How To Prevent Black Toenails You Get From Running


Today, we’re going to show you how to prevent black toenails from running.

If the title hasn’t put you off, that’s great because we’re going to be pretty open today.

Sadly, as a result of running, our toenails can suffer. There are many causes of black toenails, and thankfully the majority of those can be prevented.

So, we’re going to be doing our best today to help you keep all of your ten toes and their respective nails looking wonderful.


How To Prevent Black Toenails From Running

What are Black Toenails?


Black toenails are usually a result of repeated force or pressure on your nails either in a direction from in front, above, or to the side.

It’s basically like a bruise. Simply, it is dried blood underneath your nail.

If it is at the next level, it can actually be a blood blister under your nail and that will start to force the nails to come up and can be incredibly painful. It will also lead to the nail falling off.

For the mild version, sometimes you might not even notice it at the time or even afterwards and it’s only a few days up to a week afterwards when you’ll start to see the discoloration in your nail.


Seek Medical Attention

There can be complications though. If you’ve got that blister under your nail, the pressure can really build up and it can become excruciatingly painful to touch.

As a result, you might get to the stage where you want to relieve that pressure.

You have to resist doing that yourself because it can become infected. You need to see a GP or chiropodist who will do it professionally.

Keep an eye on the area around the nail. If the rest of your toe looks red or swollen or starts to get hot, that is a sign of an infection.

So, even if your nail is still intact, infections can occur. That’s probably an over-share, but just please be aware.

So, we’ve established that it’s repeated force or pressure onto the nail or the nail bed that is giving these issues.

But why do black toenails happen in the first place?

By answering this, we’ll be able to start to work out how to prevent black toenails.


Shoe Fit

The first and most probably obvious issue is shoe fit.


Tight Shoes

If you are having issues with your shoes and your nails rubbing on your shoe, then I’d suggest that your first port of call is heading to a specialist running shoe shop and getting to try on several pairs of shoes and speak to the experts there.

It’s usually the fact that your shoe is too tight and it’s going to be putting that pressure on your toes.

So, make sure you’ve got the adequate space. I usually say a thumbs width, but it will vary from shoe to shoe.

You want to look at the width as well. If your shoes are too narrow, they’re going to squeeze your toes and maybe cause them to be on top of each other putting pressure that way.

Also, try with the same socks that you’re going to be running in.

It’s worth bearing in mind if you’re buying a pair of shoes and getting ready for a race or something you’re going to be doing where it’s much hotter that your feet will naturally swell a little bit. So, take that into account as well.


Big Shoes

The slightly less obvious cause is actually having shoes that are too big.

You might think “loads of space for your toenails. It’s great.”

Bigger shoes means that your foot can actually be moving around a lot and on every step, your toenails can be shunting to the front of your shoe getting that extra pressure.

Talking about keeping your foot securely in the shoe leads me on to shoelaces and how you tie your shoes up.


Lacing & Elastic Laces

You really want to make sure you’ve got an even pressure through your laces the whole way up.

This is going to hold your foot nice and firmly but obviously not so tight you’re going to lose circulation.

You just don’t want your foot to be moving around inside the shoe allowing for any pressure or rub points.

You can use a runner’s lock at the top of your shoe or the top of the laces to hold it in place that much more.

If you’re a triathlete, you might be used to using elastic laces and a lot of athletes will leave those in for their training as well.

These are super easy obviously for putting your shoes on, but it does mean that your foot’s not held so securely.

So, have a think about time saved over toenail comfort.


Let’s talk about the type of runs…

Type of Run & Shoe Selection


I know there’s not that much you can do about the typical running you have or what you’ve got planned, but you can consider the footwear that you’re using for it.

Say you’re doing some serious off-road, then you’re going to make sure that you need a shoe that’s going to support your foot securely and give you that protection that you need.

And when it comes to running downhill, it’s really important to make sure your shoes are held securely.

So, elastic laces won’t do the job there. You want to have your shoes done up properly because every time your foot lands as you’re going downhill, it’s going to be slumming to the front and just really putting that pressure onto those toenails.


Moisture & Waterproof Shoes


Moisture can make the issue worse too.

If your feet get wet from rain or sweat, then the skin becomes softer as do the nails and then they become more susceptible to being damaged.

So, invest in some sweat-wicking socks if you’re prone to sweaty feet.

And if you know it’s going to be a wet run, then you could even consider waterproof shoes.


Running Style

Your running style can also play a part here.

I know there’s not very much you can do about it. But if you imagine you’re a forefoot runner, you’re going to be running obviously closer to the front of your foot.

Obviously, your toes are going to be taking a lot more pressure, but it isn’t really something you can do that much about. It’s just worth being aware of.

You might notice that some of your shoes wear out around the big toe area on the top.

That’s a sign that you really extend your big toe during the toe-off phase and the ground contact time of your run.

That is something that if you’re wearing a shoe that’s got a harder upper that can cause trauma to your nail in that way.

What about foot care?

Foot Care

You want to keep your toenails adequately trimmed because the more nail there is sticking out the end of your toe, then the more area there is to get that unnecessary pressure.

However, don’t take it too far because you don’t want to add having ingrown toenails to the list of problems.


Nail Varnish

I think this is a trap that many of you have fallen into before.

When you find that your toenails don’t look that pretty, you just cover them up with some nice nail varnish in the summer.

That needs to come with a warning because nail varnish is apparently stopping the nail from breathing and can actually stop it from healing and even cause a slightly faulty nail that wasn’t too bad to end up falling off.

So, it’s best avoided.

But if you do have a special occasion and you want to paint your nails, it’s a good idea to remove the nail varnish afterwards.

Silicone Toe Pads

If you’re getting to this stage where you’re having loads of problems and you’ve still not managed to find a solution, I would suggest first speaking to an expert and ideally going to a chiropodist.

They might prescribe having toe pads that can go underneath your toes or sometimes even in between your toes just to reduce the chance of that added pressure on your nails.



Apparently, some endurance runners opt for socks that go over the individual toes as they can apparently be more comfortable.

How To Prevent Black Toenails From Running

To wrap up, I’ve been there and I’ve got the black toenail badge.

However, if you follow most of the steps, hopefully, you guys won’t have the same problems and you’ve got tougher toes than I have.

If there’s any methods or tricks that you know that will help prevent or even help heal black toenails that I have not covered, please do share them as much for my benefit as yours.

You can do that in the comment section below.

About Eric Barber

Eric Barber is a happy father of two little angels, a husband, and a runner. He eats, sleeps, and dreams anything foot related: running shoes, walking shoes, sneakers, you name it. It all started when Eric was a shoe store specialist watching and fitting people's feet day in and day out.

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