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Oh no, those toes!

Posted Feb 16 2012 12:20am
I've written a lot about my toes in this blog.  Like here and here  and most disgustingly  here !  I will warn you now, if you do not like feet or find toes in any way disgusting, then I probably wouldn't read this post!  Because it's all about my toes!

I was feeling very lucky during the training for this half marathon because I seemed to be avoiding the inevitable black toes! Aside from my unfortunate toe injury in Hawaii, my toes did good.  Until the last two weeks, that is.  Boo.  On my 20km training run I was wearing snow spikes and the toe strap cut across my shoe and over one of my smaller toes - consequently it got a tad bit bruised.  No big deal, it felt fine in a couple of days.

Then along came race day.  Sigh.

I knew close to the end of the race that I was going to sporting a few new runner's toes.  That's okay, badge of honour, right?  For the past two days a few toes have been feeling pretty tender, but today I gathered my courage and removed my toenail polish to check out the damage.

Yup, I got me some big black runner's toes!  Actually, the shades of purple are quite amazing.  Ha ha.  I was actually thinking of posting a picture, but then I was kind of embarrassed because they sure don't look very nice.  The tally goes something like this:  1 nail will fall off (Hawaii injury), 6 nails are bruised (oh the rainbow of colours!) and the rest are okay.

It seems that many people find my blog when Googling black toes (nice) I am by no means a doctor or qualified to advise and you should always see your doctor first, but here are my thoughts on a few FAQ
1.  Black toes, maybe you should get some new shoes?  That's what I thought too and I have cycled through numerous brands and sizes of shoes over the years, but always get the black toes after long distance.  I sought the advice of a podiatrist and he watched my feet while I ran and said it was most likely being caused by the length and shape of my toes and how they move during each foot step.  Apparently the distribution of pressure over my toes when I run will inevitably give me those darn bruises.  Lucky me.  Thanks a lot foot physiology!

2.  Ouch they hurt!  What should I do?  Being a hobby podiatrist (just kidding) I have tried a little bit of everything.  If they are just bruised toenails, I leave them and in a couple days they usually feel better.  If they're really bad, sometimes you can get a combo of bruising and some blistering between the nail and the nail-bed.  If this is the case, go see your doctor, but mine has always suggested we drain them to release the pressure and usually they feel better overnight.

3.  It's falling off!  Should I finish the job?  Generally when your nail is damaged bad enough, it detaches from the base of the nail-bed and will over time grow out as the new nail grows in underneath.  It can be tough having a somewhat detached toenail, but I have learned to resist the urge to pull it off.  Leaving it in place protects the new nail underneath and keeps the nail-bed from becoming permanently damaged (which I suspect might be the case on one of my toes).

4.  What should I do with them when I run?  It can be quite painful to keep running if you have bruised or blistered toe nails.  But, when you're training for a big event, it seems like a small price to pay if you want to stick to your training schedule.  If it's just bruises, suck it up buttercup.  If a nail is blistered underneath it can be raised or loose and I have found it works well to tape the toe and nail to keep everything in place and reduce any further movement of a loose/raised nail.

5.  Any preventative tips?  Here's what works best for me
  • Making sure my shoes are in good condition and have been fitted properly
  • Keeping my nails trimmed but not too short
  • Double-layer socks help reduce friction between the toes, nails and shoes.  I really like Wright anti-blister socks
  • I've heard that toe socks are also good for preventing blisters and so the separated toes might also help to reduce pressure on your nails.  I know several people who wear Injinji toe socks
  • I like lacing the "marathon loop" in my shoe laces to prevent my feet from sliding forward during downhill strides.  This guy's blog shows how to do it pretty well.  Thanks Tall Guy Surfing!
Okay, so that's about all I have to say about toes for one night.  It's a shame this always happens but in a way, I've kind of grown to appreciate my ugly toes.  They're proof that I'm doing something tough!  And, being a girl, I can also hide them up pretty good with a nice coat of nail polish - phew!
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