Losing Toenails Running: A Runners Rite of Passage?

Running Losing Toenails

While working at a running store, I’ve learned a lot…

I’ve learned there are various methods of tying shoes…

I’ve learned there are multiple designs of shoes and brand models and the fit of each…

I’ve learned while a shoe might be great for some people, it might be awful for others.  Internet reviews can tell you a lot about a shoe, but no two people have the same feet.  In fact, each person’s feet are not identical.

I’ve learned information that has helped my running and I’ve learned information that helps people who walk through the doors.  Ultimately my job is to help people. My job doesn’t revolve around my running; it revolves around other people’s running.

One of the most interesting things I’ve learned is no matter the distance or amount you run; you should not be losing toenails running. Runners losing toenails is a sign the shoe is too small.

Read that again: Runners losing toenails is a sign the shoe is too small.

Toenail loss isn’t a sign of good running or training.  It’s not a runner’s “rite of passage”.  You are not a real runner once your feet are nasty.

Losing toenails running is a sign the shoe is not fitting you well.

When you lose toenails running, it generally means the shoe is either too narrow or too short.  The top of your toenail is jamming up against the shoe.  It means there isn’t enough space in the top of the shoe.  Your toes usually turn black and blue, and then your toenail falls off.

It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go longer in a running shoe, losing toenails running means your shoe might be too narrow or the toe box or front of the shoe doesn’t match the shape of your foot.

Think about it this way: if you continue to punch your arm, it will bruise.

If your toenails continue to jam against the top of the shoe, they will bruise and eventually fall off.  When you think about it, you are jamming your toenails against the shoe hundreds or even thousands of times per run.  With long runs, and longer distances, your feet swell more. That is why many runners doing distance running, lose their toenails.

Most people lose their biggest toe or second toenail (depending on which toe is longer).  If the shoe is not wide enough you lose your pinkie toe.With injured toenails, you are more likely to get a fungal infection.

Signs your running shoe is too small: 

Bruised, black toenails, and losing toenails running..

Toes being numb or tingling…(if your toes go numb the toe box is generally too narrow) 

The lateral side of your shoe gets a hole in it (the shoe is too narrow)

So how do you solve the problem of losing toenails running? 

You should always go up a half size from your “normal” size. For instance, I wear a size 9 regular shoe. I wear a 9.5 or even 10 wide running shoe. My foot can breathe and my toes can splay the entire time. You should be able to wiggle your toes before, during and after the run.

The shoe might seem a little “big” at first, but it’s not going to fall or slide off.  It’s always better to go up half a size versus cramming your foot into a smaller shoe.  You usually cause far more issues by a too small of shoe, like losing toenails running. Having a shoe slightly big rarely causes problems.

Question for you:

Have you ever lost toenails running? 

What running shoe do you currently wear?