Toenails, who needs them?

A friend posted to Facebook this week about losing a toenail. Actually, it’s a friend who may be familiar to readers of this blog since Shannon guest posted here about the walk that caused the toenail crisis.

Here’s the post: Lessons From Spinoza

Here’s her Facebook status: “Ew ew ew!!! What the cuss?? One of my toenails just fell off, painlessly and out of the blue. I’m like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly. It’s horrifying! I think it’s related to the Spinoza walk. That was the toe that suffered the second most pain and swelling. I’m a little worried now that the toe that was the worst will soon go Goldblum on me too.

Many of us replied with stories of our own toenail losses. I lose one, the same one, pretty much once a year. It’s like having fallen off once it’s less attached to the idea of remaining part of my body. The process started with cross country skiing but now anything can set it off. I feel like I could look at this toenail the wrong way it would turn blue begin the great separation.

I told Shannon that endurance runners often get rid of their toenails to avoid this problem. Toenails are sensitive creatures and it turns out we don’t really need them. I’m not tempted to get the full set lopped off but this one non-committed toenail may face that fate in the future. It doesn’t hurt except when it’s in the process of falling off and getting caught on things but it is messy and annoying.


And ultramarathoners have their battered toenails surgically removed — for good. … or maybe even 5 percent are permanently removing their toenails.

“Runners who don’t want to contend with constantly bruised, ingrown and lost toenails sometimes have them removed permanently.”

““A lot of runners have problems with their feet,” explains Ulrich. “They get black toe, which is when you get a blister under the toenail and, in a few days, the toenail simply falls off.” Back in the mid-’90s, Ulrich never had more than three or four toenails at a time. “They were always in the process of falling off and growing back. And they were more bothersome every time they’d come back,” he says. So Ulrich decided he didn’t need them anyway. He asked a doctor if removing them was a possibility. It was.”




8 thoughts on “Toenails, who needs them?

  1. My partner often gets black toe from marathon training. For some reason the whole toenail thing grosses me out, more than bleeding nipples, chaffed thighs, funky crotch or peeing while on a bike.
    It’s is the one thing that causes me to gag. Finally I have a boundary!

  2. I have one toenail that goes black and falls off during marathon training. It’s never a different toenail, always that one. My husband has about three that he loses on a regular basis. The first time it happened I was horrified but now I’m kind of like “meh.” The same thing is happening regarding blisters, cutting the loose skin and the like. (I haven’t lanced a blister but I’m sure that day is coming.) I guess your tolerance for the various foibles of the human body increases the more you are exposed to them.

    1. Yes! Shannon of the lost toenail here. When I did my big Holland walk, lancing and packing (in hiker’s wool) blisters became regular maintenance. I’d have breakfast, perform minor foot surgery and then shove off for the day.

    2. Yes! Shannon of the lost toenail here. During my big Holland walk, lancing and packing blisters just became a regular maintenance thing. Astonishing what we can get used to!

  3. So far I’ve been spared this and thigh chafing, but I’m wondering if that means I’m not training hard enough!

  4. While running has made me an excellent corn peeler(the foot kind), I haven’t yet risen to the ranks of toenail remover. I suspect it’s a status thing among runners-the more missing toenails they sport, the higher up the running chain they’re ranked.

    It explains why I have all mine, anyway.

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