So, by some people’s definition, I am now a runner. It has very little to do with the fact that I actually run, I think, just the fact that I have suffered the indignity, the grossness, the pain, yes, the TRAGEDY of losing not just one, but TWO toenails recently. Ugh. And apparently, there is a secret society of people who decide that you aren’t truly a runner until this event occurs to you, and only if it happens, can you define yourself as such. (I will spare you pictures of my toes. I am not a fan of my feet, and if I don’t like to look at them, I am pretty sure you don’t want to see them either!) I am so sad to finally be considered part of this secret society now that I have counted these two toenails among the casualties along the way to 26.2 miles in DC and Tulsa.
Honestly, I never thought this would happen to me. In 1998, I hiked 1318 miles of the Appalachian Trial, carrying 30-ish pounds on my back at any given time, in wet damp weather…the works. Never lost a toenail. In fact, I never had a problem with my feet at all during that 2 1/2 month adventure.
In 1999, I trained for the Houston Marathon (never got to run it due to injury), including the ‘warm up’ series whereby I ran a 20K, 25K and 30K in the three months preceding the marathon. All the training and time spent running in Galveston, Texas, where the air is humid and it was always hot–never had any problems.
I also came through years of dance and gymnastics with ugly feet but completely toe-nailed toes. Why now?? Why? And so I have had to say goodbye to these formerly beautiful toenails, who turned black after a 10 mi run in January, then took some good old time before finally making the final detachment this week. People who have lost toe nails before tell me it will never be the same again. I am lamenting this step in my marathon experience
On a more serious note, losing toenails is pretty much 100% preventable.Black toenails happen when there is significant rubbing of your toe against the shoe, allowing a blood blister to form under the nail. Running in warm/hot weather make your feet swell more, meaning you are more likely to have this happen when it’s hot.
If it does happen, the pain usually worse the first day, then subsides after as the swelling goes down. Eventually, the damaged part of the nail will be pushed off by a new nail. Don’t try to force the nail off on its own, as tempting as it may be. Of course, if there is any redness or an infection, go see your doctor.
I have since retired the shoes I wore when this happened, which was a shame because I liked them a lot. In fact, I had run a few long distance runs in them previously, but on this one day, well, things didn’t turn out the same way. So I plan to donate my shoes and hope that someone else can make good use of them. Since then, I’ve gone up a 1/2 size in my running shoes and haven’t (knock on wood) had an issue since. it also helps to have proper socks (wicking material) rather than cotton socks when you run, so as to keep your feet dry during a workout. Be sure to trim your toenails, too, as this will go a long way in helping prevent your own painful goodbyes.
Best wishes for a long and happy relationship with all 10 of your toenails!