Feet First, First Time

I recently got my first black toenail. So I guess now I am REALLY a runner?

(side note: I did slam my finger in a door when I was about 10 and lost the nail, which never really grew back the same. It hurt really bad! This doesn't hurt at all.)

Runners do a lot of gross things and have a lot of strange and disgusting problems; snot rockets, rubbing Vaseline in weird places, spitting, bleeding nipples, blisters, chafing, peeing in public (or worse), dirt, grime and talking about bodily functions are the the norm in a runner's life.

I've been lucky. I seem to have avoided many of the major issues up until now, including the black toenail syndrome. I hear runners talk about them all the time, and according to some articles, if you have ever run a marathon or a hilly race, you have probably had one. However, I never had before. Until now. I noticed it about a month ago and since then, half of it has separated from the nail bed. The problem is, only half of it is black. The other half is perfectly fine.

I have a 50k this weekend and half of my toenail is hanging off. I am not sure whether to cut off the bad half and have half of an exposed toe or to just leave it and hope the bad  half hangs on for the whole race. So I started Googling. Of course.

Did you know there is a way to tie your shoes to prevent black toenails?

Jeff Galloway says that the reason we get them from wearing a too tight pair of shoes, having too fast of a mileage increase, or running in excessive heat or hot weather.

Here is how to prevent them. And if you are really brave, you can watch videos on how to remove them. I am not really brave. I only watched about 2.54 seconds of it.

But the best thing I found while trolling around the web was this article, which talks about people (including Marshall Ulrich) who have had so many issues with the black toenail that they just had all their toenails removed. For good.

However, I am not about to remove all of my toenails. And I am definitely not doing what the guy in the video did (hint, he used a knife). I might try the shoe tying trick. But I need your help; I don't know what to do. Do I leave it and run or cut it and run?

Have you ever had a toenail or a fingernail fall off? How did it happen? Did you remove it or wait for it to fall off?


  1. I have never had a black toenail or a toenail fall off either! I would say leave it on as I'd hate to risk any pain and irritation from cutting it off! I would get through the 50k and then decide what to do! And I so would not be able to watch that video either. Yikes.

  2. Funny, b/c I just had my first, too, after many years. And it was my second toe, not my big one, and it happened on a training run.

  3. My dad had to have both of his big toenails removed and I am kind of ralphing in my mouth thinking about them. But his were because of some other issue not running but ahhh.

  4. So far I've been able to avoid the black toenail too. I got nothing for ya there.

  5. I would probably just cut it as short as possible and hope it doesn't come off during the race. I wouldn't want it to rub funny on the bare toenail bed:0 I had this problem only once after my 1st marathon. The nail never ended up coming off totally. I just kept it clipped nice and short:)

  6. I'm so glad there's a whole internet to answer questions like these. Because I wouldn't know what to do either.

  7. I've never had a black toenail, but my mom gets them ALL the time. Like, it's rare to actually see her toenails WITH all the regular nails. She doesn't know why she gets them so frequently because she does everything right but I guess she's just susceptible to them... she finally went to a sports podiatrist who gave her this nail polish gel-type thing that's supposed to help. It's clear and she just puts it on over her regular nails and it works really well! Also... I think she just lets hers fall off, she never physically forces them off.

    What a fun problem to have, eh? ;)

  8. I had one toenail that fell off when I was training for marathons (though, I don't think it ever turned black and, like you, it didn't hurt). If what you said is true about the causes of black toenails, my guess is I've never gotten one on my big toes, because I always buy shoes with big toe boxes (I HATE my toes rubbing against the shoe when I run, which means I also buy half a size to sometimes a whole size bigger just so I avoid that problem - weird, right?!).

    My gut says you should trim the toenail from the top (as if it were a healthy nail) and leave on the rest of the toenail for your race this weekend. It seems like there is risk in cutting it off (making sure to cut it off the right way, not cutting into the skin, not cutting it so that what's left catches on your socks thus further irritating your toe, etc.) and if it's going to fall off, it'll fall off, hopefully without much pomp & circumstance.


Thanks for commenting! Any suggestions, tips or praise you have is always welcome!