How to manage runner’s toe

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Runner’s toe not only affects runners, but also skiers and tennis players. An individual will end up with this injury when there is bleeding beneath a toenail that is accompanied by pain. Even though it is not a serious injury, it can cause pain and discomfort. The injury can also prevent the individual from participating in certain sports and can take days, weeks or even months for the blood to work its way out of the toenail. The area under the toenail makes it a suitable area for infection to develop.

How runner’s toe develops

This condition develops due to constant downward pressure on the toenails or irritation between the shoes and the toenails. Wearing shoes that are too tight puts constant pressure on the toenails. If the shoes used are too slack, the ongoing movement of the foot within the shoe can result to the same condition.

If the toenails are too long, they will bang around the interior of the shoes. In addition, the foot swells up during warm weather which makes them prone to friction. Lastly, runner’s toe can also occur if the top part of the foot sustained a direct blow.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Runner's toe
The injury can also prevent the individual from participating in certain sports and can take days, weeks or even months for the blood to work its way out of the toenail.
  • There is slight irritation on the toenail
  • There is bleeding under the toenail
  • In serious cases, the individual might end up with a sore toe
  • Brown, reddish, black or bluish appearance of the toenail
  • Partial or complete loss of the toenail in serious cases
  • Toenail separates from the toe bed

Who are at risk for runner’s toe?

Always bear in mind that runners are highly susceptible to end up with runner’s toe. Those who play tennis, dancers and skiers also face a higher-than-normal risk since these activities involve constant jamming of the front of the foot forward in boots or shoes.

Initial treatment

  • For minor cases of runner’s toe, the injury usually heals on its own within 1-2 days of rest.
  • It is important to clip the toenail so that it does not make contact with the shoe.
  • A partially torn toenail should be taped until a new nail starts to form.
  • The individual should use shoes with a wider and bigger toe box in order to prevent further irritation.
  • Avoid pulling the damaged nail off since it can fall out on its own.

It is best to consult a doctor to determine if there is a need to drain blood using a specialized instrument. If the pain persists or there are indications of infection such as pain, swelling or redness, a doctor must be consulted.


  • Always wear running shoes that are at least ½ sizes bigger in size.
  • Lace the shoes more tightly when running downhill regularly in order to prevent excess movement and friction.
  • Trim the toenails on a regular basis and straight across. Just make sure that it is not too short that the remaining nail is exposed.
  • The feet must stay dry as possible by wearing socks that can wick away moisture from the skin.

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