Fungal Nails In Runners
Running provides the ultimate environment for the development of fungal nail infections. If you’ve been running for a while, it’s safe to say your nails have probably surprised you on at least one occasion post-run! So, tell us! Were your nails black, brown, yellow or just no longer attached to the nail bed when you pulled off those socks?
First things first, a black nail doesn’t always predispose to fungal infection. More often than not, a black nail is the result of trauma to the nail bed; a constant pressure and friction that results in bruising and pigment changes (due to bleeding) beneath the nail plate. Running can give your nails a good hammering if your footwear fit is compromised and/or your nails are not maintained at a short enough length. Whilst we ask you not to panic if your nail turns black, keep in mind that permanent changes to nail growth can result from the nail bed and nail plate trauma so alleviating the cause early on is best for the long-term health and cosmetic appearance of your nails.
TIP 1: We suggest being professionally fitted for shoes by your local footwear specialist. Shoes that fit poorly can contribute to continuous nail trauma.
TIP 2: Ensure your nail length is well maintained - ensure that the distal tip of the nail does not protrude over the fleshy tissue at the end of your toes.
So what about the other colours of the nail rainbow you ask? Brown, black, grey, yellow, white….a mixture of all!? When we run, we enclose our feet in sweaty, moist, dark shoes and socks - exactly what is needed for the ignition of a fungal infection! If we already have a history of or active nail trauma where the skin-nail junction or natural nail barrier is disrupted, we allow a portal of entry for fungal spores to set up camp. Fungal spores chew through the toenail, separating the layers of keratin causing the nail to become discoloured, crumbly, thickened, fragile, flakey and in some cases, odorous. Keep in mind that once the infection is present in one nail, it can be spread to the skin and to other nails too! Unfortunately, fungal nail infections can be tricky to treat and virtually never resolve on their own. Therefore, prevention is generally considered better than cure!
TIP 3: Wear moisture-wicking socks and change twice daily in warm temperatures. Socks made from natural fibres including bamboo and wool, or synthetic fibres including polyester and nylon.
TIP 4: Do not wear nail polish for extended periods of time. Ideally, nail polish should be removed after a few days.
TIP 5: Mix up your footwear - avoid wearing the same shoes on consecutive days. Ensure your shoes have completely dried out before running in them again. Always wear footwear in communal areas - for example, thongs at the swimming pool!
TIP 6: Maintain good foot health hygiene - dry thoroughly between toes before wearing socks. Treat any underlying fungal skin infections which have the potential to infect the nail plate.
So how can we best assist you to treat fungal nails at Melbourne Podiatry Clinic? Current treatments range from topical regimes where medications are applied directly to the nail plate or the prescription of oral medications. We can combine these treatment measures with a reduction of non-viable nail tissue using sterile equipment within the clinic. If you’re concerned that you may have a fungal nail infection, treat it sooner rather than later! Come in and have a chat with us about the best way to manage your particular presentation.
Written by our podiatrist, Tegan Sipthorp