Spring is over, summer is here. You have worked hard all spring hitting the treadmill or running the trails so you can get into bikini body shape (board short body for us men). Unfortunately all that running can have an unintended consequence, BLACK TOENAILS!!! You may look great slipping into that two piece bathing suit or new pair of board shorts, but it definitely does not go well with those sneakers you are wearing to cover those ugly toenails.
Black toenails are a common problem for novice and experienced runners alike. It typically is seen in people that are running long distances in preparation for half marathons, marathons and triathlons. This group of athletes is more at risk because the blackening of the toenail is caused by repetitive trauma that leads to bleeding under the nail.
There are several common mistakes that runners make that lead to this condition.
- Shoes are too small. Just because you wore a size 7 in high school doesn’t mean you still do at age 50. Our feet tend to get longer with age and getting resized every few years is important. You should have a fingers breadth of room between longest toe and front of shoe.
- Letting nails get too long. Long toenails can bump the front of shoe and in addition to getting toenails black, can cause them to loosen.
- Not tightening laces appropriately. I know it is a lot easier to just slip on those shoes but it can result in your foot slipping in shoe. A runner’s loop lace pattern can also reduce slippage.
Conservative treatment of this condition requires not making the mistakes listed above. In cases of a black toenail that forms over the course of a single run, a podiatrist can drain the blood to reduce risk of the nail loosening and falling off in the future. If the nail does not begin to grow normally after several months, or becomes very loose, sometimes removal by a podiatrist is needed to allow a new healthy nail to grow.
Moral of the story is, don’t stop running to avoid this condition, just run smarter so you don’t have to hide those toes after all that hard work.