I do not have pretty toenails. Actually I have kind of black toenails. They are black and kind of gnarly looking and do a poor job of bracketing my feet which also have seen better days: the ugly by-products of too many years spending too much time in military combat boots doing too much marching, running and walking I suppose.

It’s a little late for me. It may not be too late for you. Especially if your toenails are turning black.


Analyse your toe:

Fortunately, most toe problems you’re going to get while running or hiking will be cosmetic rather than serious. The most frequent cause of black toenails — which is so linked with running that the condition is also known as runner’s toe. Black toenails or Runner’s toe happens when the toenail is either pressed down too much on the bed that underlies it, or the nail separates from the bed. In either case, blood pools between the nail and the bed. Eventually, the nail turns black.

According to webmd.com, when this condition is caused by the nail being pressed into the bed, it’s almost never painful. It is however very ugly. The toenail gets very hard, and it looks like hell, but it won’t bother you. After a few months, the nail will grow out and fall off.

Causes of Black toenails:

Black toenails can be the result of tight-fitting shoes, so even if you don’t run, you can get them. And black toenails are Equal Opportunity all the way – both males and females can get them. Only women are lucky: they can paint their toenails and change the black to a nicer colour – like red.

Sometimes, the toenail loosens rather than hardens, and this is usually uncomfortable. New runners whose toenails aren’t used to much wear and tear will get these more than longtime runners. If your black toenail is wobbly, experts recommend you sterilize a needle and then use it to drain the blood from under the nail, as you would drain a blister.

I think I am one of the few people who suffer from chronic black toenails. My toenails have been black for so long that they just are that colour. Sometimes when I am deeply engrossed watching my favourite TV show Lost, I will whittle away at my nasty-looking black toenails, and try my best to remove the toenail on the big toe.

At any rate, menshealth.co.uk reiterates that runner’s toe is usually caused by ill-fitting shoes. If your shoes aren’t long enough, your longest toe (which in some people is the second toe) will slam against the front of the shoe. You might also irritate your nails by running on a course that has a lot more declines than you’re used to, because your toes are going to rise up a bit more than usual on a decline than an incline to help you brake. Wet shoes, either from sweat or rain, are also a leading cause of runner’s toe.

This is well known to serious runners and the cause is pretty simple. As you run, your toes repeatedly jam against the end of your boot. This trauma leads to bruising under the nail, which, in turn, pushes it up and away from the toe. The result: Painful black nails that, sooner or later, drop off – and then grow back again. The cure lies in new boots.



Ourfootdoctor.com recommends you go for some shoes that are between a half and one size larger than your usual shoe size, and with plenty of width at the toes. If you do lots of running between games to keep up your fitness, check that your trainers are equally roomy. And avoid downhill running as this really punishes the nails. Although it can look alarming, ‘black toenail syndrome’ is completely harmless. It’s in no way connected to rather more serious problems in which bits of your anatomy turn black and drop off – these require an urgent visit to the hospital rather than the shoe shop.


Scientifically speaking, the blood vessels that supply blood to the toenails lie very close to the skin’s surface, and they may break easily with increased shoe pressure or trauma. When this occurs – according to www.ourfootdoctor.com, the blood leaks out under the nail and discolours the toenail. Causes can be: shoes which are tight or short; the tip of the toe rubbing against the top of the shoe; sudden stops, which jam the nail against the shoe, even if the shoe is the correct size; or trauma, such as bumping the toe. If there is a pain, inflammation, swelling, or the nail is loose; you should see a podiatrist immediately to avoid infections. Also, if you are a diabetic, or have poor circulation, see a podiatrist immediately. If you do not have these symptoms, and the nail is attached and not loose, just correct the cause, and the problem will resolve itself (the normal colour should return as the nail grows out).

Black toenails wear them proudly. Either that or get better-fitting shoes.