How to Avoid Black Toenails while Hiking

How to Avoid Black Toenails while HikingUnwelcome incidences of black toenail are not limited to hiking. Athletes and participants in many sports where repetitive foot strikes occur also face this issue. Toenails that become bruised or blacken are often damaged in a way that causes bleeding under the nail. Pressure from beneath or along the edge of the nail is usually the cause. Making simple adjustments is often all that is required to prevent this temporary, but painful, condition.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Hiking Footwear

Step 1
Check the fit of your boots. Lace up and take a walk. Make sure your feet are not sliding forward in the boot. Check that your toes are not bumping the front of your footwear.

Try on new boots with the socks you plan to wear with them. Thicker socks take up more room inside the toe box.
Step 2
Experiment with your lacing style. Some issues can be corrected with a change in lacing. Tightening certain areas of the boot, lacing all the way up or lacing only midway (wrapping the remaining lace length around the boot) creates an individualized fit and seats your foot more firmly in the boot.
Step 3
Try a trail shoe. Heavy, clunky hiking boots are giving way to versatile trail shoes that combine the best aspects of an athletic shoe with the support of a hiking boot. They are often less expensive, do not require a long break-in period and are said to be more comfortable. They also allow you to be more nimble on your feet, which means you may avoid injury.

Other Contributors

Step 1
Evaluate your choice of socks. If the material causes friction or catches your nails, your socks may be the culprit. Experiment with different brands and styles of socks. Look for a sock that is slip-resistant enough to prevent your foot from sliding inside your shoe, yet devoid of any lining that can snag a nail. If you prefer to wear your favorite socks or have trouble finding the right combination of features, try turning your sock inside out. This puts the pile of thicker socks on the outside, where it can still cushion, but will not rub against your nails.
Step 2
Trim your nails. Longer toenails are more likely to catch and pull than nails trimmed closer to the end of the toe. Establish a routine that includes checking your feet for damage, looking for signs of friction from footwear and properly trimming nails.
Step 3
Avoid downhill stretches. Steep grades and slippery footing can cause your foot to slide forward and press against the inside of your boot. Initially you may not notice the pressure and the damage caused, if you are focused on safely navigating the trail. However, the greater the length of time spent with your foot in that toe-down or pointed toe position, the more likely you will damage a nail, most commonly the big toe.

Tips & Warnings

If you experience repeated issues with a nail or a black nail develops without accompanying trauma, see your doctor.

Article Written By Alice Moon

Alice Moon is a freelance writer with more than 10 years of experience. She was chosen as a Smithsonian Institute intern, working for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and has traveled throughout Asia. Moon holds a Bachelor of Science in political science from Ball State University.

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