and twitch a bit when you place your foot in them. So, if your climbing shoes are hurting your toes, you probably picked a smaller size. 

Should my toes curl in climbing shoes?

Yes, in general, a climbing shoe that fits you correctly will cause the toes to curl to some degree. There should be no pockets or empty spaces around the toes or heels. If you are using flatter shoes, your toes will be curled moderately. 

On the other hand, the aggressively downturned shoes are so dramatic that the region around the toe knuckles bends up to 90 degrees when worn.

Remember that curled toes are stronger than flat toes and will help you stand on small foods. But they shouldn’t be curled to the extent that it appears as if you are standing on your toenails. 

Wearing smaller climbing shoes for better performance. Is it worth the risk?

It is not worth the risk to wear smaller climbing shoes for better performance. A shoe that’s smaller than your normal size is doing your feet some considerable harm.

Besides, the pain they cause will distract you from your task and make you vulnerable to falls. 

Further, did you know that too much squeezing of your feet while climbing can lead to long-term illnesses? You are at risk of damaging your nerves by suffering from bunions and crossing your toes.

Climbing shoes should just fit snugly, and for better performance, ensure they don’t allow a margin for foot fidgeting while you are climbing.

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About the author 

Bernice

Bernice often jokes that she is better at climbing than walking. With avid parents of climbing, her first encounter with the high vertical rock walls was at the age of one. Her favorite style of climbing is bouldering.

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