I'm losing my first toenail--yay?
April 22, 2018 8:55 AM   Subscribe

About 2 months ago, I ran a half marathon that angered the second toes on both my feet. I went to trim my toenails this morning - one of those injured toenails is now very wiggly and barely hanging on. I'm also running another half next weekend. How to protect and proceed?

What can I do in these next few days to avoid making things worse? Should I bandage it? Try and see if it’ll come off? I think my shoes are generally good - I’ve run in the same style (Brooks Ghosts) for years without any nail problems. This is new territory and I'm not sure how to best manage it...
posted by raztaj to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
When I was getting a lot of exercise, my toenails were usually a mess. I would just tear or clip it off in your case, if it will come easily. If not, don’t bother with a bandage-it’ll come off soon on its own no matter what you do. The new nail is already growing underneath.

Now that I’m getting less exercise, my nails are normal. I don’t have prevention ideas-this happened to me across sports and shoes. But, don’t worry too much about permanent damage
posted by Kwine at 9:13 AM on April 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Your toenails don't really do anything, and they will eventually grow back. It's not really worth trying to "protect" the toenail, but you may want to protect the nail bed underneath the nail - it's not going to be used to contact/friction/etc which may become uncomfortable.

If the nail looks like it's going to fall off, I would remove or trim it now because eventually the movement and friction is going to remove the nail for you - and at the most unfortunate time, and then you have a sharp pointy thing moving around in your sock.

Your feet do change shape: as you get older, as you get stronger, during the course of a run. They may get bigger, smaller, or wider. Your shoes change too: the foam gets compacted and older shoes feel larger, and the upper stretches/breaks down. You can lace your shoes differently to make it feel completely different. Every model year the manufacturer slightly tweaks the fit. I would look into getting different shoes, with no preconceived ideas about what shoe or even what size fits you the best.
posted by meowzilla at 9:54 AM on April 22, 2018

I’ve had this same badge of honour and it hurts/matters less than it seems like it will. If the nail bed is sensitive, keep it dressed with a bandaid as practical. I’m normally a wuss about foot pain, and going about minus a toenail really didn’t bother me.
posted by armeowda at 12:37 PM on April 22, 2018

My right toe nail has been falling off for a couple years now after a nasty bout of frostbite from skiing. I clip it as short as I can and leave it alone until it falls off or is super easy to tear off. The first time it happened, I kept a bandage on the nail bed until I got used to it not feeling weird against my sock or sandals.
posted by snowysoul at 12:52 PM on April 22, 2018

If not, don’t bother with a bandage-it’ll come off soon on its own no matter what you do.

I had my big toenail hang on for months, though as an inveterate nail picker, I was trying very, very hard to let it fall off on its own and I did keep it taped, both to deter myself and stop prevent it being ripped off while taking a sock on or off.

On the plus side, it took so long to fall off that I had most of another nail grown before it did. (I bashed my toe moving a dresser wearing sandals (smart, that). The nail died at that point, but I didn't even realise it was dead for quite a while, until a new nail started growing under it.)
posted by hoyland at 3:03 PM on April 22, 2018

Yeah I've had this happen, I just tape it so it doesn't snag or get ripped off and continue as normal until it's ready to actually fall off on its own. It's not a big deal at all.
posted by zug at 3:14 PM on April 22, 2018

The one time I ran a 10k I had several toenails that got cranky and soon fall off. It's a badge of honor. Enjoy the weirdness of the human body!
posted by joan_holloway at 3:39 PM on April 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Been there. I think taping it up for the upcoming run is a good idea, but I can tell you what happened to me. I ran a half marathon and only a week later realized my middle toe toenail had experienced such trauma that it just gave up. There wasn't any pain or bruising involved. It sort of hinged off at the base and lifted off the nail bed. I could tell that the nail felt extra "thick", but oddly, this did not hurt.

After about two months I could pry the nail away from the nail bed; the bed was sort of hardened against the air and wasn't sensitive. I got impatient with it and gently tore the nail away from the base. This sounds awful but I am telling you I am the most squeamish person in the world and this was totally fine. It was as though I was clipping away a hangnail or something else with no sensation.

Over the next nine months the nail grew back from the base, pushing the hardened nail bed forward as if it were regular nail. Now, almost a year after the Traumatic Event, the nail is pretty much grown back. It's a little wonky but works fine.

My suggestion is to keep an eye on it, manipulate it and back off if there is any pain. Remove the "dead" nail when there is no pain associated with it. Or just see a podiatrist :)
posted by woot at 4:25 PM on April 22, 2018

As others have said, you don't need to worry about protecting your nail. However, as it becomes increasingly floppy, you might want to wrap a bandage, or bandaid around the nail to eliminate that feeling. I hate the movement of the nail, and the ability to see that gap between the nail and the nail bed, but once the nail is off, the recovery is easy and grossness is done. Fortunately only lost 3 nails on 2 toes.

If you're losing toenails over road half marathons (assuming road, not trail), then I would suggest re-evaluating the fit of your shoes. As noted above, feet get larger over time, as well feet will swell a bit as one runs. Running shoes should never need breaking in before their comfortable. You should put them on and they should be the perfect fit or you should move on to the next shoe.

Also, you mention that you've run in Brooks Ghosts for years - is this the same pair, or various models over the years. While older, compressed, shoes haven't affected my toenails, my lower legs will start taking on odd pains from shoes after they've logged 800-1200km depending on the exact shoe. Some people can go for thousands of miles in a pair of shoes, but many can only do 300-500miles. Different models of the same shoe don't fit exactly the same as previous models; occaisionally to the point that people complain of being a full 1/2 size off.

If you don't already, consider lacing your shoes for a good heel lock (google tie shoes heel lock) and this might prevent some movement of your foot within the shoe.
posted by nobeagle at 6:24 AM on April 23, 2018

« Older Why does my husband's overreaction bother me so...   |   My roommate failed to pay the electricity. Time to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.