Marathon runner? We’re exploring preparation, foot care, and post race treatments in this three part series.
As we explored in the first instalment of this series, shoes need to have room in the toe so that your toes, and by extension, your toenails, don’t hit box. If your shoes don’t fit properly and you are hitting the end of the shoe, you are likely to experience a range of toenail ailments that can slow down and even halt your training. Plus, toenail injuries can be painful!
Cutting your toenails
Toenails need to be kept short and straight across the edge, although cutting them too short can cause ingrown toenails. If in doubt, leave a little length and see how they feel. It’s also worth seeing a podiatrist to have your toenails cut if you are unsure. According to Dr Craig Brandoff, a New York City Podiatrist, even one visit to the podiatrist to get your toenails checked can save you months of pain. “A good podiatrist can show you how to cut them correctly, and make sure your feet are in good condition for the wear and tear of running”, says Dr Brandoff.
Even with all the right toenail care and maintenance, there is still a very good chance you will get a black toenail. It may not even be caused by pressure on the top of the toe or from the toenail hitting the shoe, but from pressure underneath the foot – that repetitive motion of striking the ground over and over (and over and over…). With each swing forward that your foot takes as you run, a little extra blood is pushed into the front part of your foot. The black or purple color is the result of broken capillaries, and fluid that accumulates under the toenail forms a blood blister. The more that accumulates, the worse the pressure is, which leads to greater pain. It’s always tempting to try and DIY the pain relief at home by lancing the fluid sac if you can get to it, but these sorts of things should be seen by a professional.
Toenails that fall off
When toenails get black from damage, the next step is often that they fall off. It’s important that you don’t force the nail off – let it fall off on its own. The damaged part of the nail will grow out and your nailbed will return to normal. If the toenail looks infected or the nail does not grow back, that’s when you need to get to a doctor.
No matter how prepared you are, and how by-the-book you do everything, at some stage every marathon runner gets a black toenail. Think of it as a badge of honor! A slightly painful, possibly unsightly, badge of honor..