Running and preventing toenail loss

This week I decided to tackle the topic about Running and Toenail Loss aka the Black Toenail.  Some people have this misconception that you haven't experienced true running until you've lost your first toenail???

Actually, this couldn't be any more true!  Believe it or not, most runners especially experienced runners will tell you, you shouldn't ever need to lose a toe nail.  This is something that is completely preventable.  If you don't believe me, go ahead and ask a distance running expert or podiatrist:)

If you are one of those runners who think loss of a toenail is a right of passage, keep on thinking that, this post is not for you.  For the rest, who may be interested feel free to read on:)

There is one type of runner, who actually may not be able to avoid losing toe nails.  Those are runners who have crooked toes.  I wish I would offer those of you who may have bent toes a fix, but unfortunately I am not aware of one.  However, if it's a major problem ask your podiatrist their may be certain shoes that are better than others for you, possible ones with a wider toe base.

For those of you with normal feet and normal toes, YES it is possible to never get a black toe nail and lose a nail!    Believe it or not, this is something that IS preventable and it's an easy fix!

What causes a black toenail?
Your toe rubbing on the top or front of your shoe. Generally happens most when distance running, or running in hotter temperatures when your feet swell more.

How to prevent it?
There are a few things you can do.

The biggest thing, that will help are wearing the right shoes.  There is no specific brand or kind.
Actually, it all comes down to being properly fitted.
Runners who lose toe nails are usually always wearing shoes that are too small for their feet.  It's true, that simple thing is really all that makes the difference.

Few things to remember when purchasing new running shoes. 

*  Your feet are a tad smaller in the morning (less swelling) best time to try on running shoes is later in the afternoon or evening when your feet are a little more on their normal daily swollen side.  Avoid morning running shoe shopping!!!!

* Only wear socks you plan on running in, while you are trying on shoes.  If you think you might wear a thicker sock, then those are the socks you should bring with you to try on new shoes.

*  The thumbnail test.  When you have your weight fully placed down into the shoes you are trying on.  You should have a good half inch or even more space between where your big toe (or tallest toe) hits and the open space in the top of the shoe.  Generally if you place your thumb on top of your tallest toe, and measure out to your thumbnail, that should be a good amount of space.
(A lot of times runners need a shoe size that is one full size larger than what they normally wear.)

(Why the extra space?  When your running, your foot expands and swells.  As you get into your workout, your shoes will not feel too big, you'll appreciate that extra space in the toe area.)

*  If your still not sure, visit a running specialty store and ask the salesman to make sure you have enough space between your toes and the top of the shoes.

*  You may need to avoid buying shoes online if this is a problem with you.  All shoes are different even if you keep buying the same brand and same size.  Shoes have flaws and they are not all a perfect cookie cutter design.  Each pair needs to be tried on and tested before buying.

Other things to remember to always do:

* Keep your toenails trimmed.  Trim them about 3 days before a long run or a race.
Avoid pedicure's around races and long runs.  Believe it or not, you need those build up callous on your toes, they are preventing you from getting blisters and even toenail loss problems.  If you do get one, don't allow them to be completely buffed away!

* Keep your feet and toes as dry as possible.  Certain socks for runners are better than others.  Moisture wicking is a must.  (Do not wear cotton socks!!!)  Also socks that are completely seamless I have found to be the best.

Think you have tried these things, but you are still having problems?

If you have crooked toes, like I said above their may not be a solution other than a wider toe base and even then depending on how crooked your toes are, that may not even help.
But if you have normal feet/toes and have tried all these things and your still having problems.  It likely means you need a second opinion.

Don't go off your instincts on buying shoes, let someone who is an experienced runner go with you, have them feel your toe in the shoe, have them help show you what you might be missing.  Or explain to the sales person in a running specialty shop what is happening, let them help figure out what your doing wrong.
Bring the socks that you wear running with you.  Let your "distance" running friend or the sales person look at them, possibly they can tell you if the socks your wearing are not really a good running sock.
It might be embarrassing, but show them your toenails, maybe your idea of keeping them trimmed isn't exactly "trimmed".  As some especially women have a tendency to keep their toenails longer for purposes of "cute painted toenails".

Also, you may be wearing a shoe that might not be for distance running, it may have material in it that increases sweating and isn't wicking it away from your feet.  Just because a shoe is listed in a store as a "running shoe" doesn't mean it really is best for running.
Again, this is why running specialty stores are best until you know what your doing.  I won't lie good running shoes unfortunately come with a big price tag these days.  But you get what you pay for when it comes to running shoes.

Hopefully this will help some of you who are experiencing these problems avoid them in the past, because yes they are avoidable.
Or if you are new to running, maybe you'll be lucky and these tips will help you from ever making these mistakes!


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