I had the exact same issue. What I learned is that the Deeluxe Sparks have a metal shim in the sole to add stiffness. As the day goes on and this shim gets colder and colder, your feet start to go numb and begin to hurt more and more. I solved this problem first by cutting out a piece of an emergency blanket to the size of my footbed and inserting it under that, and eventually I just went out and got the Sole Chris Davenport inserts, as they are insulated. Perhaps that helps...
It helps to have a general understanding of morton's neuroma, but in general this affliction revolves around the irritation of nerves between the 3rd/4th metatarsal. Between the 3rd/4th metatarsal there are 2 more nerves than between any other metatarsal in the foot. Therefore, it is common for these nerves to get pinches/rub against the metatarsals. Over time scar tissue forms and the problem compounds itself.
I believe that I have the symptom of a morton neuroma. This self-diagnosis is supported by a Podiatrist. My pain is aggravated by skinning. It is aggravated the more by skinning on flat approaches. After long outings (2+ mile flat approaches, 4k + elevation gain) crippling burning pain will develop in the balls of my feet just behind my toes. Taking my foot out of the boot and massaging my forefoot will temporarily alleviate the problem, but as soon as I start up again it is back.
As of now, for all I know I could be predisposed to developing this problem. That being said these are the ideas that I am pursuing to fix the problem, assuming it is fixable.
1. Built in forward lean on softboots
Last night I went through every boot at Milo Sport, REI, and Salty Peaks in SLC to examine the angle of forward lean. I made 2 takeaways from this experiment. The Spark Deeluxe boot has a good amount of lean compared to most boots. Yet the difference between all boots is minimal (1-5*). Two boots stood out in particular the VANS CIRRO because it has almost 0 fwd lean, and the NORTHWAVE DECADE because despite having forward lean it has a very flexible highback.
2. If softboots do not provide the answer. The answer could be Hardboots, because of the walk mode alleviating forward lean in skin mode. If there is anyone from SLC on this board that has experience with modding hardboots please PM me.
3. Forward Lean on Bindings. Voile Light rails - appear to be 5-10* fwd Spark Blaze - appear to be vertical (0*) despite their advertised -5* Krakoram Split 30 - advertise -8* (but I have never seen these bindings).
*Note** doesn't matter if your highback lean is negative if you have a stiff ass boot with forward lean. One of the 2 of these factors will be limiting
3. Metatarsal Pads - my podiatrist says that if I can place a pad directly under my 3/4 metatarsal then it is possible to separate the metatarsals enough to prevent the irritation of the nerves between them.
4. Cortisone shots - As of today I have a cortisone shot in my left foot. Hopefully this will get me to a pain free state so I can start to test out some of these ideas.
5. Surgery - my podiatrist was very confident that this problem is common among athletes and sedentary people alike, and that surgical intervention was VERY succesful in alleviating the symptoms.
It sounds like you have a good handle on a path forward but I did want to pass long some tidbits from my previous post. I would definitely look at boots with a wide toe box---and thin socks can make a surprisingly significant difference.
I also started off my treatment with a cortisone shot. This may have been a successful solution, but in my case, the morton's nueroma had simply become too large (about 0.9 x 0.3 inches based on the MRI). The effectiveness of the cortisone shot wore off after about 3 months (much earlier than anticipated; primarily due to the advanced state of the nueroma). I did end up having surgery to remove the nueroma. The surgery was very successful----there was no significant rehab and I was back to a fairly normal routine after a few months.
Joined: Thu Nov 18, 2004 5:07 am Posts: 620 Location: Montana
Look at your feet standing flat on the floor. Are the arches fairly raised? If so this puts undue burden on your forefoot while skinning for any extended distances. I'm no Dr. and my self diagnosis only comes from the result of having been through it & successfully dealt with it. The arch supports simply allow the center of the feet to carry a proportional burden in the course of your day.
This pain literally brought me damn near to tears at times.
I never consulted a Doc. There used to be a place in town called the "Good Feet Store" I drove past that place dozens of times before I finally gave it a shot. I was at the point of giving up splitboarding because I'd tried so many different boots and footbeds and socks and combinations.
The store looked at my feet and said for me to try the inserts. They were like $500 and I was sure I'd just gotten scammed as badly as anything I'd ever done. They gave me 2 sets with 1 set being slightly less raised than the other(break-in set). It had gotten bad enough that my pain was hitting me by the end of the day during my usual course of work which involves a lot of standing and walking, usually on cement or tile floors(that didn't happen before I started skinning places). I'm guessing I'd aggravated the metatarsils pretty far along by that point. Within a week I noticed no more pain. I went out for some typical routes where the pain would creep in and no pain. I've never had any pain since. All I'm saying in all this is, these things are so simple - & if they work for you so worth the try. They just slip in under the footbed. They don't stick but your feet will keep them in place. Since - I've probably worn out 4 sets of work shoes and 2 pairs of snowboard boots. Not once did I have any pain on approach/ exit/work or anywhere.
Just seems to me a Podiatrist may overcomplicate the situation. Do what you want - its your money. I know products like Dr. Scholls are looked at as possibly useless. I don't know if they make a product as supportive as these things I have because I've never needed anything else & haven't looked. They may have something that is really similar that costs a lot less. I can post a picture of these things but the whole rigamaroll of posting on some other forum then pasting here is too complicated but email me with your email address and I'll be happy to send that way. The durability of these things looks like lifetime to me...no evidence of wear or failure. That's 7-8 years of hard wear on both pairs of inserts. This may not be the case with Dr. Scholls type knockoffs but who knows.
Just saying try something like this to see if it works. If not then back to the doc or whatever route you were thinking.
I had the same deal with my Spark Blazes and Driver X's. At first. The more I toured and the longer that I toured in them, the less the problem occurred. Probably because the boot got a bit more broken in the more miles I put on them. I can pretty much run a half marathon in the mf's now. I think the combo of the aluminum base plate and the stiff sole is the culprit. We hardly walk around in metal shank boots for that amount of time, so our feet freak out.
I dealt with slight to moderate symptoms, although the pain was quite severe at times, for 3 or 4 years before the symptoms spilled over into everyday life and became unbearable.
I suspect that you are addressing this problem in the relatively early stages---and suggestions like lewmt has made regarding high quality supportive foot beds will probably address the problem. My sports podiatrists other simple suggestions such as using thin socks and using boots/shoes with a relatively wide toe box are relatively easy to implement.
i had this exact same thing happen to me all of last year and finally figured out what the problem was this year. The issue is a lack of circulation that can be caused by: boots being too tight (i don't tighten my boots at all before a tour, just lace them tight enough that the boot stays together), bindings cranked down too much, or having a forward lean on your high back while touring. Fix those issues and the feeling should go away, no complaints 20+ tours into this year.