How to stop toenail loss?
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Brad Branan
(bradbranan)

Locale: Sacramento Valley
How to stop toenail loss? on 06/15/2014 13:01:04 MDT Print View

I have a problem I'm sure many others on here have had: Toenail loss.

Last year, I lost a nail on a big toe after a busy season of backpacking and some rock scrambling.

This year, after about 200 miles of backpacking around the Escalante and the Sierra, I'm well on my way to losing the nails for both big toes.

This isn't a big worry of mine, although I'm sure there's some protective function to my toenails that I need. However, I would like to find the culprits. The obvious one is backpacking a lot of miles on hard and steep surfaces. What else might it be? Wrong shoes? Wrong shoe size? I generally wear Solomon trail runners. They seem to fit right. My pack usually weighs far less than 20 pounds.

Brad

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: How to stop toenail loss? on 06/15/2014 13:37:33 MDT Print View

I would love to have your problem.

On longer distance hikes/ runs, my butt chafes like crazy and hurts every step.

A lot of times the reason you may loose your nails is just from the top of your toenail hitting the top of your shoe with each step.
You may not even know or feel it. Like a bruise that occurs on a part of your body that you have no idea how it got there. Your toe will basically develop a bruise under the nail that separates the top layer of skin and thus you nail with it.

Other problems may be the tip of your toe tapping your shoe and will eventually develop a blister under the nail.

Whatever the case, your toe is hitting your shoe in one way or another.
It is mainly just from your stride and you probably can't do anything about it.

A little bigger toe box with better padded sock in the toe area may help?
Salomon's are a very narrow low profile shoe.

Edited by awsorensen on 06/15/2014 13:38:08 MDT.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: How to stop toenail loss? on 06/15/2014 13:38:36 MDT Print View

Bigger shoes. Your feet are swelling and hitting the toes against the front of the shoe.You may be wearing them too loose also.

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: Re: How to stop toenail loss? on 06/15/2014 13:46:18 MDT Print View

+1 to what Ken says. You may need a shoe with a toe box that has more vertical room as well (my big toenails kind of swoop up at the ends and so I need the height in the toe box in order to not bump them).

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: Re: How to stop toenail loss? on 06/15/2014 14:35:30 MDT Print View

Could mean you need bigger shoes or it could mean you need deeper shoes. I have a pair of men's size 8 Keen hiking shoes and just because there is a seam right where my big toe is I lose my toenail. Not only do I have to wear my thinnest socks that don't have a seam on top of the toe, I have resorted to also cutting a hole in the insole so my big toe can sit a little deeper. But it's still not deep enough for my toe. This despite the shoes being floppy loose on my feet.

Brad Branan
(bradbranan)

Locale: Sacramento Valley
That's it on 06/15/2014 15:16:16 MDT Print View

I think the shoe size is the problem. They don't account for swelling on longer trips. Thanks.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: That's it on 06/15/2014 16:02:53 MDT Print View

Depending on what shoe you use, a half or full size larger is normal. With Solomons, I got blisters on my instep. Not good. Just too narrow for hiking...

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: That's it on 06/15/2014 16:17:55 MDT Print View

Sole and/or upper flexibility might be an issue, either normal, or age-weakened. I have a different, but possibly related issue. I have a hammer toe that is a bit higher than the others, and for certain shoes when they flex the top material flexes right at that point and can irritate the top of that toe. It actually got fixed when I added carbon fiber shoe plates - not for that issue, but it was a bonus.

Should be pretty easy to check if your shoes are touching your toe nails during your stride, and where. Deeper as well as stiffer may help.

Edit: Humm, I'm wondering if metatarsal pads might help for this as well. buy some and stick the m on your insole - make sure you put them in the right place behind the ends of the lone bones in you feet. The net result should be the you toes may bend down marginally more during your stride. All things being equal, however, bigger shoes of course.

Edited by millonas on 06/15/2014 17:06:18 MDT.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
sometimes you can't figure it out on 06/15/2014 17:54:42 MDT Print View

I've been losing toenails (big toe, 3rd and 4th toes) during marathon training seasons, backpacking seasons, etc for more than 15 years. I've tried big shoes. Small shoes. Narrow shoes. Wide shoes. Stiff shoes. Soft shoes. Heavy boots. Minimalist runners. Big drop. Little drop. I've given up.

So I just know that they grow, they blister, they fall off...they grow, they blister, they fall off...year after year after year after year.

The only thing I can think of is that I grip the ground with my toes, so no matter what my shoes are doing, I'm crushing my toenails inside anyway.

Every time it happens I just keep hoping they don't grow back because it's really a pain.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: sometimes you can't figure it out on 06/15/2014 18:13:40 MDT Print View

Hi Jennifer

> The only thing I can think of is that I grip the ground with my toes,
I assume you keep those toenails cut really short?
On long trips we carry toenail clippers, and use them once a week. We find it helps - a lot.

Cheers

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: sometimes you can't figure it out on 06/15/2014 18:27:42 MDT Print View

Jen,look like these?

feet

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: sometimes you can't figure it out on 06/15/2014 19:05:50 MDT Print View

Feet are weird. For years I had been getting a painful callus on one of my big toes - so bad that it was really my single most limiting factor. I had assumed the whole time it was the abnormal mechanics of that ankle which is fused due to an injury. So I tried to fix it with shoe stuff - different insoles and mods of insole, different lift shapes, and many different shoes types. Also sanding down the callus. None of it made a really big difference.

Finally I broke down and went to a podiatrist. He didn't really offer any immediate solution, but he did remove the callus from that toe completely. When I got home, even in socks. I could still feel a poking in that spot. Turns out that the callus was being created from a boney protrusion from the INSIDE. I didn't even know there was such a thing! I got it surgically fixed this spring and the problem is finally gone now.

Sometime the problem is on the inside I guess. So Jennifer, perhaps your nails fall out because underneath your true toenail, as pictured in Ken's post, are trying to finally get out.

Edited by millonas on 06/15/2014 19:13:57 MDT.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
EVERY ski season on 06/15/2014 19:15:24 MDT Print View

I lose both big toe nails in the early summer after each ski season. It's another sign ski season is over.

Brad Branan
(bradbranan)

Locale: Sacramento Valley
It's the shoes - I think on 06/15/2014 19:35:54 MDT Print View

I went to the REI. Easy answer, right? But the wrong one? The foot guru really seemed to know his stuff. I clearly do not. I have been buying shoes that fit. You don't want shoes that "fit" when you have been living domestically. He said hikers on the PCT generally buy shoes up to two sizes too big. I'm not sure how that works, because then you are sure to get blisters and I'll lose a toenail before I get big blisters, anyway. So I ordered La Sportiva Ultra Raptors roughly a size too big for longer hikes. He said tie them with a surgeon's knot and they won't slip. Finally that fly fishing training is paying off!

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: It's the shoes - I think on 06/15/2014 21:44:58 MDT Print View

I get blisters on my toes and heel sometimes. The last few years. Doesn't seem like I used to. No big deal though.

I have been wearing size 12.

The shoe machine says I'm size 12.

The shoe guy at REI said I should get size 13.

I've tried size 13 on one trip. A little spot on one heel but seems to be better.

I need to do a few more trips.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: It's the shoes - I think on 06/15/2014 22:51:33 MDT Print View

> He said hikers on the PCT generally buy shoes up to two sizes too big. I'm not sure
> how that works, because then you are sure to get blisters
Well, two sizes is pretty generous, but ... if the measurement was done on bare feet and then you wear thick wool socks - sounds fair enough. Can't see why you should get blisters that way - not with good wool socks.

Thing is, not only can your feet swell up after a few days, but on something as long as the PCT your feet can actually GROW a size. Dunno how, and lots of competant people have assured me it is impossible, but mine grew at least a full size on one 2 month European walk. I was about size 9 when I left home; I returned size 10. My wife had the same growth. Both of us had to buy new larger shoes during the trip. And the growth has remained for both of us. (Never mind the orthopedic theory: measure the feet!)

Cheers

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: It's the shoes - I think on 06/16/2014 19:55:33 MDT Print View

Where is this magic REI where people actually know about the PCT and about how to properly buy big shoes for hiking?

Brad Branan
(bradbranan)

Locale: Sacramento Valley
Sac on 06/17/2014 14:22:49 MDT Print View

Ha! Sacramento. This guy could give a graduate seminar on feet, hiking and shoes. He explained the evolutionary purpose of toenails - traction when we did not wear shoes. He explained the key properties of shoe fit - length, width and volume. He apparently does a lot of heavy duty hiking himself. I have to confess that I am loath to buy anything in a store, always in search of a better deal online. I realize I'm cheating myself on experience. (However, I did take his advice and use it to buy online, even though I know it would have been smarter to buy there with the lifetime guarantee.)

Larry Swearingen
(Larry_Swearingen) - M

Locale: NE Indiana
Toenails ? on 06/17/2014 14:41:08 MDT Print View

Boy ! I'd hate to see anybody's Toenails that would contribute to Traction.
Yuck !

Larry

Barry P
(BarryP) - F

Locale: Eastern Idaho (moved from Midwest)
Re: How to stop toenail loss? on 06/17/2014 16:50:07 MDT Print View

It may seem ironic. I have never seen a toe loss with open toe sandals. I hike with a lot of buddies and family that wear sandals. ---And I hike with shoe and boot lovers. They are the only ones I’ve seen with blackened toenails and loss.

Sandals are an answer to most foot ailments. I’ve written more in my gear list about it.

Up in the mountains here I love my sandals on scree. It’s a foot massage paradise. Or if I see a jutting rock coming up, I adjust my stride to step on it and balance for a second. It feels like marbles massaging my arch and takes the tension out of the foot. These massages allow me to lengthen my walking day. My boot buddies (after 15 miles) scream when they step on a protruding rock and try to avoid them at all costs.

-May everyone find their sole.
-Barry
-The mountains were made for Tevas