The simple running shoe hack for avoiding black nails and blisters

Posted by for Strong Women

Don’t let your trainers rub you up the wrong way – here’s a really simple hack for tying your running shoe laces to avoid blisters, black toe nails and any other potential mishaps. Oh, and it’s great for strength training too because it allows you to tie your shoes tighter, therefore giving you a more sturdy base from which to lift heavy. Win, win.

Hands up if you run and have got umpteen black toenails and the odd blister, or you strength train and struggle to balance in your trainers. Oh, so that would be most of us then. It’s no wonder that so many people either prefer strength training barefoot or swerve off running when our feet look like they’ve done ten rounds with Tyson Fury! Even if you’re wearing a decent pair of runners, it’s not uncommon to lose the odd nail after a long session. 

So, why does it happen – and more importantly, how can we prevent these problems? Black toenails and blisters are caused by repetitive trauma. If you’ve got a shoe issue then every step you take is going to compound that trauma. You need to find out what is causing the problem – your foot or the shoe.

Check your shoes

First things first, just double-check that your shoes do actually fit. You might wear a UK 7 in real life but when running, may need to go up a size. You want to make sure that there’s about a thumb width of space between your big toe and the end of the shoe and that there’s enough space even if you wear thicker running socks.

“Black toes and blisters are a long-known problem in the footwear industry due to two different factors. Back toes come from excessive foot movement inside the shoe resulting in your toes touch the toecap, step after step. Blisters, on the other hand, are due to friction inside the shoe on your skin, coming from the action of the shock and the shoe itself,” explains Hugo Chouissa, EMEA footwear merchandiser at Brooks Running. “Both factors result either from a shoe which is not adapted to the individual foot shape or due to a shoe that is not fitting, especially a shoe that is too long or too short.”

Hugo’s answer very much lies in the type of shoe you’re wearing. You want to find a shoe that delivers a sock-like fit, hugging the foot gently and offering an efficient lock around the midfoot which will stop it from moving back and forth. Trainers that have a seamless bootie will also avoid any added blister-causing friction from arising. But if you still don’t think it’s your shoe that’s to blame, then there are a couple of more options.

How about your toenails?

One common issue is having long toenails or badly cut toenails. If, for example, you’ve got your nails so that you’ve got a little sharp edge to them, that might lead to blisters building up around the nail tip on each side. If they’re so long that they protrude over the tip of your toe, then they might eat into the precious space between your foot and the tip of the shoe. Make sure that you cut your nails before runs and that they’re rounded off so that you don’t have any sharp points.

Re-tie your laces

Whether you’re running or strength training, you want to make sure that your shoes are tied tightly enough to avoid any slipping and sliding. One cause of blistered and black nails is the continuous bashing up against the shoe side. If your feet are held in place throughout the exercise, there’s going to be much less of that going on.

How to tie your laces:

  1. Start with your laces tied up until the penultimate hole.
  2. Take the right lace and create a loop by putting the lace end into the last hole on the right side – so it goes from the penultimate to the final hole. The lace should now appear under the flap.
  3. Now do the same with the left lace – creating that loop.
  4. Take the right lace and thread it through the left hole. 
  5. Thread the left lace through the right hole.
  6. Tighten both laces throughout the shoe. 
  7. Tie as normal.
By creating a loop in your lace, you can hold your foot in place and reduce your risk of niggles
By creating a loop in your lace, you can hold your foot in place and reduce your risk of niggles

You should feel that your foot is more firmly tied toward the ankle, without making your arch or ball of the foot feel overly restricted. Let us know if you try this hack and feel any difference!

It’s worth saying that if you do end up actually losing a nail, be sure to keep your nail bed clean. New nails grow back anywhere from six to eight weeks after trauma so be patient. Run if you’re not in lots of pain or give the running a rest and concentrate on strength training while you wait for your new nail to appear.

Run stronger by encorporating good mornings into your daily regime. They’ll strengthen those all-important glutes and hamstrings:

Ready to take your running up a notch? Join our Strength Training for Runners four week plan to run faster, longer and stronger.

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Miranda Larbi

Miranda Larbi is a freelance fitness and wellness journalist, and qualified personal trainer. When she’s not finding new vegan places to eat, she can be found training for the next marathon or cycling across London on a Tokyo bike.

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