Run long enough, and you're almost certain to develop a black toenail at some point. Many runners see black toenails as a badge of honor. But while they are usually rather harmless, they are caused by bleeding under the nail -- and, therefore, you will want to deal with them properly to avoid consequences like infection and more extensive skin damage. Adhere to these dos and don'ts of dealing with a black toenail, and you should be in good shape.
Do: Apply ice to the toe.
When you first notice that your toenail has a blood spot under it or has begun turning black, apply some ice to your toe. You can just rest a bag of frozen peas on top of your toe for a few minutes if you like. The ice will help constrict the blood vessels, reducing the amount of subsequent bleeding. This is important because if you get too much blood under the nail, the pressure may build up and make the condition pretty painful.
Don't: Try to use a needle to "drain" the nail.
If the bleeding under your nail is excessive and does create an uncomfortable, painful feeling, don't try to solve the problem yourself by poking into the nail with a needle or any other apparatus. You could contaminate the sensitive tissues under the nail and cause an infection, or you could accidentally damage the nail in a way that will impede future nail growth. See a podiatrist (such as one from Center for Foot Care) if your toenail is very painful and you suspect the blood needs to be drained. They can complete this procedure for you in a safe, effective manner and will often use local numbing agents to make it less painful, too.
Do: Seek medical treatment if you notice signs of infection.
An infection that starts in your toenail could easily spread to the surrounding tissues and even into your bloodstream, having deadly consequences. So, if you notice any of the following signs of infection, contact your physician or podiatrist immediately:
- Excessive swelling and redness in the toe
- Pus exuding from the injured area
- A fever
- Severe pain when you touch the toe
Don't: Keep running in the same shoes if you keep developing black toenails.
One black toenail might just be a fluke. Maybe you wore thicker socks that day, stubbed your toe, or altered your gait in such a way that put extra pressure on your toes. If you're consistently developing black toenails, however, this is a sign that you need to change to a different style of shoe that puts less pressure on the top of you toes. Visit a local running store for recommendations of shoes that will better fit your foot and running style.