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Another day, another toenail

Comments (15)
By Peter Hadzipetros

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.

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Comments (15)

adriana mckay

noc

I am so relieved that black toe nails are normal. I just finished running a first 1/2 marathon and noticed the next day that my second toe hurt and my jaw hurt. My toe is now purple..no more pain, but looks like death. I'm hoping this won't cause too much of a problem for the triathlon I'm doing in a month. Can you still run with a warped toe?

Posted June 20, 2009 11:56 AM

Ginny Lester

Hi Y'all,

I'm not a runner or a walker other than walking normal. But I have a toe that is turning black. Glad to know it's nothing to worry about, but it is rather disconcerting at first. Toenails will grow back unless the matrix is damaged. Don't let anyone kill the matrix, doctor or not. The toenail will grow back and will be a little bumpy but disappears as the nail grows and grows and you clip and clip. Happy nail growing and clipping and running and walking and so on.

Posted December 4, 2008 11:30 AM

Be4819

Canada

so i kinda have the same problem but my toenails didn't turn black they turned yellow and started to loosen and 2 Have fallen off already and two more are loosening and it's really gross. Unlike some of you i don't run but i do walk alot. I don't know if i should go to the doctor or something. But i just thought i would share that with you all.

Posted October 20, 2008 04:25 AM

selene

az

I have a question.....I also did a lot of walking for 3 days and as you can already imagine...I got blisters under my nails...well juts on my big toes. I went to the podiatrist and he told me that my nails are dead and that he would have to remove them...but they would never grow back again....apparently they put a medicine to make them not ever grow...is that normal? Or can they grow back if I just let them fall off on their own?

Posted August 14, 2008 06:59 PM

Jacqui

Regina

Glad to hear my black toenail is a common occurence. I've upped my running in recent months preparing for a marathon and one day while changing my nailpolish noticed the black nail. I thought it would just go away and then one of my sisters freaked me out into thinking I had cancer!! I hid the nail again and am just waiting to see if it will fall off ... I'd heard about black toes and now I know I'm not gonna die anytime soon!!

Posted July 28, 2008 05:42 PM

Suzy

Seattle

I'm a year too late to join the party, but have the same question as a poster above.. I was in a bad bike accident 2 1/2 months ago and I banged my toe badly.. well now my other injuries have healed and my toe nail is falling out and it's creepy. I heard (a myth?) that sometimes they don't grow back. Is that true?

Also funny, because unless I pull of my nail, I feel like I can ONLY wear flipflps or else the nail will rub and hurt my foot. Gross I know. :(

Posted July 6, 2008 05:39 AM

Jen

Hi,
I'm training for a marathon in June and a few months ago I noticed that 2 of my toenails were bruised and my toes hurt all the time. I bought bigger shoes and still my toes hurt and then I noiced that there was dried blood behind 2 of the nails. A foot dr told me that you can drain the blood when the injury's fresh; no luck in my case because my toenails are always painted red, so it hid the bruise for a while.
Well, Sunday I bumped my toe and I later realized that the nail from one toe fell off. The other bruised nail is still attached. I'm happy to say that the pain from one toe is gone, but now there's a "mini" toenail composed of hardened blood in its place; it goes great with my pedicure. Ha!
Anyway, the coagulated mass looks like it's pushed up from the nailbed. I'm wondering if anyone knows what will happen next? Will that bloody thing fall off when a new nail starts to grow back? Or will the new nail grow behind the blood? Or, I hope not!, will the new nail grow over the dried blood?
Sorry I can't attach a pic to this forum; it's a funny sight. ;-)
Thanks for your comments and advice.
Peace,
Jen

Posted May 8, 2008 01:42 AM

Margot

Canada

Well I don't feel so bad. Walk at least 10 to 20 K a day and lost two toenails. Have New Balance cross trainers that have never bothered my feet when I ran 6 k, so it have to do with distance.

Posted December 3, 2007 10:05 AM

jamilee@gte.net

Dallas,TX

I am a running priss. DO THEY GROW BACK FOR SURE? I just had one fall off and it is freaking me out!!!!!!!!

Posted October 2, 2007 04:34 PM

johnny longsleeves

Mississauga

Just got my first black toe nail, ever.

After my run, I trimmed the excess nail away and a red ooze exited from the top of the nail. It's sore, but I can still run. Yeah!!

Posted September 14, 2007 01:02 PM

Jenny

Jasper,alabama

yeah umm i kinda had the same thing happen to me,except i hit my little toe on a bench at church camp and i did not think anything about it then it started bleeding then a few weeks later the toenail turned black then it got loose and as of right now my toenail is sticking up and should fall off in like a day or two...but its pretty gross, i can not wait till my toenail grows back because i want to wear flip flops again.

Posted July 23, 2007 01:01 AM

Percy Fox

Toronto

I think I speak for others when I say "eewwwww!" However, it's another fascinating look at something I, a non-runner, would never otherwise have heard about. Thanks... I guess.

Posted July 16, 2007 06:30 PM

Scavok

Sounds like Jeff Goldblum in "The Fly". Can you walk on the ceiling yet?

Posted July 16, 2007 02:25 PM

Natalie Anne Lanoville

I've never had black toenails, but I have two that are permanently split down the middle from running.

Posted July 15, 2007 03:21 AM

Melanie

Toronto

Uch - this is sooooo gross! But it's something people should know about (like male runners and bleeding nipples - there's your next blog post btw).

I have not had to deal with the dreaded black toenails but then I don't log as much mileage as you do. I suspect that this is a problem that plagues more marathoners than anybody else (as the only folks I've heard from about this are marathoners). Now that I'm training for my first I'm on high alert!

Also, different shoes have different lasts. New Balance has a huge toe box. Asics is more pointy. I wonder if different lasts (narrow vs wide) contribute? I would think so ...

Posted July 12, 2007 05:48 PM

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About the Author

Peter HadzipetrosPeter Hadzipetros is a producer for the Consumer and Health sites of CBC News Online. Until he got off the couch and got into long distance running a few years ago, he was a net importer of calories.

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I am so relieved that black toe nails are normal. I just...
Another day, another toenail
Hi Y'all, I'm not a runner or a walker other tha...
Another day, another toenail
so i kinda have the same problem but my toenails didn't t...
Another day, another toenail
I have a question.....I also did a lot of walking for 3 d...
Another day, another toenail
Glad to hear my black toenail is a common occurence. I'v...
Another day, another toenail

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