Runner’s toe is one of the most common injuries that can happen to the avid runner. It can leave you sidelined for up to a couple of weeks depending on how bad the injury is and leaves you staring at your shoes sitting by the door, begging to be put on to hit the trail or pavement again.
You will know that you have runner’s toe if there is a pain in any of your toes after a longer run or if one or more of your toenails turns black after a run. You might also get redness around the head of the toe or feel a throbbing underneath on the nail bed of the affected toenail.
Runner’s toe is generally caused by the toenail breaking away from the toenail bed and blood seeping into the underside of that toenail but being unable to drain. This is what turns the toenail black. The name for this condition is subungual hematoma. This is a fairly common injury for any long distance runner to get at some point in their life.
If you do end up getting runner’s toe, there could be a variety of reasons for the injury. The most common cause is that your shoes are too small or your toenails are too long. The constant banging of your toes against the front of your shoe causes the damage to the toenail in turn causing runner’s toe.
You might also have problems if one of your toes is significantly longer than the others or if you have a problem with bent or ingrown nails.
Can a Dremel tool be used to sand a toenail?
The answer is yes. You can use a Dremel to sand a toenail but be very careful. Most Dremel toenail sanders are made for animals who have large protruding nails.
You do not want to take off any of the skin below your toenail or you will risk being uncomfortable in all shoes while the scab created heals. One of the best ways to prevent runner’s toe is by keeping your nails nice and short.
However, this is one of those tasks that just gets put off. Perhaps, with a quick and easy to use electric tool, you can make quick work of your nails. Spending less time filing and more time on the trails! If you want to use an electric Dremel tool, you can find one here (Dremel Pet Grooming Kit).
Be very careful when using this tool as it is intended for large animal nails. With a bit of care though, it will make the job of keeping toenails in check much quicker work. You can also use a regular toenail file for more precise work and regular maintenance once you have filed them down initially with a tool.
There’s also many electric tools made just for finger and toenails if you aren’t feeling quite as adventurous enough to use a Dremel. You can invest a few dollars in a professional nail grooming kit – just like nail salons use.
This one has over 1,500 reviews and has a great rating: (Beurer 10 Piece Professional)
Fixing Runner’s Toe
The best way to fix runner’s toe after you get it is to let the foot rest and to be patient. After a few days you should be feeling much better and the pain should have gone away.
You can even soak your feet in a salt water solution to help prevent any infection of the toe. If your toe is completely black or even partially so, it can take anywhere between a month and 5 months for the toe nail to grow out back to its normal state. In extreme cases your toenail may even eventually fall off.
A new toenail will have formed in the meantime so you should be alright. If the black toenail just grows out, continue to trim it as you normally would. Do not try to take more off as you will just aggravate your effected toe.
If there is still a lot of swelling and throbbing 48 hours after you get runner’s toe or if you have a loss of feeling in that toe, you should go see a podiatrist to have the toe drained or possibly to have the toenail removed. This is important because those could be signs of an infection underneath the toenail.
In this article, a podiatrist working with runners recommends removal of the entire toenail in some cases: podiatrytoday.com
Preventing Runner’s Toe
To prevent runner’s toe:
- Make sure you have the proper footwear. Running shoes that are too small will force your toes to be scrunched up within the front of the shoe. Shoes that are too big will allow your feet to move around too much and thus will continually bang up against the front of the shoe as you run. These are two of the main causes of runner’s toe so make sure you have shoes that fit correctly which will help prevent runner’s toe.
- Try wearing running shoes that are a half size bigger than your regular shoe because your feet expand while running due to the added blood flow in your body. It is still important that the shoe fits the rest of your foot properly so that your feet do not move around too much in the shoe.
- Consider shoes with especially large toe boxes. This way there is plenty of room for your toes in the front of the shoe while your foot still fits snugly in the rest of the shoe.
- Go to a specialized running store. Get fitted for a good pair of running shoes and get expert advice when it comes to preventing runner’s toe. They may suggest getting a shoe that has less of an angle (drop) from the heel to toe which makes your feet move around less while running in the shoe. Spending a little bit of extra money on a great pair of shoes can go a long way in keeping you from being sidelined by this common injury.
- Make sure that you are properly trimming your toenails and filing them down as they grow. A dremel type tool can make this a breeze! You do not want to have longer toenails while out running because this gives your foot more areas to catch on within the shoe and can help runner’s toe form.
- Invest in some good water wicking socks which will help prevent your feet from sliding around too much in your shoes.
- Consider shoe inserts. You can further help your feet fit within your running shoes with a good foam insert. If you do get a foam insert, there are many that can be molded to your feet. These last a long time and make any shoe fit more like a glove. Superfeet have a variety of options.
Can you still run with runner’s toe?
You can still run with runner’s toe but depending on how bad of a case you have, it might be too uncomfortable. The best way to get rid of runner’s toe is with time and patience. If you are just dying to get out there for a run, lace up your shoes and take a lap around your block.
That should allow you enough time to tell weather the pain or discomfort will be too much over a longer run. Again, if you can wait a week to get completely healed, I’d suggest doing so rather than re-aggravating the injury and sidelining yourself for much longer.
Why do my toes hurt after running?
There could be a variety of reasons your toes hurt after running. After a particularly long run the muscles in the foot begin to wear down and become fatigues. You might also have ill-fitting shoes that are hurting your toes. Everyone is different but these could be the first signs that you are prone to runner’s toe so listen to your body and try to diagnose the problem before it becomes a problem and figure out a solution.
Can you run with black toenails?
A completely black toenail will probably hurt a little too much for you to run on. After a week or so, that toenail might be healed up enough to get back out on the trail or pavement but do not push yourself too hard. You do not want to re-injure your foot or cause it to become infected.
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Cameron is a freelance writer with a focus on hiking, fishing and photography. He studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Colorado Boulder and now calls Chicago, Illinois home.