How Should Runners Deal With A Blister Under Their Toenail?

You’ve heard about the unsightly and painful blisters your running friends have experienced during their years in the sport. But now you’ve got your own, and you aren’t sure how to handle it.

If the blister had appeared on your heel, you’d know exactly what to do. But what do you do when it’s under your toenail?

What You’ll See

Brace yourself — blisters that grow under the toenail are not for the squeamish. Toenail blisters are gross to look at.

There’s no way to sugarcoat how gross they really are. You might not only see a blister under the toenail, but there could be one around the nail, or even the whole tip of the toe.

Your whole toe may be a fluid-filled misshapen mess — and in extreme cases, every one of your toes might have a blister.

Friction is a Runner’s Foe

A blister is caused by friction — in this case, you may have blisters from tight-fitting shoes which repeatedly bang against the end of your toes during your run. That’s when an unpleasant chain reaction occurs.

The friction causes layers of skin to pull apart from each other, which in turn makes fluid collect between the layers. That fluid does serve a purpose other than giving you pain — it protects the tissue underneath the blister from additional damage.

When Things go from Bad to Worse

When you have blisters under your toenail, pain is inevitable. That fluid can only push against the bone underneath it, or the nail above it.

The pushing and pressure create a lot of pain in the sensitive nail area. That is when intense pain can sideline your running until the problem goes away.

What Can You Do to Relieve the Pain?

When you have a blister under your toenail, you have two options — leave it alone and suffer the pain, or drain it.

If you choose to drain the blister in order to reduce the swelling and the pain, tread carefully. If the blister is not drained correctly, you could cause an infection, which could be far worse than simply living with the pain.


Image Source Flickr user Clay Junell

If you decide that you want the blister drained, the safest thing you can do is to have a doctor do it for you. This is especially important when a blister is deep under your toenail. Blisters under the toenails should always be drained with properly sanitized and sterilized needles.

How Can You Prevent Blisters?

Your best bet for banishing blisters forever is to make sure you have running shoes that fit properly. Make sure your shoes aren’t too small or too big — you’ll want to find that perfect Goldilocks zone.

Using the lace/heel lock can help reduce any friction you may experience by running. If that doesn’t work, you can try using blister-resistant socks.

Another prevention measure is using toe spacers while you run. Here’s a set from Runner’s Glory on Amazon that will get the job done.

You should also look at the length of your toenails. While longer toenails might look nicer on women when sandal season comes around, your long toenails might be causing your blister situation.

Shorter toenails might not look as nice in your flip flops as longer ones do, but they’ll certainly look nicer than the unsightly blisters you may give yourself if your toenails are too long.

If nothing seems to help and you continue to get blisters, you might want to consider seeing a podiatrist. You may have a structural abnormality of the foot that could be causing your blisters. Sometimes abnormalities of the foot can be corrected with special inserts or other equipment.

Prevention is the Best Option

If you can help prevent it, you don’t want to end up with blisters under your toenails. By paying a little bit of attention to your running shoes and your feet, you should be able to avoid the majority of these painful nuisances.

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