If you're an avid runner, you know that along with the joy and health of this pastime come some common injuries, including black toenails. Board Certified Podiatrist David J. Kaplan of FootCare Specialists in San Mateo and Half Moon Bay, CA, has seen plenty of black toenails up close. Here he explains how they develop and offers five tips to prevent this unwanted casualty of running.
What causes runners to get black toenails?
Black toenails, or subungual hematomas, are often caused by repetitive trauma to the toes, such as the continuous impact and pressure experienced during running. When your toes repeatedly strike the front of your shoe, the force can lead to bleeding underneath the toenail, resulting in a darkened appearance. Ill-fitting shoes, especially those that are too small or too tight, exacerbate the problem and increase the risk of black toenails.
How can runners prevent this common Issue
1. Wear Properly Fitted Shoes
Investing in the right pair of running shoes is crucial for preventing black toenails. Visit a reputable running shoe store where experts can help you find the perfect fit. Ensure there's enough room in the toe box to allow your toes to wiggle freely without hitting the front of the shoe.
2. Trim Your Toenails
Keeping your toenails trimmed short and straight across can minimize the chances of them jamming against your shoes while running. Be cautious not to cut them too short or at an angle, as this can lead to ingrown toenails.
3. Choose moisture-wicking socks
Moisture-wicking socks can help keep your feet dry and reduce friction between your toes and the shoe. Look for socks made of synthetic materials like polyester or nylon designed to wick away moisture and prevent blisters.
4. Gradually increase running intensity
Avoid sudden increases in distance or intensity, as this can put additional stress on your toes and increase the risk of black toenails. Gradually build up your running routine to allow your feet to adapt to the demands of longer distances.
5. Check your shoe size regularly
Your shoe size can change over time, so periodically check the fit of your running shoes. If you notice any signs of discomfort, pain, or pressure on your toes, it may be time to invest in a new pair.
What to do if your toenail does turn black
If, despite your best efforts, you still develop a black toenail, don’t remove the toenail yourself, as this can lead to infection. Instead, gently clean the area with mild soap and water, and apply a clean bandage if necessary. Look for signs of infection, such as increased pain, redness, or discharge, and seek care from a board-certified podiatrist such as Dr. Kaplan.
He may need to drain the blood from the nail using a sterile instrument. For black toenails and all of your foot care needs, contact Medinet Family Care Clinic today. Call the Houston, Texas office, or use this online tool to schedule an appointment.