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How Do I Prevent Black Toenails?

Black toenails are typically not painful.
Toe trauma is common among runners.
Wearing proper fitting shoes can help prevent black toenails.
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  • Written By: Sarah Sullins
  • Edited By: M. C. Hughes
  • Last Modified Date: 29 March 2014
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Black toenails, caused by trauma to the toe, are a common occurrence, especially among runners. Preventing them is typically an issue that involves finding the right kind of shoes. Other foot care methods may also help to prevent this problem. Although they are usually not painful, the toenails do tend to fall off after a while, so preventing them from occurring protects the toe, and can also be important to those who enjoy painting their toenails or who frequently prefer to wear open-toed shoes.

Runners, walkers, and skiers are most susceptible to black toenails, but they can happen to anyone. These injuries almost always occur because of the toe hitting the top of the shoe. When the toe bumps against the shoe too habitually, the skin beneath the toenail becomes bruised, separates from the toenail, and sometimes creates a blood blister. The blood that is located under the nail causes it to appear black or gray.

The majority of the time, the nail will not cause any pain to the runner or skier. They are sometimes painful though. If a blood blister develops, it can swell and cause pain. These blisters can also become infected, which can cause even more pain and must be treated by a doctor.

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Prevention of this condition is typically the only way to avoid losing the toenail. The first step in prevention is to wear shoes that fit well, so that the toes do not bump up against the shoes. Second, the individual may want to shorten the distance he or she runs, walks, or skis. Running or skiing uphill instead of downhill can also reduce the amount of pressure the toe exerts on the top part of the shoe. Making sure that the shoes are tied correctly can help prevent any problems from occurring as well.

Proper foot care can also help to prevent black toenails. Toes should always be trimmed straight across, and they should be taken care of often. Excess moisture in the shoes can cause toes to slip, so proper socks that hold moisture well can be helpful to those who are exercising.

Although most of these injuries occur among runners and skiers, they can also occur when something heavy is dropped on a person’s foot. To prevent accidents, individuals should make sure never to lift anything that is too heavy by themselves. It may be essential to use all safety precautions when lifting to avoid black toenails.

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Discuss this Article

Speechie
Post 14

I have seen a black toenail treatment best left to professionals *if* your toenail problem is created from a blood blister under your toenail.

I girl I played soccer with had this problem and our team's trainer drained that blister. But to drain it he first had to burn a hole in the nail and then drain it.

While it was a bit painful, I think it healed my teammate's toe quicker than it would have left untreated. Has anyone else heard of this type of treatment?

geekish
Post 13

@alFredo - There are all sorts of home remedies for toenail fungus. I would suggest she check out a few websites and see which ones she feels comfortable trying.

The most recent one I saw was a home remedy where the person filed their toenail a little and then applied WD-40 to the area. I can't imagine what in WD-40 helps toenail fungus, but, of course, this person thought it was the cure for them.

I also saw on one of those doctor shows, that you should make sure to get under the toenail because that is where the actual fungus is. I didn't watch long enough to see how you get under your nail, whether you go have your toenail removed or what, but maybe that will help her!

Domido
Post 12

After a person gets a black toenail from something falling on it (a big can of peaches in this case – they were in heavy syrup, no less) will the nail grow back?

In my case, I dropped this ridiculously big can of peaches on my then very hurt toe while I was making an incredibly big cobbler for a church dinner. The nail almost immediately turned black (I think I broke the toe, too).

Then, a few days later, the thing came right off. It about scared me to death because I’ve never had a black toenail before.

So, of course, I called my mom. She scared me further saying that the nail might not ever grow back. Yikes! I want my toenail; please, don’t tell me I’m doomed to live without it!

aLFredo
Post 11

My sister has not fared well with black toenail fungus. She is not sure how she first started to get the black toenail as she is not a runner and knows this is more common with runners. Now she has lost a toenail, and the new toenail grew back infected as well!

I know, its a gross subject but anyone have any ideas to help her?

Sinbad
Post 10

I have run a marathon and many half-marathons and I have never had a problem with black toenails. But I was lucky. I had a friend who liked to do ultra-marathons. These are 100 mile runs! Can you believe it? Even after running 26.2 miles, or maybe especially after running the 26.2 miles for a marathon, I just cannot imagine running this distance.

Anyways, my friend told me to always by shoes that were not just a half a size too big but a whole size too big! At first the too big shoe felt a little funny but after the first few short runs, I never again noticed it. And like I mentioned, I have never gotten a black toenail from running with using this tip!

JessiC
Post 9

My grandmother was a very hardworking lady, but that is mainly because she had to be. My grandfather was a fairly well off man during his life, but ultimately left her with tons of debt and bad deals upon his death.

She had no higher level education, and having been out of the workforce for many years, few prospects. She ended up taking a cooks position at a local diner.

That lady was up every morning at 3:30 am so she could have coffee, read her Bible and be to work on time.

I always felt so sorry for her though, because her feet and legs perpetually hurt. And, she always had black toenails on her big toes from being in her sneakers so long.

She would soak her feet in Epson salts, which didn’t help the blackness but did help the pain. She always said that a good dose of red toe nail polish always made a lady feel better, so that’s what she covered them up with.

lighth0se33
Post 8

I have a friend who loved to run, and she would only wear her favorite sneakers. Even though these shoes were causing her toenails to turn black because they didn’t fit correctly, she would not buy another pair because she had been unemployed for a few months, and good shoes were expensive.

She eventually found a great job with benefits, one of which was membership to the local health club. This club had an indoor swimming pool. She decided that swimming sounded like a much more pleasant workout than running, and before long, she had traded in her running shoes for a bathing suit.

Even though now she could afford a new pair of shoes, she says that swimming is much more fun. Also, she will never have to worry about getting black toenails with her water workout.

Oceana
Post 7

I work at a hair and nail salon, so I like to keep my nails looking great as sort of an advertisement. When I was moving into my new home and I dropped a couch on my foot, I knew that my nail would likely turn black.

Indeed, it did, but I was prepared. One service we offer is decorative nail painting. We paint a background color on the nail and then paint a design on top of that in a different color. I am particularly good at this.

Normally, I don't do designs on my toenails, since most of them are so small, but in this case, I needed to do some covering up. I used solid black as a background color and painted bright pink and yellow lilies on my big toenails. No one ever would have known that an actual black nail lurked underneath, and the design started a trend of big toe painting.

Perdido
Post 6

I find that wearing boots with either a steel toe or some sort of protective toe guard keeps me from getting black toenails. I work as an order filler at a warehouse, and I sometimes drop heavy boxes on my feet. These shoes are an absolute necessity for me.

In ordinary spring, summer, and fall weather, these boots could make you too warm. However, the warehouse in which I work is refrigerated, and it never gets above 38 degrees Fahrenheit. So, not only do these boots help prevent the dreaded black toenails; they also provide insulation from my environment.

kylee07drg
Post 5

My black toenail was brought on by my very large, very powerful dog. I have an exceedingly playful young Weimaraner that weighs 80 pounds. I had been bouncing a ball for her, and once when it went high up into the air, she went up after it and came down hard on my big toe. The pain was immense. My toe throbbed for about an hour.

It did turn black as I feared that it would. Within maybe a month, it became loose. My boyfriend and I were floating in the pool with our toes up when he noticed the crack in my nail. He gently tugged at it, and it moved! It freaked me out, but I let him pull it off. It came off really easily with no pain at all.

letshearit
Post 4

My friend recently decided it would be great to upload progress photos of her black toenails after a skiing trip she took. I can honestly say that the condition of her toes looked really bad and it amazed me that she said they didn't hurt at all.

Has anyone found that the condition of black toenails is painless, or is it more common to feel pain when it happens?

Her most recent photo was after the toenails had fallen off and I was somewhat horrified. I didn't know that feet could look like that and I am really cursing social networking for allowing me to see what happens to a squished toe. I suppose it is a good thing that they grow back, but really, why share?

lonelygod
Post 3

A good way to prevent black toenails if you are a walker or runner is to invest in some quality shoes and purchase some gel inserts that protect your feet from sliding around your shoes.

I have found that not only are gel inserts really comfortable that they often have thin, soft lines on them which help them to stay secure against your feet.

If you have already damaged a toe, you can invest in some bandages that have extra padding to them in the form of gel too. I find that using the ones intended to protect blisters work really well.

oasis11
Post 2

@Comfyshoes - I also have had black toe nails but my problem resulted from being stepped on by accident. My husband stepped on my toes by accident and the pressure caused my toe nail to get bruised.

This hurt a lot more than when I got black toe nails from running because the pressure was so strong. When I run and my shoes are a little too snug, I sometimes feel slight pressure on my nails, but it is nothing like this.

comfyshoes
Post 1

I have to say that I have gotten a black toenail from running. It is really embarrassing because when I try to cover it up with nail polish. It still looks a lot darker than the other nails.

I usually have to wait until the black toe nail falls off and at that point, my feet actually look better. The nail does grow back and you really can’t tell that you are missing a nail.

I think black toenail causes are usually related to running. You do feel a little pain when it happens while you are running, and then you will get a bruised nail that is sort of purple and pink and then it turns black after a few days.

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