Don’t Let Runner’s Toe Slow You Down

pexels-photo-128904Running is a great way to stay fit and it’s one of the most popular forms of exercise. But even though running brings heart-healthy benefits, all of that pounding on the feet can cause visible problems in the skin and toenails. Many long distance runners have toenails that turn black. “The repetitive pressure on the toe from running can cause blood to accumulate under the nail, a condition often commonly referred to as a runner’s toe,” says Dr. Kellie Reed, a board certified Dermatologist at Sanova Dermatology in Austin, Texas.

Not to be confused with Athlete’s Foot, Runner’s toe often happens as the top of the shoe strikes the nail with each stride. Despite the reference to running in the condition’s name, athletes such as skiers and tennis players can also experience runner’s toe. This injury may not be painful, though the black nail is unsightly and the condition can cause the nail to thicken. In medical terms, runner’s toe is called a subungual hematoma. “It’s a collection of blood forming on the skin under the nail, sometimes causing pressure and pain,” explains Dr. Reed. This condition can also occur with any blunt trauma, such as dropping a heavy object on the toe.

In a minor case, treatment of runner’s toe can simply mean taking a few days off from running. Runner’s toe typically heals as the runner reduces the intensity of running, which in turn reduces the repetitive pressure that causes the condition. After the symptoms subside, you can ease back into physical activity. Preventative measures include using good-fitting running shoes and keeping properly trimmed toenails.

If the pain and pressure from the runner’s toe are severe, you may need to take additional measures for relief. Elevating the affected foot and applying ice can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers can also help alleviate discomfort. In more serious cases, seeking professional-grade first aid may be necessary. A healthcare professional can drain the blood from under the nail to relieve pressure and prevent further damage. It’s important to seek medical attention if you experience excessive pain, swelling, or signs of infection. With proper care and attention, the runner’s toe can be treated effectively and prevented in the future.

In severe cases of runner’s toe the pain and pressure can be alleviated by draining the blood from the toenail. But it is not suggested you attempt to do this yourself, as you could cause more pain and injury. If you have black or darkening toenails from a repetitive sports activity, such as running, it could be runner’s toe.

“Of course, anytime there is a black or darkening lesion on the skin or nail, skin cancer also needs to be considered,” says Dr. Reed. “Melanoma has been observed to develop under the nail and it is imperative to rule this out.”

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