Keeping Black Toenails Out of Your Running or Hiking Routine

If you’ve chosen to make regular running a part of your life, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with black toenails. These typically occur when bruises form or blood pools under the nail, usually from repetitive trauma. While more minor cases may not cause you too much distress, others could become painful or even infected, so it’s definitely in your best interest to prevent them from happening in the first place.

If find yourself struggling with this problem frequently after a run or long hike, try some of these tips to improve your fortunes:

  • This is the big one: make sure your shoes fit. They should have enough width and depth in the toe box to allow toes to wiggle without slamming against the front of the shoe (or each other). But the shoe shouldn’t be so loose that it slides around, either!
  • An addendum to the above point: size is more than a number! Just because your regular sneakers are a size 8 doesn’t mean your running shoes or hiking boots will be. Furthermore, feet can change size over time (and even swell over the course of the day), so try to do your shoe-shopping later in the evening, and measure every time.
  • Avoid going barefoot. This exposes your nails to more sources of potential damage. The right shoes, that fit well, will protect your feet.
  • Keep your toenails neatly trimmed. You don’t want to cut them too short (that can actually increase the likelihood of an ingrown toenail), but they should be well out of the way of the front of the toe. Cut straight across, rather than curving.
  • Keep your feet and nails clean and dry. Use clean, moisture-wicking socks and give your shoes a chance to fully dry between uses. Wash your feet thoroughly every day and inspect them regularly for signs of trouble.

One more thing: if you’re having regular trouble with black toenails, stop and make an appointment with Dr. Keith McSpadden at Austin Foot & Ankle Institute. We regularly deal with foot and ankle sports injuries of all types, and can help with any addition treatment or prevention strategies you may require. Request an appointment online, or give us a call at

Posted on May 17, 2016 .