How to avoid the runner’s curse of black toenails
I know lots of newbie runners are a bit scared of suffering this affliction, and it can put you off wanting to try for longer distances in case it should happen to you.
So with that fear in mind I thought I’d write a post about how you can avoid black toenails and what you should do should you get one.
How do you get them?
Black toenails are caused by trauma and results in a collection of blood under the nail.
Most of the pressure that contributes to black toenails is caused by the relentless action of the foot coming forwards, the thousands of times every run you take.
Every time your foot swings forward a little extra blood is pushed into the toe region due to the force of the foot coming forward. If you increase your distances regularly, and gradually, your toes will adjust.
Running in summer is also likely to increase your chances, so now is the perfect time to check that you are doing the right things.
When it’s warm your feet swell more than you would in winter. Because there is more pressure, and more fluid, more black toenails occur in the summer months (particularly noticeable if you are training for an autumn marathon).
The best thing you can do is make sure there is enough room in your shoe’s toebox.
You need about an extra centimetre when you’re standing up in your shoes (standing up makes sure your toes are as far forward as they will go). This will mean you will likely end up buying running shoes in a size larger than your normal shoes.
When you add that extra room make sure that the arch of the shoe matches your foot’s arch. Before you buy a new pair of running shoes go for a little run – ideally your shoe shop will have a treadmill or at least enough space to try the shoes out.
When you run make sure that your foot doesn’t slide forward as you run, this can aggravate the toe more than a small toebox.
But what if you still get one?
Often the nail comes loose and will fall off on its own within days of the race due to the blood collection causing it to separate from the nailbed. The nail will regenerate on its own.
If this is not painful and there are no signs of infection, such as pus, a smell or a fever, then you might not need to see a doctor. When the nail regrows it may not be the same due to the trauma suffered.
If there is discolouration to more than 25 percent of your toenail then seek medical attention straight away as the nail bed may be lacerated or there may be exposed bone under the nail. If left untreated this can lead to a bone infection.
If you are in any pain then seek medical advice.