The other morning I lost a big toenail. On the plus this means my feet now match again as my other big toenail disappeared about a fortnight ago as well. Pleasant.
Surprisingly the problems started prior to running marathon des sables, so don't let that put you off signing up to MDS dear readers.
I did a little research into the subject and here are the five top things I learnt about runners and toenails...
First, the science bit...
The impact between your toe and the source of pressure causes small blood vessels to burst as a result of fluid accumulating from damaged tissue. The fluid and blood give the look of the black toenail. If damage is severe enough the fluid will separate the nail from its bed and the toenail will drop off.
But why does this happen?
1) Your shoes or socks probably don't fit...
They could be too small, so your toes will be squashed together and will make it more likely that damage will occur, or they could be too big, meaning your foot is not secure in your trainer so the tops of your toes will bang against the tops of your shoes.
It's not just your trainers which may be causing damage, it's your socks. If they are not roomy enough for your feet to breathe, they will also act as a barrier for your toenails to continue to bash themselves up against.
2) ...but then again they might do
Jeff Galloway says just the repeated action of running can give rise to black toenails, as the pressure of the swing action forces more than normal blood into the toenail region. If you increase your training too quickly or generally run long distances there will be a greater chance that you will succeed in achieving black toenail status.
3) The weather has a say in your toenail status
If it's hot your feet swell, meaning less room in your trainer. If it's wet, your feet are not as secure in your trainer. Meaning, that's right, the possibility of a black toenail.
What do I do if I get a black toenail?
It's under the toenail. You can't touch it. The pain will gradually decrease. If the pressure is too intense you may have to release it. Eek. Just remember to use a sterilised needle and bite down on a stick before you stick the needle in.
5) Top tips for prevention of black toenails
Trim your toenails straight across.
Make sure your trainers have only half an inch gap between the top of your toe and the end of the trainer.
Lace your trainers up securely.
Wrap your toes up in cotton wool (seriously!) or use padded toe protectors.
Getting a black toenail means you are a proper runner. You are in the club. You can also treat yourself to some new nail polish - Chanel Rouge Noir is a shade of choice (sorry guys) to hide the evidence.