Dealing With Injuries That Aren’t Really Injuries

Most runners have experienced the dreaded black toenail at some point during their running life. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Black And Dead Toenails

Black toenails are the bane of sandal-loving runners everywhere. However, in addition to looking hideous, they can also be very painful, especially in the first few days after the blood blister is formed.

Generally, black toenails are caused when your toe rubs up against the front of your shoe or your sock. When the nail tissue gets damaged, fluid builds up behind or below the existing nail, which creates a great deal of pressure. This pressure is what causes black toenails to be very painful. The black color is due to the blood capillaries breaking underneath this pressure.

Almost every runner gets a black toenail at some point in their career. In my opinion, having your first black toenail is the mark that you’ve really begun training hard.

Treatment
Generally, it is best to leave the toenail as is and not try to release the pressure. The pain should subside in a few days without intervention. Attempting to release the pressure could result in infection.

If you decide that you can’t bear the pain and need to release the pressure, consider visiting a doctor to be safe. However, if you are determined to do this at home, you certainly can.

First, sterilize a paper clip by putting it over a flame and heating the tip. While it is hot, place the hot end on the nail, where it will quickly melt through and create a hole by which the fluid can escape. To be safe, after the fluid is drained, put some antibiotic ointment in the hole and on the nail.

RELATED: Is Barefoot Running Right For You?

Prevention
The most effective way to prevent black toenails is to run in shoes that fit properly. You should have a thumbnail’s width of room between your big toe and the front of your shoe while standing, not sitting. You should also wear moisture thin, moisture wicking socks to prevent increased heat build-up.

You should be able to run through this “injury,” provided the pain does not cause you to limp or modify your form. Generally, the pain will be extreme the first few hundred meters or even the first mile, but it will often go away. If your toe hitting the front of the shoe is causing the pain, you can try running barefoot in the grass. Unless you’re well conditioned to run barefoot, you’ll only be able to run a few miles, but you’ll still be able to run and you’ll strengthen your feet in the process.

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