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Cross Training For Runners

Bruised Toenail From Running – How to To treat & Prevent

6 Mins read

Do you often get bruised toenails from running? Then you have come to the right place.

The bruised look of toenails after a run is regarded as a badge of honor. But it can also make running difficult.

Ignored, a black toenail may put you out of commission for days, even weeks.

Fortunately, there are many measures you can take right now to prevent bruised toenails during a run.

In this article, I’ll spill the beans on runners’ toenails problems, how to treat bruised toenails from running, and most importantly, how to prevent your toes from taking a beating.

What is A Bruised Toenail From Running

Also known as jogger’s toenail, the condition happens when your nail (as well as the surrounding area) becomes bruised or black from the stress of running.

Medically known as a subungual hematoma, technically speaking, a bruised toenail is bleeding under the toenail, which starts to appear black. The black color comes from the blood that leaks from damaged blood vessels.

This condition may cause throbbing, intense pain, and blood accumulating underneath the nail. But don’t let that scare you off. Despite the pain, a bruised toenail is often nothing serious.

In runners, the big and the second toes are often the most affected toenails by the runner’s toe.

How come?

Because these are often the longest toes, thus, they take in most of the stress during a running stride.

The Complications

Although not inherently a serious running injury, runners’ toes can pain super uncomfortable and may likely interfere with training.

In some cases, ignoring runners’ toes can lead to painful complications such as

  • The loss of the nail
  • Blood blisters
  • Infection (more on this later)

The Causes

The main cause of runners’ toenails is repetitive stress. Each time your foot hits the ground, the tips of your toes rub/slam into the front of your shoe.

Even if you have perfect running shoes and form, your toenails, especially the big one, can still slam into the front of the shoe on each foot strike.

Although this impact may seem minuscule, when repeated thousands of times throughout training, it can break blood veins, causing blood leakage. The more stress on your toe, the more damage accumulates.

Additional Resource – Your Guide to Groin Strains While Running

Symptoms of Infection After Nail Injury

As I’ve mentioned, bruised toenails are nothing to fret about, but, in some cases, the condition may lead to infection if germs get into the toes through a break in the nail or skin.

Also, if the nail comes off, chances you’ll have an opening on the toe where an infection could take hold.

Some infection cases require antibiotics, but only your doctor can decide which course of action to take.

Pay attention to the following signs of infection following a nail injury:

  • Getting sick or having a fever
  • Red streaks around the affected area
  • Redness in the affected area
  • Swelling or stubborn pain.

Additional resource – Labral tears in runners

Other Causes Of Bruised Toenail

If you log serious miles every week and are dealing with black toenails, it’s most likely caused by running.

But, in some cases, black toenails indicate other conditions such as:

  • Fungal infection
  • Melanonychia striata
  • Cancerous tumor
  • Chronic ingrown toenail
  • Subungual expositors, a type of benign tumor

Additional resource – Labral tears in runners

How To Treat Bruised Toenail

If you’re not experiencing serious pain, you likely don’t need any specific treatment for runners’ toenails.

But, if too much blood accumulates under the toenail to the point of forcing the nail to lift from its bed, then you’re trouble. This often results in sharp or throbbing pain.

Head to the nearest clinic if you’re experiencing this type of pain. The physician will drain the pooled blood by making a small hole in your nail using a heated needle.

Consult your doctor if the nail is still raised and painful after more than a day. There are plenty of treatments opting sot help soothe the discomfort and pain of bruised toenails.

Is your nail already falling off? Then, clean it with an antibiotic cream and cover the affected toe with a bandage.

You should also consult your doctor about other treatments to ensure the nail grows back properly.

Additional Resource – Your Guide to Groin Strains While Running

How To Prevent Bruised Toenails From Running

Repeated stress is the main culprit behind bruised tonsils. Therefore, anything you can do to minimize the stress is surely welcome.

Here are some of the measures to consider.

Get The Right Shoes

Overall, the best prevention course is to ensure that your running shoes fit properly.

And it all starts with space. While logging the miles, your feet can swell up to a full shoe.

As a rule, you should be able to freely wiggle your toes inside the shoe. The toe box—the front of your shoe—should be wide and spacious enough so that your toes are not crammed in—but no too wide.

Not the case? Then your toes are likely crammed, leading to trouble down the way. And you don’t want that.

At the very least, leave roughly a thumb’s width between the tip of your biggest toe and the end of the shoe. Try doubling on the socks for extra protection.

What’s more?

I recommend buying your running shoes from a running-specialty store specializing in sportswear. This way, you ensure you’re getting the right fit for your feet.

Additional resource – Guide to big toe pain from running

Tie Your Shoes Properly

You can have the best shoes in the world, but if the shoes are laced too tight, they can compress your toenails. On the other hand, a shoe laced loosely will allow the foot to slide too far forward, whopping the nails against the front end of the shoe.

For this reason, make sure to properly tie your shoes. As a rule, keep your shoelace snug but not too tight. I’d recommend using an “Anklelock” lacing to help secure your feet in the shoe, as it limits the distance your feet slide inside the footwear on foot strike.

Here’s how:

Avoid Too Much Downhill Running

Have a history of bruised toenails? Then you should take a look at your running surfaces. This is especially the case if you tend to do a lot of downhill running, increasing your speed and vertical impact force. This will increase total stress no matter how well your shoe fits.

As a result, if you often run on hills, I’d recommend using Toe caps or pads. These should help absorb some pressure from downhill pounding, so your toes don’t have to.

Just make sure to choose the right fit so you won’t end up adding bulk to your shoe or rubbing on other toes, which can result in more discomfort and pain.

Keep Your Toenail Short

Another measure to protect your toes from taking a beating is to maintain a square-shaped toenail.

Long toenails set the stage for the condition like nothing else. The more your toenail extends out, the more likely it’ll slam and rub against the top or side of your shoe while running.

Remember to cut your nails properly to avoid ingrown toenails. This should limit the amount the end of your nails hits the front of your shoe.

Just be careful not to penetrate too much into the edge of your nails in the hope of achieving a perfectly round shape.

Go For the Right Socks

Your socks choice also matters.

The right sock helps prevent moisture in the shoes, whether from sweaty feet or the weather. Wet feet are more prone to friction, which again may force the foot to slide inside of the shoe.

To help absorb the force, use cushioned running socks with a seamless toe.

What’s more?

If you’re prone to black toenails, consider using thicker running socks. Choose brands that have more padding. Doubling up may also help.

Increase Mileage Slowly

Abrupt increases in mileage often increase injury risk. This shouldn’t be a secret.

Don’t take my word for it. One study reported that beginner runners who upped their weekly training load by more than 30 percent for a couple of weeks were more susceptible to injury than runners who followed the 10 percent rule.

So pay attention to your training. As a rule, increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent at a time.

Keep in mind that sudden changes in training intensity or terrain can contribute to a runner’s toe, especially if your runs include a love of downhill miles.

Visit a Professional

In cases of stubborn pain, do your feet a favor and consult your physician.

This is especially the case if the nail oozes, looks weird, or feels tempted to home-based pedicure tools. Don’t risk it. It’s not worth it.

When deciding whether you should see a doctor after injuring your toenail, there are a few signs to pay attention to.

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