Runners, banish lost toenails forever with these 10 ways to look after your feet (2023)

Runners, listen up. Sure, foot health isn’t the sexiest of topics, but it’s an important one nonetheless, especially if you're taking part in the London marathon this weekend. After all, as any well-stepped runner will know, blister-clad runner’s feet are pretty much a given when it comes to half-marathon or marathon training territory.

Be honest, how many of you have either lost a toenail marathon training? Got a blood blister from a race? Or hidden your feet in trainers so your ‘runner’s feet’ don’t become the main topic of brunch conversation? If you've answered ‘Yes’ to one or all of these questions, then you’re in need of some foot care for runners.

Why? Well, just think about it: at an average pace for a woman, your feet pound the pavement for four or more hours to carry you through the 26.2 miles that makes up a marathon – and all in hot, sweaty mesh.And that’s without mentioning the hundreds of training miles they have to go through to get you to the start line.

That’s why WH has spoken to the running pros and leading podiatrist, Margaret Dabbs and drawn up an extensive guide to foot care for runners, from trainer fittings to toenail clippings. Hint: This is not for the faint-hearted, but a definite must for dedicated runners. You’re welcome.

How to look after feet: An expert guide

1. Pick the right trainers

This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at how often this key runner’s rule for foot care for runners is overlooked. Third Space personal trainer and Anatomy In Motion (or AiM) specialist Andy Vincent says: 'It can be easy to be sucked in with what I call the ‘pronation myth’. Trainer companies have spent years trying to convince us that pronation is a bad thing and you need arch support to stop it. But, actually, pronation is the loading and lengthening phase of gait and is essential for proper foot mechanics.'

The topic of pronation is still debated - most physios argue if you struggle with over-pronation, you need to support yourself from other injuries around the knee and ankle. But that doesn't alter the basics of what make a good pair of running trainers for women. Vincent says to look for: 'Footwear should be light and unstructured to allow the foot to correctly interact with the floor.' Look for neutral running shoes, such as the adidas Solarboost.

2. Keep note of your mileage and always go half a size up

The main thing to aim for is comfort – don’t get drawn in to overly technological designs or shoes that won’t support you over the distance, says Simon Arundel, physiotherapist at Pure Sports Medicine. Considering how far you’ve run in your trainers and what size you need is critical when considering foot care for runners.

He says, 'aim to change your trainers after around 500 miles of usage. It goes without saying you should always make sure shoes are worn in before race day to test for correct sizing, as running trainers that are too loose give you blisters, while shoes that are too tight can restrict circulation to the feet.' As a general rule of thumb, add half a shoe size to add room for swelling.

3. Recovery footwear can be as important as supportive running shoes

Which shoes you wear for your run is important, sure, but what you put on your feet afterwards is equally so. Ever heard of Oofos recovery shoes? They’re designed to absorb the impact of walking so your feet don’t have to, in turn aiding recovery speed. Nifty, huh?

OOFOSOOahh Sandal

Runners, banish lost toenails forever with these 10 ways to look after your feet (1)

(Video) How To Stop Getting Black Toenails From Running!

OOFOSOOahh Sandal

4. Remember the swell and tackle accordingly

As much as swollen feet are normal if you’re a runner covering any serious distance, it’s important to know why and how to tackle the swelling effectively - feet that look like Violet Beauregard are less than a day-to-day ideal.

According to the Int J Gen Med journal, swelling is partly due to your increased fluid intake - experts advise that you should be intaking water whilst running to avoid the symptoms of dehydration. The NHS website says swelling can occur after any sport, and is sometimes a response to injury (see your GP if your swelling persists or becomes abruptly more painful).

Jamie Ray, Another_Run lead instructor at Another_Space, recommends icing your feet or bathing in cool water after a long run. 'This will stop your feet from swelling and overheating too much and prevent permanent damage.' he says.

5. Invest in new socks

If you think special running footwear needn’t extend past your trainers, think again.

'Did you know that ill-fitting, wet or cotton socks are actually the main cause of blisters when running, not your trainers?' says podiatrist and Puressential advisor Jake Heath from Kenton Heath Clinic. Time to invest. 'I advise using acrylic brands and going for lightweight, breathable styles.'

WH loves Stance or Drymax socks – just be sure to shop for a pair that fit your feet – they should feel snug but leave your feet room to breathe.Oh, and make sure you’ve tried them on with your running shoes before any long-distance run.

6. Clean and purify your running shoes

There's zero point of taking good care of your feet if you're not going to take care of the equipment that houses them. Try the Margaret Dabbs London 3-in-1 Shoe Freshener. Using Ozone technology, a powerful disinfectant, it naturally destroys bacteria, helping to dries, protects, and preserves your trainers.

7. Cut your toenails regularly

Black toenails are about as unattractive as a celeb doing an insect eating challenge on I'm a Celeb, and yet so many runners get them. In a J Sports Med study, two researchers found the cause to simply be the repeated impact of your toenail hitting the front of the shoe. Ouch.

Whilst you can’t avoid black toenails altogether, you can make your life a whole lot easier by simply keeping on top of your footsie grooming. 'Make sure your nails are not too long as the pounding on the streets will cause them to press on footwear and socks. This can cause trauma and inflammation to your nails,' advises Dabbs.

8. Know how to beat blisters in double time

Blisters can be a runner’s biggest concern – get them sufficiently bad and they can throw your training schedule right royally off course. But, interestingly, the speed at which you treat your blisters can be a big factor in their recovery time, according to Heath.

Regularly find yourself in the dress it / leave it to get some fresh air debate? 'Always dress the blister with a protective dressing,' Heath recommends. 'This creates a controlled environment to help the blister heal, protects the skin from bacteria and helps relieve pain.'

Only a few days to go until the big day and still got blistered feet? Try this Heath-approved trick 3-4 days prior to the race: rub your feet with surgical spirit every day to help toughen the skin. This works as an added blister prevention - just make sure you’ve got something to hold on to as it will likely hurt a little. No pain, no gain.

9. Soak your feet and stock up on footcare

Whilst remember to strength train, foam roll and keep the long runs ticking over whilst marathon training can feel like a lot to deal with, we’re about to add a few more items to your ‘to-do’ list that are not only essential foot care for runners but also a great relaxation technique, too.

(Video) How to Care for Your Feet and Toenails

'Post-training, allow feet to soak to instantly relieve puffy, tired, and aching feet. It helps to reduce any swelling of the feet and lower legs, whilst protecting dehydrated skin and nails. This multi-tasking product is also great for relieving inflammation of the bones and joints by being massaged into feet,' says Dabbs.

Arrundel also advises washing and drying your feet thoroughly to avoid any fungal infections and using a soothing moisturiser to prevent cracked and dry areas. Muscle soothing balms and salts such as Epsom bath salts, can also help the muscles in your feet and body to unwind. Stick a face mask on whilst you’re at it and you’re in for a proper treat.

Runners, banish lost toenails forever with these 10 ways to look after your feet (2)

Margaret Dabbs London Margaret Dabbs London Foot Hygiene Cream 100g

Runners, banish lost toenails forever with these 10 ways to look after your feet (3)

Westlab Westlab Epsom Salt 5kg
(Video) The REAL Cause of Toenail Fungus is ...

Runners, banish lost toenails forever with these 10 ways to look after your feet (4)

Super Tonic
(Video) 3 reasons runners get black toenails

Runners, banish lost toenails forever with these 10 ways to look after your feet (5)

RIO Rio Spa Pedi Device

10. Last but not least, know when to see a specialist

Sure, all runner’s deal with some less than ideal toenail situations and heel blisters, but it’s important to know when it’s time to visit an expert. You have 125,000 sweat glands in each foot, so even if you are following this handy guide to foot care for runners to a tee, you may not be able to prevent the dreaded fungal infections, Athlete’s foot or common foot problems that some runners experience.

If you’re worried about any of your symptoms, make sure you visit your GP or a podiatrist. WH loves the Margaret Dabbs medical pedicure, a 45-minute intensive treatment designed for feet in need.


Runners, banish lost toenails forever with these 10 ways to look after your feet? ›

“Toenails are like our appendix,” Krebsbach says. “They do serve a purpose, but we can live without them.” You can run with toenails, and you can run without them. Either way, you're still running—which is all that matters in our books.

Can I run without toenail? ›

“Toenails are like our appendix,” Krebsbach says. “They do serve a purpose, but we can live without them.” You can run with toenails, and you can run without them. Either way, you're still running—which is all that matters in our books.

What to do when you lose a toenail from running? ›

Some treatment and prevention tips for toenails that have fallen off or are in the process of falling off include:
  1. Use pain medication as needed. ...
  2. Bandage the toe. ...
  3. Trim the existing nail. ...
  4. Soak your feet in cold water. ...
  5. Elevate your foot as much as possible.

How do you take care of runners toes? ›

Keep your feet dry and clean, and avoid letting them get too sweaty. Socks that wick moisture away from the skin will help with this. Keep your toenails well-trimmed, and avoid wearing shoes that are too small. Both these things will help avoid irritation and rubbing.

Can toe nails grow back? ›

After a nail separates from the nail bed for whatever reason, it will not reattach. A new nail will have to grow back in its place. Nails grow back slowly. It takes about 6 months for a fingernail and up to 18 months for a toenail to grow back.

Can you walk and run without toes? ›

How Missing Toes Affect Your Life. Losing one or more toes does not necessarily mean that you won't be able to walk or even run again. However, it will adversely affect your balance and stability, and potentially change your walking biomechanics.

What does Vaseline do to toenails? ›

Vaseline can protect against moisture loss, help prevent dryness plus at the same time heal cracked skin. You can also add further protection for your cuticles by rubbing a small amount straight onto the nail-bed and fingernails before going to sleep.

How do I protect my toe from missing nails? ›

Protect any exposed part of the nail bed for 7 to 10 days until this skin hardens and isn't sensitive anymore. Coat the area with antibiotic ointment and top with a nonstick bandage. Change the bandage every day and whenever it gets wet. (If any part gets stuck, soak it under warm running water until it slips off.)

Why do runners toenails get thick? ›

Toenails can thicken as a result of sudden or repeated trauma or injury. Mostly, this happens to people involved in sport or exercise, such as soccer players, runners, and dancers. It can also affect people who wear ill-fitting shoes. Often, thick nails due to injury are mistaken for fungal infections.

What antibiotic ointment is good for toenails? ›

Most ingrown toenails can be treated by soaking the foot in warm, soapy water and applying a topical antibiotic ointment, such as polymyxin/neomycin (one brand: Neosporin).

How long does it take for toenail to grow back from running? ›

If your entire toenail is a casualty to the effects of running and you aren't in a lot of pain, then you can probably just wait for it to grow back. “Toenails generally grow at about one-third the rate of fingernails,” says Paull. “Some accounts say that it takes 12 to 18 months for the toenail to grow out fully.”

Should I let my toenail fall off naturally? ›

Don't yank it off if it's not ready.

Many times the nail will fall off all on its own to prepare for the healing process. The nail will grow back naturally in about 3 to 6 months. In the meantime, keep the affected area as clean as possible, regularly apply your ointment, and wrap it with gauze and medical tape.

Does Epsom salt help runners toe? ›

You might consider adding a few to your retail area if you regularly market to runners. Warm foot soaks with Dead Sea or Epsom salts may also reduce the pain. Bruised Toenails: “Runner's toe” is common when shoes don't fit properly and the toe bangs against the toe box of the shoe repeatedly.

Should runners use foot cream? ›

“Moisturising your feet daily is essential, though be careful not to moisturise between the toes as you don't want to get athletes foot. You want to look for and use a cream that has a high urea content.

Why do runners toes turn black? ›

Also called runner's toenail, runner's toe is a condition where the area under and around the toenail begins to turn black. This can happen from getting crushed, stubbed, or putting repeated stress on the area. This alteration in color is due to a small bleed under the toenail, also known as a subungual hematoma.

How can I speed up my toenail growth? ›

Home remedies for nail growth
  1. Take biotin. Biotin is an important type of B vitamin that allows the body to turn food into energy. ...
  2. Use nail hardeners (sparingly) Nail softness makes nails more prone to breaking, which increases the need for nail regrowth. ...
  3. Avoid glue-on nails and toxic polishes. ...
  4. Practice good grooming.
May 18, 2017

How can I make my toenail grow back faster? ›

Take biotin supplements. These supplements promote cell growth, and help your body metabolize protein-building amino acids, thus contributing to faster nail growth. Keep the wound dry and covered. The skin underneath your toenail is sensitive.

Why is my toe nail not growing back fully? ›

Fungal infections, ingrown toenails, an injury to the nail bed, chemotherapy, radiation, spinal injuries, and paralysis can all cause your toenails to stop growing properly. If the above conditions have been ruled out, poor circulation may be to blame for your toenails not growing.

Which toe is most important for walking? ›

It probably is no surprise that your big toe is the most important when maintaining balance and bearing body weight. Your big toes bear just about 2 times the amount of weight as all your other toes combined! It still should not shock you that the pinky toes are the least important.

Which toe can you not walk without? ›

“If you remove one part of that tripod, you lose balance.” So even though the pinky toe itself has no functional value, removing the metatarsal would make running, walking and skipping nearly impossible. This story was produced in partnership with Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

Can I get disability for missing toes? ›

A traumatic amputation is the loss of a body part—usually a finger, toe, arm, or leg—that occurs as the result of an accident or trauma. An amputation is considered a disabling condition by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and may qualify you for SSD benefits.

What does Vicks VapoRub do to toenails? ›

Vicks VapoRub

Vicks VapoRub is a topical ointment. Although designed for cough suppression, its active ingredients (camphor and eucalyptus oil) may help treat toenail fungus. A 2011 study found that Vicks VapoRub had a “positive clinical effect” in treating toenail fungus.

What does toothpaste do to toenails? ›

You can use your regular toothpaste for this. Apply a thin layer of the paste to your nails and leave it on for about 10 minutes. Grab a nail brush or a toothbrush and gently scrub your nail beds. Doing so will polish your nails and turn them whiter and brighter.

What happens if you put toothpaste on your toenails? ›

Yes, toothpaste! Whitening toothpaste, when applied, can lighten and brighten your nails in just a few short minutes. The same clinically proven natural whitening ingredients in products such as Tom's of Maine Luminous White Toothpaste can double as a treatment for surface stains on nails.

Should I cover a lost toenail? ›

Clean your toe, making sure you remove any debris, and apply an antibiotic ointment. Cover the area where your toenail fell off with a bandage. Seek immediate treatment if your entire toenail falls off or the area around your toenail won't stop bleeding.

What vitamin is deficient in toe nail? ›

Zinc is an essential nutrient that can contribute to the health of a person's hair, skin, and nails. Zinc deficiency, which may be due to a lack of zinc in the diet or an underlying medical condition, can cause nail dystrophy. Nail dystrophy is the discoloration and distortion of a person's nails.

What is an alternative to toe nailing? ›

Alternatives to toenailing include the use of joist hangers, hurricane ties, and other engineered steel connectors designed to drive nails on a perpendicular to a wood surface.

Does hydrogen peroxide get rid of toenail fungus? ›

Hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic that isn't meant for killing toenail fungus. This medication is for treating cuts, burns and scrapes. But according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), hydrogen peroxide can kill some types of fungi, such as yeasts and moulds.

Does Vicks Vapor Rub work on toe fungus? ›

Applying Vicks VapoRub to fungus-infected toenails can clear up the notoriously hard-to-treat condition. Michigan State University clinicians found that applying the product daily to the infected nail cleared the condition in 32 of 85 patients, though it took anywhere from 5 to 16 months…”

Does Medicare pay for podiatrist to cut toenails? ›

NonCovered Foot Care

The cutting of toenails in a healthy person or when they are not painful is not a payable service by Medicare. The cutting of corns and calluses in a healthy person is not a payable service by Medicare. Legally, your podiatrist cannot try to obtain Medicare payment for noncovered foot care.

What is the most effective antifungal medication for toenails? ›

Terbinafine for toenail fungus treatment

The best pill for toenail fungus is terbinafine. Evidence suggests it works better than the alternatives with the fewest side effects. Terbinafine results in resolution of toenail fungus 76% of the time. Common side effects may include headaches, skin rash, and vomiting.

Is hydrogen peroxide good for ingrown toenails? ›

Hydrogen peroxide is another great option to treat ingrown toenails at home. It is a natural disinfectant, which is the reason why it is commonly used to clean wounds. Soak your infected foot in a bucket of water and hydrogen peroxide solution for 15 to 20 minutes. Do this 2 to 3 times daily.

Is Neosporin good for your nails? ›

Neosporin Dual Action Antibiotic Ointment

It also moisturizes and softens extremely damaged cuticles without irritation. Best of all, it relieves any pain from the broken skin and protects your nails from infection.

Can you scrape out toenail fungus? ›

Treatment usually begins with your dermatologist trimming your infected nail(s), cutting back each infected nail to the place where it attaches to your finger or toe. Your dermatologist may also scrape away debris under the nail. This helps get rid of some fungus.

Should I cut off toenail fungus? ›

If you do have a toenail fungus, your doctor will likely recommend one or more of the following treatment options: Trimming the Toenail Trimming the toenail is usually combined with medication, but having a podiatrist periodically trim the nail down is helpful and allows the medication to work better, says Sundling.

Why are my big toenails coming off? ›

There are two primary causes for toenail loss, fungus, and injury. Toenail fungus, a fungal infection caused by dermatophytes, is the most common reason that a toenail will fall off. Dermatophytes feed on the keratin found in the skin and nails and thrive in warm, moist environments.

What happens if you leave your toenails too long? ›

Longer toenails become an increasing risk for podiatric problems as you leave them to grow. Long nails are more likely to break and provide opportunities for fungal infections to take root, or for hangnails or tears to lead to painful exposure of your underlying nail bed.

What medications cause toenails to fall off? ›

Drugs that can cause onycholysis and photo-onycholysis include:
  • Psoralens (photochemotherapy or PUVA)
  • Doxycycline.
  • Thiazide diuretics.
  • Oral contraceptives.
  • Fluoroquinolone antibiotics.
  • Taxanes.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Captopril.

Why do runners put Vaseline on their feet? ›

Many blisters are caused by friction, whether that be skin on skin or fabric on skin. By applying a generous amount of Vaseline to any problem areas of the foot (or other part of the body), you will reduce the friction and therefore reduce your risk of developing blisters.

When should you not use Epsom salt on your feet? ›

For example, people that have very dry skin should avoid overdoing foot soaks because the salt can dry out the skin leaving the feet more prone to cracks. Foot soaks of any type are not safe for people who have diabetes due to the increased risk of infection.

What is the best thing to soak your feet in? ›

Epsom salts are the classic staple of a foot soak, aid to help with everything from arthritis to plain old swollen feet. The salts break down into magnesium and sulfate in water, and some believe that these minerals can be soaked in through the skin for the body's benefit.

Should I put Vaseline on my feet before running? ›

For the marathon, it is strongly recommended that you use a moderate amount of commercial lubricant like Vaseline or Body Glide to rub on your feet (between your toes, around the heel, along the edges) before racing a long event like the marathon.

What is the best foot lubricant for running? ›

Many runners swear by Bodyglide or even petroleum jelly to reduce friction inside shoes. Yep, Bodyglide works on feet.

What do runners soak their feet in? ›

Add water and ice to a container deep enough to cover your feet, and then soak them for about 10 minutes. Some runners like to add Epsom salts to the water to reduce swelling, but if you use them too often, they could cause your skin to become dry.

How do you cover up a toenail that fell off? ›

Protect any exposed part of the nail bed for 7 to 10 days until this skin hardens and isn't sensitive anymore. Coat the area with antibiotic ointment and top with a nonstick bandage. Change the bandage every day and whenever it gets wet. (If any part gets stuck, soak it under warm running water until it slips off.)

Why do my toenails hurt when I press on them? ›

Ingrown toenails are a common condition in which the corner or side of a toenail grows into the soft flesh. The result is pain, inflamed skin, swelling and, sometimes, an infection. Ingrown toenails usually affect the big toe. Often you can take care of ingrown toenails on your own.

What is the clear fluid under my toenail after running? ›

What is this? The clear fluid inside a regular blister is called serum. Blisters under toenails from running can take on a couple of different forms. Some runners get the classic clear bubble blisters at or around the edges of a toenail.

Is it OK to run with a black toenail? ›

If your black toenail is not hurting, you can continue to run as usual—just keep it trimmed short, especially any loose portions, to guard against further trauma, says Dr. Parthasarathy. Resist the urge to pull it off yourself (😱), which can cause more trauma if it's not yet ready to come off, says Dr.

What happens if you lose a toenail? ›

Once your toenail falls off, it can't reattach itself and keep growing. You'll need to wait for the new nail to grow back in its place. Depending on the cause and how much, if any, of your toenail remains, you might need additional treatment to make sure your toenail grows back properly.

Can you run with a broken toe nail? ›

Trying to run or exercise with a broken toe – even if it's just the smallest toe – will add stress to the injury. This can easily cause further damage and complicate recovery. Reducing stress on the toe as it recovers will also reduce your risk of more chronic complications in the future.

Can you sprint without big toe? ›

Sprinters run on their forefoot/toes, so not having the big toe would definitely affect at least them.

What does runners toe look like? ›

Also called runner's toenail, runner's toe is a condition where the area under and around the toenail begins to turn black. This can happen from getting crushed, stubbed, or putting repeated stress on the area. This alteration in color is due to a small bleed under the toenail, also known as a subungual hematoma.

Is it OK to paint a black toenail? ›

It may be tempting to cover that black toenail up with some nail polish, but in reality, it is one of the worst things you can do to the nail. Instead, have a podiatrist identify the cause of the black nail and prescribe a treatment plan so that it can heal and be healthy and happy for the future.

What does black toenails mean? ›

Black toenails can result from a trauma, a fungal infection, or pigmentation changes over time. More serious causes include heart disease or melanoma. Changing shoes may resolve it, but some people may need medical treatment.

Can you put an acrylic nail on a missing toenail? ›

Can you put a fake nail on a missing toenail? Yes. The resin can be used to create a 'replacement nail'.

Do runners get thick toenails? ›

Toenails can thicken as a result of sudden or repeated trauma or injury. Mostly, this happens to people involved in sport or exercise, such as soccer players, runners, and dancers. It can also affect people who wear ill-fitting shoes.

What is turf toe? ›

What Is Turf Toe? Turf toe, also called a metatarsophalangeal joint sprain, occurs when the ligament underneath your big toe hyperextends. This causes a sprain in the main joint of your big toe.

What shoes to wear with a broken toenail? ›

Wearing Comfortable Shoes

While your nail is healing, do not wear tight shoes or ones that place pressure on the affected toe. Instead, wear comfortable, closed-toed shoes when leaving home to protect your feet during the recovery process. At home, you can continue to cover your feet or leave them bare.

How much is a big toe worth? ›

Because of this, the big toe is worth a great deal in an accident to your toes. A big toe that is broken can have settlement values of up to $10,000-$15,000 on average, while the amputation of a big toe can average well above $100,000.

Is it hard to live without your big toe? ›

Even though the big toe is a big deal, losing it happens more often than most would think. However, losing this toe will not hinder your ability to do the things you want to do in life. You might be a little unsteady but, the proper exercises can help you increase your overall static and dynamic balances.


1. Around 4 Mil Yrs NOW Most Never Do It. Nothing gets you more winded in 10 secs. Or Improves U More.
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4. Say Goodbye to Candida: The Best Ways to Cure It Permanently
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