What are black toenails? How best to treat them? More to the point, how best to prevent them in the first place? Chitika Wheeler has some top tips. After all, happy toes lead to a happier running experience!
What are black toenails?
Most runners have probably experienced a black toenail at some stage or another. The blackness is a bruise or a blood blister, where excessive pressure or friction has been applied to the nail. In severe cases, if the pressure is prolonged, for example over marathon distance, the nails can be dislodged from the nail bed and can finally come off altogether, to make way for the growth of a new nail. Needless to say, this can be an uncomfortable experience!
How to treat black toenails?
If you are concerned about your toenails after a running event which may have left them bruised and battered, you may wish to seek medical advice. Otherwise, if you keep your toes and toenails clean and pressure-free (to minimise discomfort) they will heal quite quickly by themselves. If you have lost a toenail altogether it can take a long time to grow back completely. The big toenails can take a year to grow back to normal length.
How to prevent black toenails?
Your choice of running shoe size can have a great bearing on whether or not you will be afflicted by black toenails. As your feet hit the ground they can extend slightly in length. As they get warm through running they can also swell to a degree. For regular running a space of half to a whole thumb's width is recommended between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. It is best to measure the space while standing and once you have kicked your heels back into the shoes. Bear in mind that your choice of running sock, thick or thin, can influence the amount of space in the region of the toes. Also be sure to trim your nails when necessary. If the shoes are right for you, you will be able to have a secure fit along the length of your feet, but also have some toe room.
We are all individual, and some of us may need more toe room than others. The big toe may also not be the longest toe. The toe boxes of running shoes will also vary in shape. A shoe which tapers too much in the area of your smaller toes may end up bruising them - some toe boxes are squarer than others. When having a shoe fitting, ask your salesperson to assess whether you have adequate toe room. Inform them of the distances you are planning to run. The longer the distance, the more toe room you are likely to need.
Different types of running shoes will necessitate different amounts of space at the toes. You will not need as much toe room in barefoot running shoes or athletic spikes, where a snugger fit around the toes is more appropriate.
Keep your toes happy and you will have a happier running experience!