Another day, another toenail

Had one of those red-letter days late last week. Actually, it was black and it was a toenail. One that fell off — with a little help. Finally.

Noticed it while I lounged on the couch during a lengthy phone conversation after a shower that followed a 10 K slog on an especially soupy Toronto evening.

Something didn't quite look right with that gnarly nail on the second toe of my left foot. A different kind of "not looking right" from the past two years, when it was merely a discoloured turtle-shell of a toenail. There was a bit of an upward angle to it. And it felt a bit wiggly — like a loose tooth.

So I wiggled it and off it popped, revealing a brand-spanking new pinkish toenail. Ah, the rites of summer.

Battering and eventually losing a toenail or two when you run a lot — or do other intense exercise that involves your feet — is as common as hurling golf clubs into water hazards when you continually hit those hazards with golf balls. Especially in the summer.

You get black toenails when your shoes or socks put too much pressure on your toes during sustained exercise. The constant moving of your feet creates friction between the toenail and the tissue surrounding. You might break a few capillaries, allowing blood to accumulate underneath the nail giving it that black colour. You might experience some pain — you might not.

Eventually, the toenail will fall off and a new one will take its place. That new one might not be quite as pretty as the original, but eventually it should look fairly normal.

It's one of the reasons runners are pretty anal about their toenails. If you don't keep them as short as comfortably possible, you'll increase your odds of blackening your toenails. The topic burns up forums on sites frequented by runners.

If you don't like the look of black toenails, you can treat the condition yourself — by inserting a red-hot needle into the middle of your toenail and squeezing the trapped blood out. But you — or your doctor — would have to do it soon after first noticing the discoloured nail.

Of course, you could ignore it, wear sandals and show it off until nature runs its course and it falls off.