If you are a runner, chances are you have had some issues with your toenails. My good friend Jenny just ran a 50 mile race and lost 6 of her toenails.  Actually, she didn’t lose them on the run.  They turned a beautiful shade of blackish blue. Some fell off  and the others were removed to ease the pressure.  It made me wonder.  Why do we have toenails anyway?

As a women and a runner, I like pedicures.  I think that the pretty nail color can often distract the eyes from my beautiful bunions!  (Okay, maybe that’s just wishful thinking). Many times I will select a black nail polish.  It’s not a fashion statement – just trying to over up a few black nails.  It’s a lot of hassle for some obsolete body part!

According to some experts toenails and fingernails protect the sensitive nerve endings at the ends of our digits.  Other experts point out that our nails are the human equivalent of claws, talons, and hooves. This makes them useful for tearing bits of food apart, picking bugs out of  hair, gripping, scraping, etc.  Just ask an ape!  Okay, I am not convinced that us human still need them.  So, what can us runners do to keep our toenails at least looking and feeling good?

I asked Dr. Hannaford, DPM, a San Rafael Sports Podiatrist and co- author with Jeff Galloway of “Running Injuries Treatment and Prevention” .  This book is a wonderful resource for all runners! Dr. Hannaford is an Ultra Marathoner as well so he really understands us runners! According to the good doctor, prevention starts with the correct shoe.  You want to select a shoe that has the right length and shape for your foot.  The toenail will catch if the big toe is squeezed in the shoe.  The outer toes will rub on the outside of the shoe if they are not properly accommodated.  Since nails grow at different rates, some need a trim every week and others every three weeks.  Dr. Hannaford recommends that nails be trimmed back to the skin junction. Since ingrown nails result from trimming too short, more frequent trimming is best.  After trimming each nail, move your finger from the top of the front edge of the nail back.  If you feel the leading edge, it will likely catch on your sock or liner since the foot slides slightly in the shoe with each step.  Use a pedicure file to thin or bevel the nail from rear to front on top of the nail so the forward part of the nail becomes very thin.

Some runners will even “duct tape” their toes for long races.  Dr. Hannaford recommends paper tape because it is thin and sticks well.  Be careful not to place the tape near the rear of the toes because blisters can form where the toe meets the foot!

This “little piggy” better get busy and file down some toe nails or  go ouch, ouch, ouch all the way home…..

Keep up the Pace Petalumans!