Why Do My Toenails Hurt After Running, Exercise, & Playing Sports?
Runners and athletes understand the importance of healthy feet and toenails. Whether you’re going on a long walk, hiking, playing soccer, or running a half marathon, your feet propel you to be your best. When there’s a problem with your feet or toes, it can affect your athletic ability and make life more difficult. Unfortunately, for some athletes, painful toenails after exercising can become a common problem.
Anyone involved in running or sports knows that you can’t be at your peak performance when you have toenails that hurt. The best thing to do is figure out what’s causing that pain in the first place. In many cases, some simple changes or adjustments can fix the problem. In other instances, it may be the result of something more serious.
Whether you play basketball each day, or go on long walks, this type of toenail discomfort can happen after any extended activity. You may not even consider yourself an athlete. But, any physical activity can put you at risk for soreness if you’re not careful. If your toenails have started to throb after a long run or a lot of exercise, there is usually something you can do to remedy the cause.
This article will cover several possible causes of toenail pain after exercising and playing sports. We’ll also provide solutions for each potential problem. In most cases, you won’t have to worry about negative long-term effects from toenail pain. With the right treatment for each cause, you can continue to live a healthy and active lifestyle.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Are You Wearing the Right Kind of Shoes?
- 2 What are Black Toenails?
- 3 How to Choose the Best Footwear for Running
- 4 Do You Have a Foot Injury?
- 5 How to Deal with an Ingrown Toenail
- 6 Do You Know the Signs of Toenail Fungus?
- 7 Quick Guide to Treating a Fungal Infection of the Toenails
- 8 How to Take Better Care of Toenails
- 9 Treat Injured Toenails without Delay
Are You Wearing the Right Kind of Shoes?
The right athletic shoes are extremely important for the type of physical activity. They are especially important for runners. Running causes a repetitive motion for your feet and toes. If your shoes don’t fit properly, that repetition can lead to several problems.
Improper footwear is one of the main causes of foot and toenail problems for athletes. The biggest issue is footwear that doesn’t fit the right way. Not only can this cause a buildup of moisture, but it can cause repetitive trauma to your toenails.
If your toes are crammed into your shoe, and you’re consistently rubbing them on the inside of the shoe, several problems could occur, including:
- Toenail Fungus
- Black toenails
If your sneakers are tight due to one of the these conditions, use the best shoe stretchers to create more space. This will help to reduce any discomfort that you’re experiencing, as well as allowing your feet to breathe more easily.
What are Black Toenails?
Getting a black toenail may ironically be a right of passage for some runners. It is often called runner’s toe or tennis toe. To some, it’s the idea that you run so much, your toenail turns black, or even falls off. Unfortunately, there is nothing funny about the real cause. It doesn’t matter how frequently you might run. Black toenails are usually caused by shoes that don’t fit correctly.
As you might expect, the toenail turns black. This is due to dried up blood underneath the nail. It can be extremely painful, and the nail may even fall off. It usually occurs when your toes are rubbing consistently against the front part of your shoes. This causes a blood blister to form under the nail.
How to Choose the Best Footwear for Running
A good rule of thumb for athletic footwear is to size up. Choose a running shoe that is about ½ size bigger than your casual shoes. Always try running shoes on before purchasing, and make sure you have plenty of room in the toe area.
The best solution to find the right shoes, however, is to go to a specialty store. Not only will they have a wider variety of options, but the employees there are knowledgeable in the type of footwear that will work best for you. They’ll be able to fit you properly for the right size.
Even if you already think you know your size, it’s a good idea to get measured. Try to get measured at the end of the day. Feet swell throughout the day, so it’s better to get fitted when they are at their largest point.
Do You Have a Foot Injury?
Our toenails tend to take a beating when we’re physically active. It’s common to experience an injury of some kind. Some are more noticeable than others, and some can be more painful than others. If you have toe pain, check your symptoms to determine if an underlying injury may be causing it.
Common foot injuries and ailments that can occur from running include things like:
- Cuts and scrapes
How to Deal with an Ingrown Toenail
A common foot injury is an ingrown toenail. They can become so painful, they may prevent you from running if not taken care of. An ingrown toenail occurs when the corner or side of a toenail actually curves directly into the skin. They can be caused by tight-fitting shoes, trauma to the nail, having nails that are naturally too curved, or cutting your nails too short.
Not only can ingrown toenails cause swelling and pain, they also can put you at risk for infection. If they cut into your skin, the pain can be almost unbearable.
Self-care is extremely important if you experience an ingrown toenail. Better-fitting footwear can help, as can warm soaks in an electrical foot spa. Special softening creams can also be used to ease the intensity of the nail poking into the skin.
In some cases, however, the nail may need to be professionally lifted or removed by a podiatrist. It is a fairly simple surgical procedure. This treatment might take you away from running for a while, but it’s the safest approach to getting rid of the problem. It will allow you to start running again without pain sooner.
Do You Know the Signs of Toenail Fungus?
People who are physically active tend to be more prone to this type of fungal infection, or develop athlete’s foot. Why? It has nothing to do with your activity, and everything to do with how you’re taking care of your feet before, during, and after.
It’s also easy for athlete’s foot to spread to your toenails. That’s why it’s important to use an athlete’s foot treatment as soon as it happens.
Toenail fungus usually occurs when moisture find a way to get underneath the toenail. It can happen from something like a public shower or pool. However, one of the most common causes is not allowing enough air to circulate around and under the nail. If you’re an avid runner, It’s likely that your feet get sweaty. If that sweat builds up for too long, that moisture can get trapped underneath the nail.
Fungus thrives in warm, moist environments. What could be better than a dark, moist, warm athletic shoe? With that in mind, it’s easy to see why athletes can easily get this condition quite frequently. Some of the most common symptoms of toenail fungus include:
A fungal infection of the nail can also occur due to repeated trauma. It’s another reason the right shoes are so important, so your toes aren’t jammed against the ground again and again.
Toenail fungus will not go away on its own. It will grow and continue to spread if not properly taken care of. Not only can this eventually lead to pain and discomfort, but it can potentially lead to infection, and/or loss of the nail.
Quick Guide to Treating a Fungal Infection of the Toenails
Toenail fungus is a common problem for athletes, but people contract it for multiple reasons. Because it occurs often, there are several quality treatment options to consider. In many cases, self-care steps can help to keep the infection under control. However, you may need to consider one of the following treatments if your fungus has started to grow:
- Prescription oral antifungal medications
- Over the counter topical solutions
- Anti-fungal nail polish
- Nail removal or laser light therapy
There are also multiple remedies you can try at home. These remedies usually consist of using some type of antifungal agent directly on the fungus itself. One of the most popular natural remedies is tea tree oil. Tea tree oil has antifungal, antibacterial, and antiseptic properties.
Additionally, you can take some preventative measures to help reduce your risk of a fungal infection. Some of these precautionary tips include:
- Don’t wear the same shoes two days in a row – this gives them time to air out.
- Change your socks frequently.
- Spray your shoes with an antifungal spray.
- Keep your feet as dry at all times.
Whether you’re treating a toenail fungus at home, or with the help of a podiatrist, keep your nails trimmed and pay attention to the overall hygiene of your feet. This will make it easier for medications to work quickly.
How to Take Better Care of Toenails
If you are regularly physically active, taking care of your feet is very important. With the right kind of foot care and a little extra attention, you may be able to reduce your chances of some of the common toenail problems listed in this article. Follow some of these tips for overall foot and toenail care.
- Choose the right shoes and socks: We stressed the importance of the right shoes earlier, but socks can be equally important, especially to help avoid things like toenail fungus. If you’re running a lot, your feet are likely to become sweaty. If your socks soak up and trap that moisture, it can lead to a fungal infection, or cause your toes to slip within your shoe, creating trauma. Try to wear antifungal socks every day.
- Give your feet time to breathe: When you’re not running or exercising, give your feet and nails as much time to ‘breathe’ as possible. Try to avoid wearing shoes or socks around your home. Exposing your feet to the air will help to reduce the risk of a fungal infection, and moisture getting trapped under the nail bed.
- Moisturize your nails: Moisturize your feet and nails regularly, especially if you’re active. It can help to prevent your feet from cracking and bleeding. When you moisturize your nails before putting your running shoes on, with something like a urea lotion, it can help to strengthen your nails and make them less prone to breakage. You can also use tea tree oil or coconut oil as natural moisturizers.
- Check your diet: If you’re an athlete, you’re probably already conscious about your health. But, it can’t be stressed enough that your diet affects things as small as your toenails. Nutritional deficiencies can weaken the nails and make them break and become brittle much easier. If you’re not getting adequate nutrition, supplement your diet with vitamins for strong nails.
- Keep your nails trimmed: Long toenails make it easy for moisture to get trapped underneath them. They can also get caught in your socks and create tearing, which can bend or rip the nail, too. Additionally, nails that are too long can cut into the surrounding toes. If that sort of injury occurs and causes bleeding, it could be extremely painful, and even put you at risk for infection.
- Foot massage: Getting a foot massage with an electrical machine will soothe pain and improve circulation.
Treat Injured Toenails without Delay
As runners and athletes, your feet absorb a lot of contact regularly. They also are put to work quite often, so if they aren’t taken care of properly, problems can arise. The best thing you can do if you are regularly active is to take care of your overall foot health. Pay attention to how you look and feel every day, especially after a workout.
If your toenails start to hurt, or you notice that they are injured, treat them immediately. Make sure they are fully clean and dried off before using an antibiotic or antifungal cream, such as the Purely Northwest System. If you’re still unsure why your toenails are hurting, see a podiatrist as soon as possible. Painful toenails can put a huge strain on your running routine. Taking care of them quickly will help to reduce discomfort, and allow you to keep up with your regular activities.