Toe nails – here today, gone tomorrow

All runners have a foot fetish – no, not that sort – we like checking out each other’s toes to see how many nails are currently attached. Hobbit feet aplenty, runners need happy feet.

Some runners sport naked toes as badges of honour. “Oh I lost these three while running UTMB (Ultra Trail Mont Blanc). It was really bad, the wet caused a blister to form under this one and the nurse had to insert a needle under the nail…” they proudly declare.


Well despite a fair few miles and ultras in questionable ground conditions – I have yet to lose any toe nails. I don’t get blisters either. Why? Well, I’m not really that sure although I think the following helps:
1. I am scrupulous about foot hygiene. I regularly rinse my feet with surgical spirit. As a consequence of too many hours in public swimming baths I know that athlete’s foot isn’t easy to shift once you pick it up. The aim is not to get it in the first place. It’s also an old equine trick to wash alcohol over soft skin to toughen it up and hence prevent saddle sores. Seems to work.
2. I’m pernickety about my socks. There’s strict rotation implemented and once they get crusty, they get binned.
3. I like a roomy shoe. With triangular shaped feet, I search out the shoe which grips my heel but allows my toes to wriggle. My feet swell real easy, going puffy after 90 minutes, and rather than fight it I let them.
4. I’ve got Grecian feet. According to those social media pics, my long slender toes are a typically Adonis shape. While running, I move them around, relaxed on smooth tarmac, sticking up on ascents and gripping while going down. The consequence is that my toes are never in the same spot long enough for friction to build. Wriggle those pinkies!
5. Keeping toe nails ultra short. Ultra running equals ultra short toe nails. Cutting them short doesn’t look pretty but prevents any rubbing.

Post 100km World Champs, I thought the second nail on my right foot was departing…

Post 100km, it looked like this nail was on its way.

Post 100km, it looked like this nail was on its way.



but from a strange purple colour it revived and is back on its way to health.

...but two months later and it's here to stay.

…but two months later and it’s here to stay.




And this probably illustrates the real reason my toe nails hang around – flat nail beds. My toe nails naturally attach to my feet in the ideal plane to grow true. This means they are less likely to get damaged to start with. Once your toe nails are lost they grow back crooked and will always be susceptible to loss – new runners guard your toe nails and give them the care they deserve.

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