Running. Fabulous for your cardio health - but most runners will tell you it can sometimes wreak havoc on your feet, with blackened toenails and fungal infections being the top 2 complaints we treat at our clinic. So if you suffer from with either of these complaints, read on for our top tips.
If you thought blackened toenails were an inevitable part of running, then please think again. A black toenail after running is caused by persistent impact causing a bleed under the nail. It is most often seen in the big toe. This can cause pain when the nail is placed under pressure and result in the loss of the nail – not ideal for when you want to get back out training again.
So how can you reduce the impact on your big toe?
If you have blackened toenails after a long distance run, it is likely you are wearing trainers which are too small for you. Your feet will swell whilst running, so what seems like a big gap when you are resting, may not be nearly enough when you are pounding the tarmac. So how big is too big? Well, there is nothing wrong with a good 15-20mm gap at the front of your trainers. Providing your trainers are laced well, you foot will not slip forward and you will reduce the impact on your big toe. So trade up a size and take a look at our handy lacing guide to reduce the impact on your big toe.
Are your arches being supported?
It is also wise to have a biomechanical assessment to check for force and pressure patterns within the feet during the gait cycle. Using orthotics to support both your transverse and metatarsal arches will drastically reduce the risk of your big toes being irritated by your trainers.
Athlete’s foot and Fungal infections
Runners are particularly prone to athlete’s foot, largely due to the time they spend in their trainers and the level of heat and sweat (sorry!) generated during prolonged exercise. Athlete’s foot generally takes hold between the 4th and 5th toes, and starts as a dry itching with red pimple rash. Left untreated, it will spread to other areas of the foot (usually where there are any breaks in the skin) and will eventually penetrate the nail, resulting in an unsightly fungal nail infection.
So how can you prevent athlete’s foot taking hold?
I urge all my running clients to understand that healthy feet requires treating their trainers alongside treating any infection on the skin. Placing dry jay cloths in their shoes after training to absorb all dampness, is a really good start to managing shoe cleanliness. Dropping tea tree oil on the jay cloth to kill off any fungal populations before they take hold in the shoe is a gold standard in waging war on fungus. If you spend time in your running shoes daily, make sure you have at least two pairs that you can rotate, allowing them to fully dry out before they are worn again. Once you are on top of your footwear, you can treat the fungal infection with any topical powder, cream or ointment from your pharmacy. And when you are treating your feet, there is only one thing to remember – make sure you treat for the prescribed length of time, even if the infection appears to have cleared. Recurrent athlete’s foot can develop into an ugly fungal nail infection, which requires professional treatment.