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Runners Toe: How to prevent and treat black toenails



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We're joined by our running coach, Markus van Niekerk. Markus, you were just telling me before we started recording, you've never had a black toenail.

I hate to break the news to you but you're not a real runner then.

I suppose it's because I shop on Black Friday.

I love it. No, it's a real problem, I joke about it, but it is a bit of a badge of honour.

If you haven't had a black toenail or lost a toenail, you're not considered, and I use air quotes,

a real runner. But a lot of runners do

struggle with runners toe, what causes it?

It's pretty painful, and it's horrible to look at, but what's the reason behind it? How do you get them?

So, Brad, I think it's a combination of either your toes bashing against the front of your running shoe,

or it catches on the stitching of your sock. It could also be later on in a race

as a result of your form not being too great,

becoming very sluggish, becoming very punchy. It's definitely one of those three things that are starting to play a role.

But a lot of it's a function of getting in the right running shoes, and

not necessarily that you shoes are too small, it could be that your shoes are too small, or they could be too big

and your feet are moving around too much.

For sure. So once again, and that's why whether it's nutrition that you're trying to figure out

or if the shoes the correct fit for you, that's what long runs in my opinion are for, is that trial and error.

Is it working? Does it work, doesn't it work, why doesn't it work? Try thicker or thinner socks.

Or even if you want to go as far as that, if you're convinced that your shoe is the correct size,

you can always cut a small hole in your toebox, but very, very small. It won't jeopardise the integrity of the shoe.

It won't look as posh but if it makes a difference, then why not try?

Yeah, absolutely, give your shoe a bit of a sunroof, I've done that if I have to be honest. One thing you do have to be careful of is obviously

affecting the integrity of the shoe, as you say. If you're cutting the sort of mesh, you should be fine.

As soon as you start cutting into the the sort of harder, thicker structural part of the shoe that you are looking for trouble.

Yeah, you don't want to, unfortunately, that's one of those things, if you've gone too hard or too much,

then you're going to regret it. But if you're really desperate for a solution,

then you might want to try that. But do it little by little and see how it works for you.

Markus, as far as treating them, if you do a long run and you end up with one, can you continue running with it?

Is it something that could turn into something more serious? Or is it a case of you know, grin and bear it and

try and sort out what's causing it and you should be fine.

Brad, as far as I'm aware, the chances of it turning into something ugly are very, very slim,

if ever possible. But for me, from what I understand,

it's only very painful and it obviously gets more painful as you go along.

So besides the pain factor, I don't think something can go horribly south, no.

Yeah. We're also very hesitant to give out medical advice on here. I'm not a huge one and consulting Dr. Google or

Dr. Facebook for medical advice. So if you are concerned about a blood blister under a nail or something,

definitely go get it checked out. I know there are procedures that they literally drill through the nail and sort of extract some of the blood

but I wouldn't advise you doing that at home or in your garage with a hand drill, it's just not something you want to be doing.

So definitely go check out a medical practitioner If you are concerned.

But yeah, it's not something that's going to kill you, I think Marckus?

Definitely not going to kill you and good call, Brad, it's very dangerous to give advice on any forum,

or any platform, if you're not a medical doctor. Drilling a hole in the toenail just to relieve some of that pressure,

but once again, rather go and see someone who does that for a living.

Yeah and that saying that says 'if in doubt, pull it out' doesn't count on toenails. Definitely not.

So just leave them, they tend to heal over time. You might lose a nail or two as they heal, but

generally, they are harmless. And yeah, like I said, it's a bit of a badge of honour.