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Runners: How To Avoid Losing Your Toenails (and what to do if they do fall off!)

Jul 7, 2021 | Featured, Kit, Running | 11 comments

How to avoid losing your toenails

I could feel it going.

It had turned black a few weeks (or was it months?) ago and I knew it was going to go eventually.

However I’d ignored the situation.

And now, with only four days until I walk down the aisle as my friend’s bridesmaid, I have lost it.

My little toenail is gone.

This kind of occurrence is not uncommon amongst runners, particularly those that have a marathon or two under their belts. This nail is the fourth I’ve lost in the four years since running my first marathon – luckily it’s never been a big one!

So how do we avoid making our already mangled feet that little bit uglier and keep all ten toenails in tact, and what do we if/when we do lose them


How to avoid losing your toenails

How to avoid losing your toenails 

I swear by Gel or Shellac nail varnish to provide an extra layer of protection to my nails. They strengthen and harden them, plus it definitely helps to have a pop of colour to draw the eye away from the callouses and corns.

Make sure to trim your toenails regularly, and if possible, go for pedicures every month of so to really look after your feet.

Moisturise your feet regularly, including your toenails – coconut oil does the trick.

Get shoes that fit, too small and your feet with touch the end, too big and you could slide around hitting the top of the shoe as you run. Ensure the toe box is large enough – the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 have a cushioned, wide toe area that’s perfect for my long runs. It’s not enough just to have the right running shoes, take a closer look at the pair you stuff your feet in to everyday for work – are they really doing your feet any favours

Wear proper cushioned running socks, adding an extra layer of protection between your feet and your shoes/the pavement.

How to avoid losing your toenails

What to do if/when you do lose a toe nail 

If you feel a toenail start to loosen – do not pull it off. Infact I stick my toenails down with plasters for as long as I can to encourage something to grow beneath the flappy bit of nail. This worked a treat with my first two nails, by the time they fell of there were baby nails forming and I didn’t look like an extra from Game of Thrones.

Alternatively you could just wear a plaster over the toe until a new one grows in – the funkier the plaster, the better!

Don’t pull off the nail until it is ready – you could end up pulling it prematurely out of the nail bed which is excruciating. Wait until it literally falls off, or trim it back with nail clippers.

Paint your foot where the toe would be. (Considering this for Saturday’s wedding)

Cover your feet… lets face it, Summer won’t be around for long in the UK anyway.

Runners out there – have you ever lost a toenail from training/racing? What did you do?

Find out here if you should be visiting a podiatrist! 


  1. Abi

    Week 1 of marathon training and I already have two (the ones next to my big toes) that are bruised and turning black. I can’t see them lasting it out to the end!! Ha ha. These are the two which always go first for me unfortunately….

  2. TaleOfTwoRuns

    Week 2 in my marathon training and the one on my little toe is ready to go….. #runnersproblems

  3. knotsinmylaces

    So I am the unfortunate person that has lost both my big toenails and a variety of others, all my nails are also very thick. I am very much a troll. This is not all from running (though the nail loss is), the thickness (sorry, so gross) is from just being clumsy and walking into everything and everything over my 29 years.

    I see a Podiatrist/Chiropodist every month or so. Pricey yes but well worth it. They go much deeper than a pedicure and your feet really do feel much better after, even if you don’t have nail trouble. They also respect that as runners you do need a little bit of toughness on your feet. The last time I went she used a new product on me which built me a toenail and has lasted very well, coming on two months now. This has been a great fix to allow me to wear my (many) pairs of open toe shoes which I usually can’t wear. Check out this link to illustrate my point

    Sorry that is not the nicest photo to look at!

    Feet seem to be a vicious circle for runners. I am extremely self concious about my whole self, running makes me feel better but then my feet make me feel worse. Never ending cycle!

    The main thing is keep running, it does you good on so many levels doesn’t it?

    Great advice on shoes and socks in your post. Thanks so much xx

  4. Mickey

    Don’t worry about loosing smaller toenails – I had both my big toenails removed 3 years ago and they’ll never grow back – my feet are never going to look pretty!

  5. San

    I never had much of a problem with toe nails in my active life, but I mostly played team sports (don’t know how that is different) and I only started having problems with blisters and black toenails when I started running regularly (3+ times a week).
    I also hate that sometimes the nail thickens and I am not really patient with waiting for toenails to fall off. I am definitely trying everything to avoid bummed toe nails.

  6. San

    I’ve only started having problems with black toenails when I started running more regularly (3+ times a week). I definitely try to do everything to avoid it, but it still happens. I also hate when the toe nails thickens a bit as part of the trauma (does that go away again? I hope so.)

  7. San

    Sorry, for the double posting… the first comment didn’t show up initially.

  8. Mary

    I haven’t lost a toenail for several years now (touch wood!) but several were lost in my first year of running. I swear by regularly cutting my nails and finding a set of shoes (my trusty Asics) that fit perfectly.
    Back when I did start losing nails, I used to paint the skin space where the nail would be and nobody ever commented or seemed to notice that I had one missing. When the nails start to turn purple or black before falling off, make sure to cover in black or dark purple nail varnish to do the best job of hiding the changing colour! 😉

  9. Kathy

    I lost my first toenail a few years ago whilst on honeymoon.. Perfect timing! I was weirdly obsessed with its gradual demise and kept showing it to my husband!

  10. Kelly

    I’d also recommend buying your running shoes at a specialty store, particularly one where they have a treadmill or track to analyze your gait. They can also help you select a shoe to avoid the dreaded black toenail. I always purchase running shoes 1/2 -1 size up and haven’t had a problem since!

  11. Matt

    4 days till my first half marathon, my toenail turned black long ago, and when I try to go for a long run, like more than 1 hour, it hurts. I dont know if I can manage to go for my HF, should I cover it by a plaster while running? ’cause I dont really want to give up this race.


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