Understanding and Managing Runners Toe

LEAP Foot and Ankle Specialists
February 15, 2024

Understanding and Managing Runners Toe

Runners are no strangers to the physical demands and occasional discomfort that accompany their passion for pounding the pavement. One common ailment that often affects avid runners is "runner's toe." In this guide, we'll delve into the causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment of runner's toe to help you navigate this common foot issue.

What is Runners Toe?

Runner's toe, also known as subungual hematoma, is a condition characterized by bleeding underneath the toenail. This often occurs due to repetitive trauma or pressure on the toes during activities like running. The constant impact on the feet can lead to blood vessels beneath the toenail breaking, resulting in the accumulation of blood.

Causes of Runner's Toe:

  • Repetitive Impact: The constant pounding of the feet on hard surfaces during running can cause trauma to the toes, leading to subungual hematoma.
  • Improper Footwear: Wearing shoes that don't provide adequate support or have a cramped toe box can contribute to the development of runner's toe.
  • Long Toenails: Untrimmed toenails can increase the risk of trauma, especially during running when the toes are repeatedly hitting the front of the shoe.
  • Downhill Running: Descending on steep slopes puts additional pressure on the toes, increasing the likelihood of runner's toe.

Symptoms of Runners Toe :

Runner's toe manifests with specific symptoms that runners should be mindful of:

  • Discoloration: The affected toenail may take on a dark hue, ranging from red to purple or even black, due to the accumulated blood.
  • Pain and Discomfort: Runners may experience pain or discomfort, especially when pressure is applied to the affected toenail.
  • Swelling: Swelling around the affected toe may occur as a result of the accumulated blood.

How to Prevent Runners Toe:

Taking proactive measures can help prevent the occurrence of runner's toe:

  • Runners toe shoes: Invest in running shoes that provide ample toe space and offer proper support to reduce the risk of trauma.
  • Regular Nail Maintenance: Keep toenails trimmed to avoid unnecessary pressure and trauma during running.
  • Gradual Training: Increase running intensity and distance gradually to allow your feet to adapt to the impact.
  • Choose Soft Surfaces: Whenever possible, choose softer surfaces like trails or tracks instead of constantly running on hard pavement.

Runner's toe may not require immediate action if there's no pain. A blackened toenail can naturally grow out over several months. For chronic cases, rest and warm water foot baths may help. Pain and difficulty walking warrant a visit to your Lakewood foot doctor visit to rule out complications like broken toes. Nail Trephination, draining blood under the nail, may be necessary for pain relief along with possible removal of the nail if it is very loose.  The toenail also may fall off itself, but it will grow back.

If there's no pain, running can continue with caution and short, trimmed toenails. In case of toenail loss, keep the area clean, apply pressure if bleeding, and monitor for signs of infection. Seek professional help if pain persists after draining.

When to Seek Professional Help:

While many cases of runner's toe can be managed at home, it's crucial to seek professional help if:

  • The pain is severe and persistent.
  • The discoloration extends beyond the toenail.
  • There are signs of infection, such as redness, warmth, or discharge.

Runners toe is a common ailment among runners, but with proper prevention and timely treatment, its impact can be minimized. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and preventive measures, runners can continue pursuing their passion with a reduced risk of developing this uncomfortable condition. If you're experiencing persistent or severe symptoms, don't hesitate to consult with your Lakewood, CO podiatrists at LEAP Foot and Ankle Specialists pllc.


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