Toes & Sunshine

Dear Audy,

It has been a very exhausting week in my world. I now have the keys to my new house! I shall be moving over the coming weeks which means that the exhaustion probably isn’t going away anytime soon. That’s OK, I can be exhausted and still get things done.

This week, I have been thinking a lot about toes and sunshine. Not about how one effects the other, but about how both have such powerful effects on our quality of life.

I have had some issues with my feet over the years. Many issues. Long before CRPS, at about the age of 15, I began having severe and seemingly unexplainable knee pain. This went on for months in one knee and the day before I was scheduled for an arthroscopy, the other knee decided to join in the antics. Thankfully, I avoided being cut open.

I was, however, told that my feet rolled too far inward and this was causing my knee pain. This diagnosis came from a chiropractor (I shudder to think I ever bought into that practise) and then a podiatrist. I was given enormous arch supports and suffered through the pain of changing the alignment of my posture over the next year or so, before life seemed to return to normal.

I truly wish that I had been aware of Feldenkrais back then, with some movement coaching I might have avoided such forceful methods of treating my knee pain.

These days, I don’t actually believe there was anything wrong with my feet or my knees, I think it’s much more likely that I simply didn’t know how to use my body properly. Chronic pain has forced me to become aware of such oversights in what I understand to be healthy and that is one of the hidden benefits of the treacherous journey to overcome the owies monster.

But back to the story of my toes…

These are my toes. You see how the pinky curls under the fourth toe? You see how the fourth toe is kind of deformed, like its mass doesn’t line up with the nail or something? Yeah, those things don’t look right to me.

Side note: I am wearing Suncoat Water-based nail polish in Copper. I am so utterly impressed with this stuff. It doesn’t have many of the nasty and potentially harmful chemicals found in solvent based polish and, in my experience, it is actually more hard wearing. It also doesn’t feel like my nails are covered in plastic, it feels like they can breathe. Since discovering this water-based polish, the idea of using the old whiffy kind just seems toxic and unpleasant.

I don’t think the following facts are unrelated: I spent years adjusting how I walk to be more on the outside of my foot in order to stop the “hyper-rolling” that I had been told I needed to stop; I now have toes and feet that appear deformed in the direction of this compensation; I am still suffering from chronic pain that began in my ankle, which is very near to and effected by my toes.

My Feldenkrais practitioner has done a great deal of work in getting my toes back from the completely de-conditioned and hindering state that they had developed after years of chronic pain. This can happen anyway, even without the history of hefty orthotics.

Toes often curl or tense in some strange manner as a reaction to pain. Often a person is not even aware of this, probably because of that agonising pain causing it, and so the pain causes the tension and the tension contributes to more pain and those poor little piggies on the ends of our feet are left mangled and stomped on in the cyclical battle.

I have been doing a lot to work on reversing this. The Feldenkrais sessions have been absolutely fantastic for getting the toes moving at all, they now sit much straighter and are less buckled (except in the instance of the CRPS flare). I have also spent a lot of time just playing with my toes, wiggling them this way and that, teaching my brain that I have toes, that toes have joints and can move, that toes can be wonderful and helpful.

I have read some interesting things about feet in recent times, notably that the brain map (the amount of brain used to represent a body part) for human feet greatly diminishes over a lifetime spent in shoes. It makes perfect sense, the brain is very resourceful and isn’t going to waste time maintaining awareness of a body part that we constant disrespect and restrict the movement of.

When thinking about improving the function of my toes and feet, I am referring to both the actual limbs and also my brain’s perception of them.

Toe socks have been a great help. Seemingly a novelty item, they actually carry a lot of therapeutic value. When I first started wearing them, I felt like my pinky toes were alien objects stuck to the sides of my feet. It was a nice reaffirmation that I was right in investing time and energy getting to know my feet…I really should recognise all my toes as parts of myself!

With the weather warming up, it has been getting easier to go barefoot more often. I am not wearing any shoes or socks much at home. This is not something that I could have coped with in my earlier days of CRPS, the stimulation of absolutely everything used to cause pain. It can take years and a hell of a lot of determination to de-sensitise that kind of fragility in a body part.

I would absolutely love to get my hands on (or my feet into) a pair of Vibram Fivefinger toe shoes. I am hesitant to buy them without being able to try them on, so I am hoping they will be stocked in a store near me soon.

In the meantime, I will keep shoes and socks off when I can. I have also found that my developing awareness of my posture and movement is making it possible to wear thongs easily, I am able to utilise more of my toes and feet and I believe this will help in my ongoing striving for better function.

If I keep at it, maybe I can even get my pinkies to line up again. They once did, after all, I wasn’t born broken.

Along with focusing on my toes, I have been getting as much sunshine as possible. I don’t want to burn, so I have been trying not to spend too long out there at once and switch between sun and shade quite often…because I also don’t really want to cover myself with sun repelling chemicals on a regular basis.

I woke up flaring all over this morning, dragged myself out of bed and spent a good hour or so outside relaxing and being outside. I followed this with some stretching and I am feeling a whole lot better. I’ve even gotten some housework done. In the past, a morning flare that intense would have had me discount the day as basically useless (which, of course, it then became).

How much I underestimated myself.

I am looking forward to settling into my new place and actually getting outside a bit this Summer. It finally feels like I am making progress toward better health that I am actually retaining. The future used to look fairly bleak, now it looks bright and sunny.

I am loving the change.

Love & Vitamin D,

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  • 7 thoughts on “Toes & Sunshine

    1. Della

      I had never heard of water based nail polish. It looks Great, and I love the idea of nail polish that breaths! I don’t wear polish much for that very reason… it feels stifling. It really stifles my already dry nails on my bad foot and hand.

      How I envy you getting the sunshine now. :) Can’t wait til Spring! I’m so glad you’re sounding so optimistic!

      1. Hayley Cafarella Post author

        I am so in love with this polish! I need some more colours. It’s so nice to be able to paint my nails and not feel like I’m doing something bad for myself :) xx

    2. Jeanne


      First, congratulations on your move to a new house! That’s wonderful!!

      Hmm. I just looked at my toes. (How could I not after reading this post?) My pinky toe isn’t quite as curled under as yours but it’s similar. My next toe over looks just like yours. Honestly, I can’t ever remember my toes not looking this way. I never really looked at it as being unusual before.

      My feet are doing far better now than they were a few years back. I still have foot issues (primarily stemming back to neuropathy, Reynaud’s and occasional gout attacks) but there has been some improvement. I’ve never been able (even as a child) to tolerate flip-flops. That piece that sits between the big toe and the next toe has always caused me pain. So, I avoid them.

      It’s funny that you mentioned water-based nail polish because I recently purchased some for the first time. With my multiple chemical sensitivity, “regular” nail polish is totally out of the question. (Yes, the “regular” stuff has toxic chemicals in it). I searched online and found some stuff called Acquarella. It’s awesome. It wears better than traditional polish, came up in the green zone/safe category on the Skin Deep database, and doesn’t have that nasty smell that traditional nail polish does. I ordered it online and it’s just amazing.

      I am so happy for you that you’re moved in, getting some fresh air/sunshine, and that you are seeing a bright/sunny future rather than a bleak one. Awesome!! 😉


      1. Hayley Cafarella Post author

        Thanks Jeanne! It’s so nice to be here, I feel like I haven’t been settled in years. There’s a lot to be done to the house, but we’ll get there! I looked at the Aquarella when I was shopping for water based polish, I think the only reason that I went Suncoat was because I could order from within Aus and it came within a week. I really need some more colours! It’s great to hear that you are able to wear it, I wondered if it was “clean” enough for someone with sensitivities much higher than mine. I’m still always amazed when I use it and there is no smell! I hope that you are feeling well xoxo

    3. Suzy Stewart

      I love your blog my dear friend…I just have to get myself some of that great toe nail polish that doesn’t smell bad!! my hubby hates it when I polish nails due to that smell…so you are a lifesaver! ha ha xo love and peace and blessings to you Caf xo love,suzy

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