Brace yourself for some riveting content, folks: today I want to talk about toenails. Now I don't know about you, but I definitely hate clipping my toenails. I even hate when others clip my toenails during pedicures. Just typing this makes me cringe with discomfort. Alas, foot care is a necessity, especially for runners.
I know it's time to bust out the clippers when I feel a little soreness in the tops of my toes—basically when the nail is long enough to rub annoyingly on the toe box of my shoe. Maybe you've experienced this too. (Or maybe you're a responsible adult who doesn't let their toenails get stupid long before you take care of yourself. Proud of you.) Because neither Jon nor I really pay much attention to our toes, we often find ourselves saying things like, "Hey, remind me to trim my nails before our race on Saturday" and "Hey, you didn't remind me to trim my nails." And because we travel for races often, we decided it was just easier to buy a pair of nail clippers to keep in my toiletries bag, ready and willing to take care of our negligence. I credit these nail clippers with saving our toes from such horrific injuries as black toenails and . . . well, no toenails.
Bruising under the nail can be the result of an ill-fitting shoe. A Runner's World article talks about finding the perfect-fitting shoe and suggests that a too-short shoe can cause black toenails. Noted. I also learned that shoes can shrink over time . . . Did you guys know that?! Am I the only one who didn't?! Not only do the elements contribute to shrinking shoes, but your sweat does too. So even if you get a properly fitted shoe that's not too short, it could become too short and rub you the wrong way.
But apparently black toenails are super common for runners, and it's also super common for runner to flat out LOSE their toenails. I thought this must be the result of traumatic injury, but nope. As I learned from another Runner's World article, some runners lose toenails every few months, which seems pretty inconvenient, painful, and kinda horrible and should probably be checked out. The "microtraumas" caused by the nail hitting the toe box over and over can lead to a buildup of blood under the nail, which makes the nail look discolored. All this bleeding causes the nail to separate from the skin and fall off. Sounds like fun.
Because toenails don't do anything for us evolutionarily, it's not a really big deal (for most people—I'm over here freakin' out) if we lose them once in a while. It's when your nails really start affecting your running, such as if they're too thick or misshapen, that it might be worth exploring your options. The article I read discussed a treatment to remove the nail permanently. Afterward, the nail bed hardens like the skin of your heel. If you feel so compelled, you can paint the nail bed just as you would paint your toenails. Some doctors disagree with the procedure and think it can actually cause the nail bed to thin and recede, which could lead to other toe pains.
So let's try to tackle nail-less-ness head-on and keep our nails trimmed, shall we? (Aiming this mostly at myself.) The first article's recommendation is to get pedicures—I see you, Donna and Adrienne, my pedicure buddies. Having a professional cut and shape your nails properly will help them grow in better. You should also get properly fitted shoes, but let's focus on the fact that a respected running magazine said we should all get more pedicures.
Next time you're running, walking, dancing, and the like, and you notice a disturbance in the toe box, tackle that shit right away. Get your nails trimmed before they remove themselves from your situation. Pedicures are great for everyone, especially if you're really bad at cutting your own nails (ahem, Jonathan).
P.S. To be fair, Jon got his first pedicure as a birthday present to me. But I think he really enjoyed it.