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5 Ways to Prevent a Toenail Falling Off from Running | Runners Toenail Issues

Discovering toenails are falling off from running comes as quite a surprise to most. Many discomforts are expected as mileage increases – like soreness and even chafing – but losing a toenail is not usually one of them.

Why are my toenails falling off?

This is a surprisingly common question for distance runners. When it first happens, runners often assume that an injury caused the nail to fall off – only to be surprised that so many of their running friends have experienced the same thing.

The repeated pressure from running can cause blood blisters to build, or even toenails to thicken, eventually leading to the entire toenail falling off. However, although these issues are fairly common, they are usually a signal that something is a bit off.

Common Runners Toenail Issues

Most runners toenail issues can be grouped in three different categories: thick toenails, bruised toenails, and a toenail falling off. Here are some of the signs of each of these issues, as well as the causes.

Thick Runners Toenail

Thick toenails are common for runners. For non-runners, a thick toenail would usually be the sign of a fungal infection. However, runners can sometimes experience thick toenails simply due to the repeated pressure of the shoe when running.


  • Harder to cut or trim
  • Nail is easy to break
  • Feeling of pressure or pain
  • Easy to lift nail off the nail bed


  • Repeated trauma from running
  • Shoes that don’t fit properly
  • Fungal infection

Most runners get thick toenails due to the repeated pressure from shoes against the nail as they run. However, runners are also more prone to fungal or yeast infections in the toenail from either athlete’s foot that spreads to the toe, or repeated exposure to wet or damp areas in the shoe.

If you think your thick toenails might be a result of a fungal infection, be sure to visit a doctor to determine the type of infection.

Bruised Toenail

Another strangely common issue is a bruised toenail from running. The bruised nail could be the result of a few different causes, but usually results in blood pooling beneath the nail. Some runners notice thick toenails that then eventually develop a bruise as well.


  • Nail becomes thick or raised
  • A dark blue or black spot on the toenail


  • Shoes that don’t fit properly
  • Repeated rubbing or pounding on the toenail
  • A direct injury to the toenail

Bruised toenails from running often continue to get worse with time, until the toenail starts falling off and sometimes remains attached. In many cases, the bruised toenail will resolve itself as the blood blister heals.

However, in a few cases, the blood will need to be drained by puncturing the toenail with a sterilized needle. If you find that your bruise continues to worsen, it might be smart to scale back the mileage or even take some extra days off.

Toenail Falling Off

Discovering a toenail falling off from running usually comes as a bit of a surprise. We expect running to create calluses or blisters, but rarely are we prepared for an entire toenail to detach. Luckily, in most cases, by the time the toenail starts falling off, a new nail is already present underneath.


  • Flimsy or brittle toenail
  • Nail can easily be bent
  • Toenail can be lifted without pain
  • Toenail falling off but is still attached


  • Blood blister or bruise underneath the nail
  • Repeated pressure or rubbing
  • Shoes that don’t fit properly

If you’re dealing with a bruise, thick toenail or an entire toenail falling off, there are a few strategies you can use to help things heal a bit quicker.

How to Treat Thick Toenails from Running

Whether you’re struggling with thick runners toenails or are trying to heal a bruise or toenail falling off, it’s important to treat the problem as soon as it occurs. These strategies can help expedite healing and ensure you are back to training without a future occurrence.

  • Try different running shoes
  • Use lubricant or silicone toe pads
  • Keep toenails short and square
  • Adjust the pressure with different lacing techniques
  • Find moisture-wicking socks

Some runners seem to be more prone to toenails falling off than others. If you’ve dealt with a loose toenail, bruise, or thick toenail, whether just once or consistently, there are a few steps you can take to prevent it from happening again.

Here is what to do if you have a toenail falling off from running, bruised toenail, or thick runners toenail. These 5 tips will help heal and prevent issues in the future.

5 Ways to Prevent a Toenail Falling off from Running

Once your toenail starts falling off, it’s usually too late to do anything about it. However, these 5 strategies will help you prevent reoccurrence and keep your toenails as healthy as possible on the run.

Get fitted for running shoes

The most common cause of bruised nails or toenails falling off is ill-fitting running shoes. More often than not, the style or size of the shoe is causing pressure on the toenail with each step. The best thing runners can do to prevent reoccurrence is to get fitted for running shoes. Have a professional size you, and if possible, try them before you buy.

Regularly trim toenails

Keeping your toenails trimmed short – but not too short – will reduce any extra pressure that could occur from the shoes with each step. Make sure you regularly trim the nails to keep them square and compact.

Completely dry your shoes

Thick toenails can sometimes be caused by a fungal infection that is a result of exposure to moisture. To avoid any chance of this happening, be sure to thoroughly dry your shoes between each wear. Alternate shoes after a rainy run, and check for any residual sweat.

Try skin lubricant on toes

Body Glide can be helpful when it comes to preventing chafing on the body, but it can also be helpful if you are dealing with a rubbing problem from the socks or shoes. Try applying a small amount to the toe to keep things moving during the run.

Treat problems as soon as they arise

While these steps will help prevent toenail issues from occurring, they won’t guarantee that you’re in the clear. If you notice a bruise, thick toenail or the start of a toenail falling off, don’t wait to treat it. Take action immediately to ensure the problem doesn’t worsen.

Toenail problems certainly aren’t the most fun to deal with, but luckily, they are usually fairly easy to treat. Pay attention to your foot health during training, and take the necessary steps to ensure your feet stay clean and healthy.

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