Ingrown toe nails and runners

Causes and treatment for ingrown toe nails

Ingrown toe nails can be a curse for the runner. They occur when the nail starts to grow into the surrounding skin, and are often extremely painful, especially if infection sets in. For runners, ingrown toe nails are often more than an irritant, and can lead to an enforced break from running. Here's the realbuzz.com guide on dealing with ingrown toe nails.

Causes of ingrown toe nails

Ingrown toenails develop for many reasons:

  • In some cases the condition is congenital, i.e. you may just be predisposed to developing them.
  • Often trauma, like stubbing a toe or having you toe stepped on, can jam the nail into the skin.
  • Repeated pounding from running or other sports can also cause ingrown toe nails.
  • Cutting toenails incorrectly can also cause ingrown toe nails as a poorly cut nail will often re-grow into the skin. To avoid ingrown toenails, the nail should be cut straight across so that the nail corner is visible.
  • Wearing tight shoes or socks can make the problem worse.

It is common for people to have mild symptoms of an ingrown toenail for weeks or even months, and this can be manageable, but once the skin is opened an infection can set in. Bacteria may enter the skin at that point next to the nail, and there it will thrive in what is a warm and moist environment. Once an infection sets in, treatment with antibiotics is usually necessary.

Treatment for ingrown toe nails

In the early stages, it is possible to do some home treatment for an ingrown toenail. This involves soaking the toe in warm salt water for 20 to 30 minutes four times a day.

You can also relieve pressure by cutting back the nail, but be careful not to make the problem worse by irritating the wound or cutting the nail at an angle that will cause it to grow back into the skin. A podiatrist would be best placed to do this correctly.

You can also reduce your chances of infection by applying an antibiotic such as neosporin. Choice of footwear is also important, and wearing an open-toe shoe will help ease pressure on the toe.

The best advice though is if an infection sets in you really should seek advice from your GP rather than trying to deal with it yourself, which may only result in you having a longer lay off from running than it really should have been.

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