Toenail Injury Due to Walking

Healthy lifestyle - young women Nordic walking
Two women walking through a field with walking sticks. (Image: gbh007/iStock/Getty Images)

Walking is an easy aerobic exercise that burns calories and helps keep the heart healthy. There are few drawbacks, but black toenail is a common problem. Regular walkers are most often afflicted with black toenail. If shoes do not fit right, the toes tend to bang around. Friction created by wearing shoes that are too tight is another cause of black toenail. Medical treatment is not always needed, but severe cases of black toenail require a podiatrist's attention.

The Causes

Black toenail occurs when there is trauma to the tissue under the nail. Walking in shoes that are too small or tight can cause friction and pressure that damage the toenail. When there is not enough space in the top of the shoe, toes can rub against the inside material and put stress on the nails. Constant starting and stopping and walking down hills can drive the foot to the front of the shoe and lead to black toenail. Walking with tight socks also increases pressure and can cause injury to the toenail.

The Symptoms

Continuous friction or banging of the toes while walking damages the tissue under the nail and causes fluid to build. The fluid comes from broken blood vessels and is dark in color. As the fluid builds and pressure increases, a blood blister often forms, causing the toenail to turn black and become painful. Eventually, the toenail is likely to gradually start falling off. A foul order is another symptom of black toenail.

Treatment

For more severe cases of black toenail, a podiatrist may remove the nail if there is a severe laceration, bone damage or infection. According to Foot & Ankle Health, it can take a few months for the pain to subside and the nail to completely grow back. For less severe cases, a sterile needle can be pushed through the nail to drain the fluid and relieve pressure. A cautery can also be used to burn a hole through the black toenail and remove fluid. In cases of minor trauma, treatment for black toenail might not be needed.

Prevention

Wearing the right sized shoes not only makes walking more comfortable, it helps ward off black toenail. Shoes that are too tight cause pressure, and shoes that are too loose allow the toes to move around the front and sides. Make sure there is plenty of room on the top of the shoe, where toenails can rub if space is tight. Wear shoes that are a little bigger in the summer months. Walking in hot weather can cause the feet to swell and put toenails at risk. See your podiatrist before the toenail becomes too black and painful.

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