Dirt in your skirt blog

Losing Toenails

Posted on June 29, 2012 by Margaret Schlachter

If feet gross you out you might want to skip this post, consider yourself warned. Last year it was almost comical losing toenails from running this year it’s becoming a fact of life. Many have asked why do runners lose toenails? After a little reading and some time experiencing my own toenail lose I have found a few reasons some are completely fixable and others well if you are really that worried maybe running isn’t your thing. Some consider this topic embarrassing or taboo to talk about but why not it’s part of running and if you spend enough time on trails you will completely understand.


Black Toenails

This is probably one of the easiest fixes to cover up if you are a female a dab of polish and it’s out of sight and out of mind. What a black toenail really indicates is that you have a blood blister that has formed under the nail. Chances are if you have a black toenail you are going to lose the nail in the next month or so. Get Ready.

Many people first experience this when they are starting to train long distances. I find it happens to me from constantly running downhills. The pounding on the nail and my foot on my shoes makes this happen. To me it’s a fact of life. If you live somewhere that the weather is warm you are at a greater risk to lose toenails as feet swell while running. Wet socks equals wet feet which can also lead to losing those cute little nails. But really who needs toenails?

OK all of that you can get from any blog post this is what I have learned helps next when you have a loose toenails. I equate loose toenails to loose teeth. Last year it seemed like by the end of the year they were just popping off left and right. By the end of the season I had lost nine out of ten toenails, damn that one for breaking the perfect record!

When in the airport on my way to Utah I had to do some minor nudging to finally get one of my nails to break lose. The pain it caused staying in outweighed the temporary pain to get it out. I loosened it like a tooth and quickly it popped out. This I do not recommend unless it’s seriously needed. I have lost this toenail numerous times throughout my life in sport so it’s popped out a few times. Now without it I feel 100 time better although the other big toe nail is ready to go now! This year with long races early in the season and way too many hours in wet shoes and socks my toenail loss had been exponentially sped up. I currently have nine out of ten intact but about seven are on their way to breaking up with my nail bed. They hurt like hell when they are loose and just aren’t ready to come out. I find myself kicking in bed or stubbing a toe and loosening it more.

The most recent adventure in toenail removal was earlier this week when the nail bed was literally sitting straight up in the air but still the bugger wouldn’t come out! So from experience I have found the best thing to do (some will say this is dumb) is to clip it down to the where it is still connected. If you leave it hanging then you are more apt to keep banging it. Also if you get to this level forget about close toed shoes!


So missing toenails isn’t your thing but you don’t want to give up running. There are ways to help alleviate this issue. Make sure you have properly sized shoes, normally a half size to full size up from what you wear around town will do. Make sure to keep those toenails trimmed. Longer nails are more prone to bang in a shoe. Wear good running socks something that wicks (no cotton). I recommend a wool sock, they make super lightweight wool socks now for summer wear. If you can keep your feet as dry as possible while running and prevent prolonged periods of time in wet shoes and socks.

Finally if you want to be like a small group of ultrarunners get rid of them forever. Some ultrarunners are opting for a surgery to remove those bothersome toenails, One Ultrarunning Problem, Solved for Good. That is an extreme I am not ready for just yet, who knows what I will say in a few years! For now I will stick to them slowly coming off one at a time and having my feet look like a checkerboard of toenails both holding on and long gone.