Ever get a black toenail? If you’ve been distance running for any amount of time, then you’ve probably had at least one or two. Personally, I’ve only had one toenail go black. Actually, it was more of a gray color, then the top layer came off and there was a new toenail underneath. Isn’t the body amazing?
But many runners’ toes aren’t as lucky mine. I know of runners whose toenails bleed every time they run a half marathon or. I know others whose toenails just plain fall off
Most podiatrists say that toenail damage in road runners’ feet can be attributed to shoes that are too small, or shoes that don’t allow room for the foot to swell. Most distance runners can keep black toenails at bay by keeping the nail short and by filing it flat on top.
Olympic runner Jeff Galloway believes, however, that pressure from below the toe can also produce black toenails. “If a toe is under pressure from the shoe or a sock that is too tight or too thick, the sustained pressure, step after step, produces an impact or a friction problem between the toenail and the tissue surrounding it,” he writes in the article “Injury Archives: Black Toenails.” “When the tissue gets damaged, fluid accumulates.
Hot weather can cause the feet to swell more in shoes making your digits more susceptible to black toenails, Galloway adds. He advises runners buying shoes to make sure there is at least half an inch of space between the end of their toes and the end of the shoe. And make sure you run in the shoe before you purchase it. A foot that slides around in a shoe is on its way to a black toenail.
Ultramarathoners are a different story, of course, especially since they do much of their running on rugged trails that slope and wind. Their feet slam forward in their shoes as they go down steep terrain. Some ultrarunners that have suffered from painful toenails actually decide to get them removed, as Catherine Saint Louis wrote about in the New York Times article “One Ultrarunning Problem Solved, For Good.”
That’s not really a practice that’s recommended for your average distance runner. If you get a black toenail, leave it alone. If it is painful, but manageable, try to wait for at least 24 hours, suggests Galloway. If it still hurts after that, you should see a doctor (although, Galloway shares two methods of relieving the pressure caused by fluid build-up underneath the nail in his article on black toenails).
You know now that I’ve written this and proclaimed to only have had one black toenail, I will most definitely get another one. I’m cool with it, though. Makes me feel hard core.
What’s your worst toenail story? Leave it in the comments below.