Bruising the space between a toenail and toe is very common among runners. We’re talking about a blood blister often referred to as “runner’s toe” or “black toe.” I think of it as nasty toe, and it’s been a fact of my life for years. In fact, I hadn’t really thought much about it lately until I saw a post on Facebook about a pooch named Hooteeny. While looking for adventure one day, Hooteeny jumped from a second story window, lost his toenail and then, like any good runner, happily went about his adventure. That impressed me.
So why do so many runners lose their toenails? The biggest culprit is poor fitting shoes. When running for long periods of time, if that toe is rubbing up against the front of your shoe, bruising can occur. Running downhill and running in hot weather (downhill causes trauma, warm temps make the feet swell) can increase the odds of injuring a toenail or two. Other causes are trauma to the toes like jumping from a second story window or stumping your toe on a rock.
To prevent bruised toenails, make sure that you’re wearing the correct running shoe size (at least 1/2 size bigger than your street size), and keep your foot as dry as possible by wearing good wicking socks, not cotton ones.
If you have a bruised toenail, no worries. It will fall off with a new nail trailing right behind. The experts say to leave it alone, as long as the pain is manageable. The damaged part of the nail is gradually pushed off, and a new nail will replace it. Don’t force the old nail off – it will fall off on its own. If at any point you notice redness and infection, see a doctor. Personally, I cut mine off so it doesn’t snag on stuff and rip off like in the case of Hooteeny. My way is by no means doctor approved and it’s gross but it’s the truth.
If you’re concerned about having a pretty pedicure, I’ve read about people who use nail polish directly on the skin as the nail comes in, or glue the nail that fell off to your new nail that is coming in. Personally I think that’s even nastier than no toenail at all. My suggestion, embrace your battle wound with pride and let nature run its course.
This post was inspired by Hooteeny, the K9 Escapologist.