Oh Noes! Black Toes(nails)!

Admittedly, the other toenails don't look so hot either.
Admittedly, the other toenails don't look so hot either.

Just as spring is starting to break I thought things were turning around for my feet. No more would children and the faint-of-heart run away in fear if I walked into the room wearing my comfy flip-flops. After months of patiently waiting for my black toenails to grow out, I was on the brink of recovering a full set of perfect toenails. Alas, as you can see from the photo above, my dreams of being a foot model have been dashed once again. According to Jeff Galloway’s website, here’s what happened to my toenails:

If a toe is under pressure from the shoe or a sock that is too tight or too thick, the sustained pressure, step after step, produces an impact or a friction problem between the toenail and the tissue surrounding it. When the tissue gets damaged, fluid accumulates. The red or black color is the result of a few blood capillaries that become broken in the process.

Since my black toenails pose a cosmetic and not a painful problem, I’ve never investigated the cause of this pedestrian phenomenon. Forcing your feet into a pair of shoes and then subjecting them to miles of pounding seemed an obvious source of toenail distress. As it turns out, there’s more to the problem than sweaty feet. In addition to shoes which are too tight and ramping up your training too quickly, there’s the weather to consider.

Hot weather also improves your odds of getting one. When it’s warm, your feet swell more than they would on cold days. Because there is more pressure, and more fluid, there are more black nails generated during the summer months.

Fortunately, here in San Francisco, we don’t get too much hot weather in the summertime. But with the races I plan to run and the training required to perform well, I’m going to be generating a lot of friction in the toe boxes of my shoes. So, I apologize in advance to all of those who will be nauseated by the sight of my flip-flop clad Frankenfeet, and, I can only hope my feet have a future in modeling as the “Before” set.

Read Jeff Galloway’s full post here: Injury Archives: Black Toenails

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4 thoughts on “Oh Noes! Black Toes(nails)!

  1. Oh, dear. You’ve got it bad. I’ve only lost a couple toenails in the past (we do live in a hot climate). You can actually soak a needle in peroxide and poke it under your toenails to drain out the blood, but you have to do that ASAP or it’s bye-bye toenails. If they fall off, keep the nail beds clean and soft — I’ve used A & D ointment and bandages to keep the moisture in — and as the nails grow back, cut them back if they start to grow in wrong. Just keep softening and cutting till they grow back the way they’re supposed to. Best of luck.

  2. That photo could easily be of my feet! Being a new runner, I think my toes just were not used to the pounding and so a few of them turned color. The big toe on my left foot took a pounding when the miles started adding up because it is bent from polio – but who cares really? They are going to have to carry me 26.2 miles. I also have been soaking my feet in warm salt water to take care of callouses and that occasional blister. Here’s to happy feet and happy trails.

  3. todd – my right big toe toenail has been jet black for MONTHS! just part of the deal, i guess. i don’t wear sandals or flip flops…..ha!


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