If you’re an athlete, you know that “practice makes perfect.” Unfortunately, practice also means doing the same thing over and over again. A common sports injury that is the result of repetitious behavior is black toenails. Don’t worry though, it’s a common injury and with a little knowledge and help from Mark Gasparini, D.P.M. you’ll be just fine.

Symptoms of Black Toenails

The most obvious symptom of this condition is a black-ish tinted nail bed. Your toes are usually tender, swollen, and will turn either a purple, black, or maroon color. The color comes from a pool of blood underneath the nail.


There are two different causes with first being trauma. If you stub your toe really hard, drop a heavy object on your foot, or get in a car accident, this is considered an immediate trauma. The second cause is repetitive motions usually acquired from sports training. If you’re a runner training for a downhill course, your toe is continuously hitting the tip of your shoe over and over. This is a progressive trauma. Just hitting your shoe once wouldn’t cause it, but doing it over and over again will.

Common Treatment Methods

If it doesn’t hurt, don’t touch it! It’s likely that the pooled blood will eventually cause the nail to fall off completely. Not to fear, though. The pain will start to go down day-by-day and once it falls off, you’ll grow a new one.

However, if your injury is very painful and severe, it will need the attention of a podiatrist. In this instance, a local anesthetic will be administered and the whole nail will be surgically removed. Your toe will then be washed out to look for possible lacerations that need stitching. Sometimes, you can keep your nail and have the blood drained. The drainage will either take place by cutting a small hole in the nail and draining with a needle; removing the nail, cleaning the toe, and placing the nail back on the foot; or cautery where a hole is burned into your nail until your blood begins to drain.


There’s not much you can do to prevent trauma, except to practice extreme caution when carrying anything heavy. However, for a sports injury, there are some prevention tips you can utilize to make sure you don’t get this condition.

  • Trim your nails regularly.
  • Wear thick, moisture-wicking socks while running.
  • Get shoes that fit properly and do not pinch your toes.
  • Lace the front of your shoes tightly if running downhill.

Black toenails are a common sports injury that isn’t severe—just painful. By following our prevention tips, you can avoid them altogether. If you have this problem and need to see a podiatrist in Massapequa, NY, call Mark Gasparini, D.P.M. at (516) 804-9038 to schedule an appointment. Let us help you have happy and healthy feet all year round!