December 16, 2002
As you may remember, last ski season left me with ugly toenails well into the warm months that followed. I certainly remember, since it wasn’t so long ago that the damage finally grew out. I tried to do things differently this year, hoping to be able to bare my toes in public in summer 2003. My first two ski days I focused on pressing my legs forward into my boot cuffs, which forced my toes to stay back away from the front of the boots. The red marks still visible on my shins testify that I was successful in doing this at least some of the time. (Even now, my left leg has adhesive bandages on it to protect the new skin growing there.) But still, my feet slid around and my toes got sore and stayed sore even after I changed into my comfy and broken-in hiking boots at the end of the day.
After ski day two, I took the somewhat expensive (but minor compared to buying new boots) step of getting custom molded footbeds made. I got to stand on a platform that was hooked up to a monitor which showed a pressure map of my feet, then I moved to another platform where I stood on the hot footbed material while it molded to my individual contours. Some banging and gluing and other manipulation of my boots by the tech followed, then I stood on the pressure platform again and saw I was much more balanced. Sure, what I saw on the monitor could have been a trick, but skiing the next day was definitely better. The footbeds really helped anchor my feet in the boots, and the tips I got on adjusting my boots from the tech at the equipment shop proved to be very helpful, too. Once I was strapped in properly, I didn’t have to think about my feet and legs every turn and my shins didn’t get rubbed raw (well, any more than they already had).
Now, almost a week later, I can report some success. Only one of my big toenails is bruised. Not surprisingly, it’s the right one, the side with the shin that took the least damage. Only a little more time will tell if part of the nail is going to separate from the bed the way it did last year. The good news is I now know it’s not fungus. Riding up on a lift with two women discussing their boots, I learned there’s a name for what happens to my nails: “toe bang”. (I’ll pause here to let you sing the Ricky Martin song to yourself the way I did. Toe bang, toe bang, When toe moves, toe moves…) I’m not a freak—well, except maybe for the Ricky Martin thing– this happens to other people, too. The one woman’s two big toenails completely fell off one season, her toe bang was so bad. I felt lucky only having lost half of each nail last year. This year, maybe I’ll only lose half of one nail, and next year, maybe I’ll lose none at all. Continuous improvement: not just for the office anymore.