How I Treated My Black Toenail

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

Minor case of black toenails

Here is a picture of how my toes look after a week of nurturing. They don’t look all that bad. Compared to the pain that I experienced, they look shockingly unharmed. There was one day last week when I couldn’t walk without limping they hurt so bad. I was shocked that even putting on socks hurt them so much.

After reading all the recommendations on the Internet about how to deal with black toenail, I cringed at every one of them. They suggested lancing under the toenail with a sterilized needle or even lancing through the nail. I was reluctant to do any of those things. I knew what I was experiencing was a really bad bruise, so I treated it like a bruise and an open wound.

Here is how I treated my black toneails:

  • Warm water foot baths with epsom salts to reduce the swelling: Since the swelling was so bad that the nail was pushed up at least a quarter inch away from my nail bed, I soaked my feet in warm water with epsom salts.

  • Alternating with ice packs: After soaking for about ten minutes, I would fill a Ziploc bag with ice and water and place it on my toes (with a towel inbetween for comfort). I read that alternating between warm, moist heat and ice packs reduces swelling. None of the websites recommended this, but it sure helped for me.

  • Triple Antibiotic: After two or three foot baths/ice packs I would put triple antibiotic on my toenails, around the cuticle area and gently under the nail. Since this was a wound, I wanted to prevent any infection, so I used Neosporin liberally. It may be that just keeping the nail and cuticle area soft with petroleum jelly might have been enough, but I grew up in a family that lived under the motto: Neosporin cures everything.

  • Most importantly – REST: I stopped running, period. I stopped walking on the treadmill. For two days, I didn’t even leave the house and walked as little as possible. Part of the rest was enforced by necessity. My feet hurt too much to do anything, but after they felt better, I forced myself to stay off the treadmill. It was difficult for me, knowing that I could be logging miles, but I did it. When you feel like you could do an easy workout, DON’T. Wait a couple more days to ease yourself back into exercise.

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.

I am easing back into the world of running right now. Wish me luck and you’ll be guaranteed that I won’t increase my distance drastically like I did before. Over the next few months, I’m working up to six miles a day instead of doing it overnight like I did last month.

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16 Responses to “How I Treated My Black Toenail”

  1. Megan Says:

    I found this blog via yahoo. I love that you are so open & honest about your weight.

    I too, have now reached a point where I am sick & tired of being overweight. I go to a doctor & they just say “Eat right, eat small proportions & Exercise!”

    I am wondering at what point you are in your weight loss? And what “goal weight” if any, did you set? And how long it has taken you to get to this point?

    Best of luck to you & have a Happy & healthy New Year!

  2. nato Says:

    “…but I grew up in a family that lived under the motto: Neosporin cures everything.”

    I did a snort laugh when I read this. My mom used Neosporin for EVERYTHING…and now..I have a huge tube of it in my bathroom as well…LOL

  3. Jan Says:

    I found your website through a Google search.

    Thanks for your information and photos about your black toenail. It’s better advice than I have found anywhere else on the internet after a half hour of web browsing on the subject.

    I currently have a white swollen big toe with a pushed up toenail after walking at a brisk pace for an hour or so the other day and then I (stupidly) walked on my treadmill last night and exacerbated the problem.

    The advice I saw on About.com that said to poke a red hot paper clip in your toe to drill through and relieve the pressure made me cringe too…it sounded too drastic.

    Instead, I’m going to try your advice to treat my swollen toe. It makes sense, and I see it is working for you. Glad you are feeling better.

  4. Vincent B. Says:

    I came back from a weekend of running in the desert with a black toe yesterday and I started limping because of the pain in my foot. So last night when I got home, I got out my drill and the smallest drill bit I have which is a 1/16 and proceeded to drill into my toenail close to the base. When I finally got through, a burst of fluids-which looked like blood and water came spurting out. I pressed on the sides and on top of the nail to squeeze out more fluids. It drastically helped to relieve the pressure and I was able to walk without a limp.

  5. danielle Says:

    i saw your toes, they look alot better than mine does. i dropped a pallet across the top and my toenail is fianlly growing out and all the blood and bruising are alot more visible. i just hope i get a new nail.

  6. malcolm starling Says:

    just came across this today 5/18/07 my right toe look like the pictures have started with the espom salt and triple ointement will up date. malcolm

  7. lynsey Says:

    i took my son who is 6 to the doctors as both his big toe nails are black ( he started playing football about 6 monts ago)the doctor said it was ‘talon noir’ having looked up talon noir, it is black spots on the heels (doctors wrong again) so i typed in black toenail on google and what do you know, all the info i need, who needs doctors eh? so thankyou for the pics and info i feel better knowing exactly what it is and how to treat it.

  8. nik21 Says:

    4 months ago i went skiing, my boots were a size to small and i tried to tough it out. the pain was so bad i was crying in the lodge and stayed there the rest of the days…unfortunately i didn’t do any research on bruised or injured toenails and now they are a white color and falling off! i wish i would’ve found this site months ago! most of the research at this point says it will grow back within 10 months.. just in for sandal season… 🙁

  9. JOJO Says:

    yea, thanks for everything. all the other websites i have been to were like do so many harmful things and your toenail is going to fall off. But my bruise wasn’t even that bad. Your cure is truly the answer to my prayers

    thanks so much.

  10. Heathyr Says:

    Thanks so much for this post! I climbed Mt. Fuji a few weeks ago and when I went to the doctor about my severely swollen foot and black toenail, all he did was look at it, flick it with his finger (inflicting serious pain!), and then gave me some toothpaste-like junk to slather on it. Worse than that, he wrapped it tightly and when the toothpaste stuff dried, it became like a cast. My instincts told me that there was something wrong about that course of action, but like a fool I trusted the doctor and kept wrapping my foot like that for nearly two weeks. Finally, I stopped because it was obvious that it was not getting better and I felt that it was, in fact, getting worse. Now it has been exactly a month since I climbed Mt. Fuji and although my foot and toe are better, my toenail is still completely black and I noticed this morning that the bottom of the nail is separating from the toe! I wish that I had done a web search for a remedy and found this site a month ago… I don’t see how I can possibly save my toenail now!

    The moral of the story: DON’T bother going to a doctor in Japan! And, always do your own health research.

    Thanks again for this great site!

  11. Skiiergurl Says:

    OMG! Thank you for understanding this pain that I’m in right now! I’m not a runner, but I’m a skiier, and my new ski boots are absolutely killing my feet. The other day, both toenails were completely black, and now one is swollen and raised about a quarter of an inch. I also looked at sites that say to pierce it, but that just sound 100% awful to me. I almost want to throw up thinking about it. I saw my toenail just a little bit a go, and it really really started to stress me out. I’m going to try your method in hopes that it works quickly for me. If not, I’m due for a trip to the foot doc. Thanks for calming me down a bit!

  12. Tiffany Says:

    I am so happy to come across your blog! I think I have the exact same problem you had. It happened two days ago after playing a very long game of Ultimate frisbee. It is SO painful right now. I can’t put a shoe on and I can hardly walk! I love your common sense approach to this! I have already begun doing the things you recommended, I’m just glad they worked for you! It gives me some hope! I am also fearing the loss of my toenails, at this point it’s not looking good for me. Thank you for your advice!

  13. Jonathan Says:

    I was skateboarding with some friends. I was doing a line in the park and i miss a trick and the trucks from the board hit my left foot toenail. I was in so much pain. I got home and had black toenail. I did all the steps above that you mentioned, but I did use a really hot needle to relieve the pain.

    Srry for my English, is my 2nd language.

  14. Sarah Says:

    Went hiking Monday and the pounding on my toe all the way down gave me a rather large and painful bruise. Like you, my nail is raised a quarter of an inch from the nail bed, and it feels like the nail matrix (the part under the cuticle) is also bruised. In fact, it’s possible the nail is raised from the nail bed under the cuticle too. The first two days were extremely painful, couldn’t walk on day 2. Today is day 4. I have been icing it periodically, and applying Neosporin liberally. I have not been soaking it in epson salt and warm water, however. I think I will try that tonight. Did you end up losing your nails a few weeks later?

  15. Grace Says:

    I went on Duke of Edinburgh this weekend, in reasonabley new hiking boots, I went through agony, when walking the second day of a 12k hike through the desert, when I got home I found myself with a purple toe almost exactly like yours, no wonder I’m in so much pain, I researched it on google and I was so freaked out with the needles and surgery, I’m glad u posted this, going to try this method and hope for the best, because I don’t like needles or pain 🙂

  16. Katy Says:

    I’m not too surprised you’ve got this issue. I trim my nails when I run and yours look pretty long. I’ve found keeping my nails trimmed helps to prevent “runners toe”, at least until I get up into the longer miles. I just ran my first marathon and my toes are pretty swollen and blistered beneath the nails. I’ve been lancing the blisters beneath to relieve the pressure. It’s really pretty painless since the skin is pulled away due to the blister. I’ll lose my nails regardless of what I do, but at least I can make it more comfortable to deal with in the meantime. I’m definitely going to try the Epsom salt soaks to see if that helps relieve some of the swelling and discomfort. Thanks for the info!

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