Your Toenails: Running’s Silent Victims

A Houston podiatrist can help protect runner's toenailsIf you’re a frequent runner, chances are you’ve noticed that your toenails are less than pretty. They may be bruised, they may be black, heck, they may even have fallen off!

Do you want to know why? Because the stress impact of running creates a trauma in your nail bed that’s equivalent to a stress fracture in your foot or ankle bone.

Your nail is a hard covering that’s supposed to protect the delicate skin of your nail bed. When you put a lot of pressure on your toes, like when you run down a hill or wear shoes that are too small or tight, you can traumatize your nail and allow the nail bed to bleed. That blood is what makes your nail look black after a particularly grueling run.

If you don’t take care of yourself, and you allow a lot of blood to build up under your nail, it may get pushed up and even detach from your nail matrix. While some runners are lucky and find that a new nail has already grown in once the old nail falls off, others are not as fortunate. If your nail matrix gets damaged, for example, a new nail may never grow in place of the old, damaged one. Usually, this type of severe trauma only happens to people who are logging tons of miles, like marathon trainees, but it can happen with short-distance runners who repeatedly wear too-tight shoes.

If you want to protect your toenails from falling victim to running-related traumas, you should keep them clipped at a medium length (too long and they’ll hit your shoes, too short and you risk an ingrown toenail.) It’s also crucial that you stop running if you notice that your toes are really hurting and pay very careful attention to the fit of your sneakers, especially in the toe box.

Of course, toenail trauma is part of a serious runner’s life, but if you want to hold onto the nails you have left, schedule an appointment with your Houston running doctor as soon as you notice discomfort in your nails. 

Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.