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I know it’s not the most glamorous of topics, but the truth is that higher mileage and losing toenails often go hand in hand. Ask any long-time distance runner, and the chances are he/she has lost a toenail at some point in training. I have lost my share, and it still grosses me out! Loose toe nails are due to infection or injury (I have had both). So how do you know if you are going to lose a toenail and what should you do? Here’s what you need to know:
Signs you might be losing your toenail
If you are experiencing a combination of pain, discoloration under the nail, bleeding, loose nail, or blood under the nail, you may be getting ready to lose a toenail. If you have a dark line running vertically through your toenail, please see a dermatologist as soon as possible, because it can be a sign of melanoma!
If you nail is thickening and you notice that the toenail is brown, yellow, or greenish, you may have a fungal infection. The nail will be painful and the surrounding area may be red and swollen. You might also notice discharge coming from under the toe nail. If this is the case, see a podiatrist who can attempt to treat the fungal infection via topical or oral anti-fungal medication.
Loose toenails due to injury are often seen in sports like running and soccer. Repeated pressure on the nail (from the shoe) can result in blistering under the nail and subsequent loosening of the nail.
If you suspect a fungal infection, see a podiatrist. If you think the loose toenail is due to injury, you can see a podiatrist (if it’s very painful) or you can treat it on your own. If the nail is bleeding, press on it for 5 minutes and repeat if necessary to control bleeding.
If you see a podiatrist, he/she may drain the blister if the pressure under the nail cannot be relieved. Keep the nail protected while it is loosening. When it falls off, the area may be tender while the new nail grows. You can bandage it lightly to protect the new nail. Your new toenail will generally take 3-6 months to grow back. If the toenail is really loose, you can clip some of it off.
Wear running shoes that allow an extra 1/2 inch for your foot to expand. Wear performance socks, and make sure you wear a clean pair each day. Always dry your feet completely before putting on socks and shoes to avoid a fungal infection. Wear breathable shoes and make sure you bandage injured toenails if necessary.
Have you lost a toenail due to running?