Black Toenail

By Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am — Filed under:

The beginnings of Black Toenail

If you look closely at this picture, you can see it. There is only a slight discoloration of the two big toes and my feet are swollen. It looks so minor that you might miss it. I have the beginnings of black toenail on the two biggest toes. I wrote earlier about Black Toenail.

All those entries made it sound like such a common affair. The one thing they didn’t tell you:

It hurts like a MUTHA!!

I only have a minor version of Black Toenail. I won’t lose my nails, but the throbbing pain has made me unable to log any miles for three days. I feel completely unable to describe the constant feeling of my heartbeat coming through my toes. If anything brushes against them, they hurt: socks, my cat, even the sheets on the bed. Does that give you any idea of the pain? After being so obsessed about the Nike+ Challenges, it is killing me to take time off from running, but not nearly as much as the pain of just putting on a pair of socks. Not only are my toenails bruised, but my feet are very swollen. Those cute and fat little toes are usually much smaller.

Why did I get it?

I increased my mileage dramatically. Instead of slowly working up to six miles a day, I jumped in with the Level 3 group and started doing as many miles as my legs could handle. No muscle soreness means I can do more the next day, right? Nope. I felt as if my trusty Ryka shoes had betrayed me. I’ve never had this trouble before because I’ve always taken the slow and steady route to mileage increases. I thought that the only way to suffer from increased mileage was muscle soreness, but that repetitive movement can cause problems with your toenails. It’s not the shoes’ fault. It’s the fact that I ran WAY more than my body is used to. After so much weight training, my muscles could easily handle the increased mileage. Suddenly, my weakest link isn’t my muscles, but my abused toes.

You do NOT want to deal with black toenail!

No matter what the running websites say about how common it is, it REALLY hurts. Not only that, I’ve found that I am really vain about my feet. I never knew this until I was threatened with losing the nails. I had no idea that I put so much stock in how my feet look after a good pedicure. The risk of losing these nails has grounded me until they are healed.

Sandals seemed like a good idea…

I thought maybe I could keep on running by wearing my hiking sandals during workouts. Since I do my mileage on the treadmill, sandals at this time of year isn’t a problem. My feet are so swollen that I had to loosen all the adjustable straps. I was wearing my sandals everywhere. I thought that this black toenail thing wasn’t a big deal and I can just use sandals if I get it again. That was a great plan right up to the point where my exposed toe bashed into my other foot. The nail on the left foot broke down to the quick. It’s currently super-glued together and I’m hoping that I don’t have to deal with the cracked nail until it is able to grow out some more. Sandals are NOT the answer. They’re not even a good idea.

Steel-toed boots one size too big.

That’s what I’m looking for now. I need a pair of steel-toed boots in a size big enough to prevent my toes from having to touch any portion of the shoe. What am I doing for exercise? REST. That’s it. It is hard for me to do because I have to limit my food when I don’t exercise. Limiting my food can make me feel deprived and I worry that a binge is right around the corner. I have miles of walking to do at CES in two weeks. I have to get these feet healthy and ready to go, so I have no other option but to rest.

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19 Responses to “Black Toenail”

  1. Sharon Says:

    Laura: be thankful that black toenail is all you have. I stubbed my big toe several years ago so hard it brought me to my knees. It was black and blue for several weeks and I thought that would be it. But then a crack developed along the left side of the toenail and that annoying, ugly, ruinous crack has stayed ever since. I am not kidding. It grows back as the toenail grows. Someone told me I probably damaged the mica in the nailbed and caused a growth malformation. GREAT! After a particularly grueling treadmill work out about a year later, my toenails were very sore and kind of swelled up. Next thing I knew both of them came off! I was horrified until my doc said they’d grow back, then I was thrilled thinking the hideous crack would finally be gone. Sadly, no. I’ll be dealing with half-assed pedicures and snagged pantyhose until I’m 90.

    Congrats on the running stats though.


  2. iportion Says:

    ouch 🙁 I hope you feel better soon.

  3. Teresa McCowan Says:

    I also have 2 black toenails. I have seen a podiatrist. She cut the nails way back and instructed me to do the same when they grow back. It is very painful. She said I could have the nails removed, but, I too like to paint my toe nails in the summer.

  4. George Says:

    I recently dropped a large metal gate on my right big-toenail. The pain was excruciating! I can sympathise for the pain you are in; mine also pulse with my heart beat that brings a wave of pain every second or so. The anil is almost entirely black… all over, I just hope it will grown out and won’t fall off.

  5. Ladylu Says:

    Understand the pain of hurting toes….worked for our local hospital in Housekeeping was buffing floors in a office went to move machine in room & foot slipped off came down on bottom of buffer which is flat & bent big toenail back…at first thought I had broken toe…..can’t describe the pain but thankful nobody was around as the words that came out weren’t good….got home after work that evening & sock was soaked with blood….bandaged it but hard sleeping as sheets hurt when I covered up….got infected….antibiotics…pain med. & yes had to have it removed completely…took a yr. to grow back!! Yes our feet are precious as well as other parts we don’t give a thought to!! TC

  6. Mikal Says:

    I just started serious hiking and had a bad experience last week in the heat that resulted in two bruised toes. I have been reading like mad and many people believe the swollen hands and feet occur when our sodium and potassium levels drop too low. I am going to try increasing my intake, many said they didn’t get the swelling then.

  7. Stephanie Says:

    I am so sorry about your toes!! Mine are pulsing right now and I can’t sleep because of it. 🙁

  8. Kuulei Says:

    I recently went hiking and unfortunately, my feet were sliding forward within my shoes and now both my feet are swollen and the first two toes on both feet are in pain! I’ve been hoping and praying that my toenails don’t come off. Is there anything I can do in the interim?

  9. Teresa McCowan Says:

    I finally had to have my 2 black toenails removed. It was actually painless and healed rather fast. When I have a pedicure the polish is painted on top of the skin and no one can tell they have been removed. Really glad I had the procedure performed, now I have no pain.

  10. TreeHugger Says:

    Thank you so much for your honest and candid experience about this! This is my first go around with this and I hated hearing that everyone was so nonchalant about it. I checked my pulse by looking at the clock on the wall and counting the number of throbs in my toes over an entire minute. It was ridiculous! I slept for a week with my feet elevated on pillows with my feet sticking out of the bottom of the sheets. Just the weight of the sheets was intolerable! Thank you for being the only one who seems to tell it like it is! People who couldn’t relate thought I was just trying to flake out on my running/exercise. They didn’t believe I wasn’t able to wear my running shoes. It’s been a week now, blisters underneath have popped, my pulse is gone but still to sensitive to wear the shoes. I was gonna run on the treadmill with just socks but now I don’t think I’m going to try that afterall…..

  11. "make a scrapbook" Debby Says:

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard of anyone writing about this particular ailment. I remember as a young person in my late teens and early 20s having had exactly what you’re describing here but at the time didn’t feel like it was necessary for me to see a physician but just babied my toes until they got better. Now I know what I had has a very specific name and very definable symptoms. Although I don’t run nearly as much as I did I appreciate the heads up and the gentle reminder that our bodies were not made to be abused.

  12. cara Says:

    about 2 months ago I went to a party wearing shoes that were a little too tight – by the end of the night I had no choice but to take them off, as they were pushing against the end of my toenails and were excrutitating! I didnt think anything else of it, until i removed my toenail polish, and had a black toenail on my left foot!! Unfortunately, the nail bed seems to have gotten a bit infected, and Im having it removed tomorrow!!

  13. Teresa McCowan Says:

    I finally had the black toe nail removed. My, what a RELIEF. The removal was performed over a year ago. No more PAIN and ugly toe nail. The skin has healed nicely over the toe and I am able to polish the skin so it looks just like the toe nail. One of the best things I have ever done.

  14. Tammy Nas Says:

    Hi, I have had a black toenail for about 3 months now. 3 months ago I bought new jogging shoes and my big toes felt bruised on the nail, one turned black and both felt better in about 3 weeks. My black toenail doesnt seem to be growing and is still black after 3 months. At the bottom of the toenail(near the knuckle is not black but red like blood still) Any suggestions or leave it alone since there is no pain?

  15. Laura Moncur Says:


    I’m not a doctor and I didn’t see a doctor about my toes. I probably should have and if you have black toenail, don’t risk infection and pain. Go see a doctor. I definitely wouldn’t follow the advice of the websites that tell you to poke at it with a needle that you’ve held in a lighter for thirty seconds. If your toes are so bad that you feel like they need to have the pressure relieved, have a trained professional do it.

    Best, Laura

  16. Poncho Says:

    Hi, we all suffer from that and no… its not nice. I also noticed that your two big toenails are a bit long. You should definitively keep them trimmed or it’ll increase the risk of having sore nails again.

  17. Paul Says:

    I got mine from a shoe that was too narrow. The pain comes and goes and is intense at times, but a hot foot soak takes the pain away. The new nail is obviously growing and I am anxious for it to push the old one off.

  18. Steven Says:

    I know this is an old post but gosh its loaded with information. I lay here with ice on both my big toes as a result of a sudden spike in my workout. I went up to 4 miles a day for 3 straight days way to fast 17 miles total in one week. To top it off I wore and old wore out pair of tennis shoes thinking that would help. WRONG. The right one began to ache and I could see it was turning dark under. I have went nights with low quality sleep. Now the second or left big toe is bruised and although not as painful now I am using the ice and heat as you suggest. I have not pieced it but see it would relieve the pressure. I just can’t bring myself to do that. I really do not want to have the nail removed so its day by day for now. Thanks for the site and It has helped me to realize there is light at the end of the tunnel. I plan to really watch my feet from now on because like you I am sort of vain in how I take care of them and they look. Now having to deal with this makes it hard but as one guy wrote ” be proud and ask others that comment when is the last time you walked 4 miles 3 straight days”. This is sure a way to humble oneself. Ok time to go for a hot soak. Thanks again

  19. Elizabeth Says:

    I am a dancer and right now both of my big toes are black and have been for 9 months. They have never fallen of since continuing to dance just turns them black again. If it hurts that much then you really need to work on strengthening your toes like mine. Now I can go on point in my bare feet.

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