In our practice, we see runners and athlete's regularly for foot pain. But sometimes that foot pain actually has to do with the toenail. Often after training or many times after the race itself, a runner may have a toenail that is may or not be painful, but has a blackened or darkened discoloration. What does it mean?
A discolored nail comes from trauma, such as dropping something on your toe or an injury. But it can often also occur due to micro trauma, or repetitive pressure for example the toe hitting up against the top or end of the running shoe. This causes bleeding under the nail and in the nail bed, or a subungual hematoma, which appears as dark red, purple, or black. Yes there is trauma to the area, but the good news is it doesn't mean it has to get in the way of your training.
The treatment for a black nail is most times a "watch and see" attitude. Usually after some time, the nail will fall off itself without any pain. If the nail is partially attached and the slight movement causes pain, your doctor may trim it or may speak to you about removing it in a short procedure. Most time, we wait until the nail falls off and a new nail is often growing under it.
There are some things you can do to prevent a blackened toenail:
-make sure you have proper fitting shoes. If the shoe is too tight, it will aggravate the nail and cause it to turn black.
-make sure you trim your nails straight across and trim them regularly! Nails that are too long are more prone to nail injury.
-make sure your socks are appropriate for the activity. We suggest running socks such as Feetures made with material that wicks moisture away from the foot and has seams that do not press up against the edge of the toes. These specific features will allow your toes to "breath" and decrease pressure.
If you do find yourself with a blackened toenail and need advice, make an appointment with our doctors. Our doctors are runners themselves and can give you medical advice born of experience! Call our office today 630-834-3668.