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What Is Jogger's Toe, And Could Your Running Socks Be Causing It?

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Running is one of your main ways to exercise, and you really enjoy doing it, but it's causing some problems with your feet. You might have experienced blisters, calluses or ingrown toenails, or -- if you're really unlucky -- an irritating condition known as jogger's toe. 

What is Jogger's Toe?

Jogger's toe, formally called subungual hematoma, happens to your big toe and second toe when you take part in exercise where you move a lot, like running, tennis or soccer. 

First, your two toes begin to get red and swell a bit. This is known as erythema and edema, respectively. In more advanced cases, the area beneath the toenails becomes bruised, blood begins to collect under the nail and the nail begins to separate from the nail bed, which can be somewhat painful.

Simply getting a blackened toenail from running does not necessarily mean you have a subungual hematoma. Black toenails without pain are somewhat common, especially for runners who cover longer distances. Less than 1 in 100 runners actually experiences true jogger's toe.

What Causes Jogger's Toe?

Podiatrists have long suspected that this malady is caused by wearing constricting footwear. When your foot moves forward in your shoe, the two longest toes slam against the end or sides, and the repeated trauma causes erythema, edema and the subungual hematoma. This can be made worse if you run downhill frequently or if you play a sport like tennis where you are often stopping suddenly.

If you are a runner or you participate in active sports, make sure you wear a shoe that has a large enough toe box to give your toes plenty of room. You should also keep your toenails trimmed short and check them regularly to make sure there are no signs of a ingrown nail or infection.

How is Jogger's Toe Treated?

Podiatry services can help treat your case of jogger's toe by relieving the irritation and pain and getting you back on the road to running or sports more quickly.

Your podiatrist will typically drill a small hole in the nail that will let the blood beneath drain properly and permit healing of the bruised area. In some cases, the doctor may remove the toenail to relieve the pressure. 

Could Your Socks Be Playing a Role in Causing Jogger's Toe?

Recently, some podiatrists have begun to think that the type of socks you wear might cause or exacerbate jogger's toe. Socks are ideal for helping to absorb shock and pad your foot; one study even proved that a person wearing padded socks absorbs 32 percent less pressure than someone who is barefoot.

In addition, some sock materials and construction do a better job of cushioning the foot than others. Synthetic fiber socks, like acrylic, are better able to cushion the foot compared to all-cotton socks. Plus, the synthetic fibers wick away moisture, which may otherwise be absorbed by the sock and lead to issues with its fit and cushioning ability.

Talk to a local podiatrist (such as Aiken Maurice W, DPM PA) about any issues you are having while running. Your doctor can help you avoid having minor injuries become major ones, and can suggest products that can help cushion and protect your feet while exercising.