This is a story about a toe. Well, two toes.

Back in June, I was playing ultimate and wearing shoes. It was probably one of perhaps three times all summer I wore shoes to play… most of the time I’m barefoot, and I only get out the old cleats when the ground is too wet and slick, or if it’s just been aerated and those pesky chunks of sod are everywhere. In any case, I made a particularly sharp cut and hurt the toenail on my right big toe. It was pretty ugly after the game: most of the nail was black with blood beneath it.

For the past six months, that crusty blood has remained beneath the nail. There was really nothing to be done about it. It didn’t really hurt, but it looked kind of nasty. Well, earlier this week I noticed it looked a little different, and a bit of poking and prodding revealed that the nail was actually separated. A second nail had grown beneath it. I pulled off the old crusty top one, leaving a rather tender under-nail. Over the next few months I imagine everything will grow out and be fine again. This happened a few years ago as well– my right big toe takes a beating, apparently.

Today I was playing ultimate and since it’s fairly chilly (mid-40’s) the ground is getting cold and hard. So I put on cleats, ran around, made a cut, and… hurt my left big toe. Sure enough, there’s blood under the nail now. Sigh. I’m guessing it’ll linger for a few months while a second nail grows, and in the spring I’ll be able to yank the top layer.

I share this story not because I want to be gross, but rather because I find it amusing that people always ask me why I play barefoot. Isn’t it dangerous? Don’t people stomp on your foot? Can you really move and cut as well as you could with cleats? Well, my experience is that wearing shoes is actually more dangerous to my poor toes. I don’t get hurt when I’m barefoot, although I occasionally take a painful cleat to the top of my foot.

Bare feet rock.