Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dead Toenails from Running: Tips and Advice

One of my toenails is dying and turning unsightly yellow. It wasn’t run over by anything, nor did it get any kind of infection. I can only put the blame on running for the fate it suffered. But while I’m mourning my toenail’s death, I decided to read more about dead toenails from running in the hope of assuaging my fears.

Yes, my main fear is that it will not grow back to its normal pinky state it used to be. But I’m glad to be comforted from the fact that it will grow back to be a normal toenail again although it will take a while. That means a couple of months. :(

Toenails are probably one of the ugliest parts to look at from a runner’s body. Most runners’ toenails become thick and yellowish, or sometimes even black. But without toenails, running will be painful.

If you are running regularly as a sport or as a way to keep you trimmed, dead toenails from running could not be prevented. Be sure to cut your toenails regularly and keep it short. Don’t cut it to the edge because that will be painful also. Round the sides of the toenails especially if you are prone to ingrown nails.

If you keep a long toenail, it may develop an infection as it comes in constant contact with the front part of your shoes. Signs of infection include throbbing and swelling. In some cases, blisters develop under the nail. In time the toenail will die and will be shed off.

If you happen to have a dead toenail from running, and you find out it is infected, the first thing you want to do is to get rid of the infection first. You can soak your foot in warm water doused with Betadine or any other kind of antiseptic. For infection to heal more quickly, you need to gently prick the blister with disinfected needle for the fluid buildup to escape. You might have to do this for a couple of days until the infected toe is dried. Afterwards, you will notice the nail loosen up and you will be able to cut or remove it without pain. The waiting game for the new nail to grow begins.

For the next two days, the exposed toe will feel a bit tender but it will harden in time to protect the nail bed area while waiting for the new nail to grow in. Some runners prefer not to cut the dead nail while waiting for the new one to grow. But the problem with this is that the new nail finds it difficult to move when the old nail is blocking its entry.

As for me, thankfully, there is no infection. I’m just patiently waiting for my new toenail to grow. Meanwhile, I’m wearing closed shoes all the time to give my dying toenail its privacy. :)


  1. i've been on too many hikes recently in covered shoes, so my two big nails are dying!!! They're turning black from the cuticle up.... does it have to fall off before my new one grows back?

  2. Ran my first marathon in '98. Lost 3 toenails then, of which my left big toenail didn't grow back properly so I had acid put on the bed and it's been 'naked' ever since. So I disagree that without the nails running would be painful.

    After a 13 year gap, I've started long distance running again, 2 marathons in the past month and I'm now down to 6 good, 4 missing.

    I actually want to go back to a nurse/doctor and have them all removed permanently. We don't need them like we need fingernails.

  3. If your shoes is tight it will surely affect your toe when running.

    Yellow Toenail Treatment

  4. Thank you so much for this. As a newish runner (I have just been running for almost a year), and seeing my toenails just as the picture shows, I was glad to read that this was all that is wrong.

    Thanks for the info!