Avoid the Dreaded Black Toenail
Ask the Coach
As my runs extend beyond 10 miles, I find that I have started to get ...
Illustration by Jeremy Collins
I began running about a year ago and my first trail half marathon is a few months away. As my runs extend beyond 10 miles, I find that I have started to get black toenails. Any advice on how to treat (and avoid) them?
—Calli Stromner, Sturgeon County, Alberta, CAN
Ben Franklin's advice, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," applies to avoiding black toenails (and black plagues). Says John Vonhof, author of Fixing Your Feet: Prevention and Treatments for Athletes, "Toenails should be trimmed straight across the nail and never rounded at the corners. Leave an extra bit of nail on the outside corner of the big toe to avoid an ingrown toenail."
Run your finger across your toenails to make sure there are no rough edges that could wear a hole in your sock, rub on the inside of your shoe or cause a blister to an adjacent toe.
As for treating a black toenail, if it doesn't hurt, leave it be. However if pressure builds to the extent at which the toenail is causing pain, then you've got some surgery to perform. Rolling a small sterile needle between your fingers, burrow a hole through your toenail into the blister so the blood is released. This can get messy, so have a towel on hand for cleanup. If the blood blister has extended to the end of the toenail, puncture it through the skin from the end of the toenail, alleviating the need to go through the toenail.
With either method Vonhof warns: "Care must be taken to prevent a secondary bacterial infection through the hole in the nail or at the end of the nail by using an antibiotic ointment."