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Preventing Black Toe ?

2020 Camino Guides
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015, 2017, 2019) and plans for 2020 (Sept, Oct)
My wife and I have walked three Camino Frances - the full 800 kms, each time Sept - Oct in 2015, 2017 and 2019. We've decided to walk again in 2020 to avoid the Jubilee Year crowds in 2021. The first time we walked CF (Napoleon route), I noticed that my right foot "big toe" had darkened under the nail, which I later learned was "black toe", caused by my toe jamming up against the shoe box during brutal downhill climbs. This was no surprise to me, since we took the forest route down to Roncesvalles. I subsequently lost the toe nail. It was painless and grew back.

During our second camino, we decided to walk the Valcarlos route. I wore the same high top Patagonia boots. Same outcome. Black toe on right foot big toe.

For our third camino, I was determined to study up on how to prevent black toe. My brother, who is a doctor and hiked with us and his wife on our 2017 camino, bought me "Fixing your Feet" book, which I read cover to cover. I learned the importance of trimming your nails, etc. I even went to have a pedicure (first one in my life!) a week before our third camino. I bought a pair of Merrell Moab high top hiking shoes and broke these in before the camino. My wife and I walked the Valcarlos route again. I wore two pairs of socks (liners and merino wool), and wrapped my big toes in lambs wool and paper tape. And each camino we've used trekking poles and walked slowly during steep downhill climbs.

Guess what? Got black toe again - this time even worse. Within a few days, it was clear I had black toe on both big toe nails. One developed a severe blister at the bottom of the nail and I started taking an antibiotic since it looked nasty and I was afraid it would become infected (it did not). Mid-way through our camino, I noticed that the nails on the adjacent toes (next to big toe) on both feet had become dark. Now that I'm home, two nails have come off, and two others I'll lose soon.

My wife has not had black toe problems on any of our three caminos. If anyone has suggestions regarding how to reduce chances of developing black toe, I would love any and all advice. Otherwise, I'll counsel myself that black toe is my own genetic deficiency and an inevitable but painless casualty of walking the camino.

Gracias ! Bob
 

Karl Oz

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances
Portuguese
Aragones
Sanabres
Piamonte
Elizabethpfad
I suffered it on a toe for the first time on the Camino Sanabres in May this year. The old nail is still hanging-on, but I suppose it will depart soon enough. Oh well.
 

gerardcarey

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CFx2, CPx1
I'll leave opinions on brand, size, width, length, toe box, breathe-ability, waterproofing, soles, and other completely necessary considerations, to knowledgeable others, and concentrate instead on lacing.


Regards and best wishes
Gerard
 
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SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999, now living in Santiago de C
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
What you describe is actually a blister growing under the nail until the nail gets detached from its bed. My best bet is that the toe box of your boot/shoe is to high, causing the toe to hit repeatedly against it many times during the day (micro-injury). Cutting the nails and getting a pedicure are fine first steps. Putting padding on top of toe also, but I really would look into a shoe/boot with a smaler, but not too small!, toe box.
BC SY
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF September (2019) SJPP to Logrono
CF May/June (2020) Logrono to ?
I agree with lacing too, I also agree with trimming toe nails. I suffered black toe during training for CF and had to cut my nails afterwards (I didn’t bother before then, specifically for hiking, I mean).

I also realised my feet were slipping forward in my walking boots when walking downhill, and I learnt to retighten my boots after a couple of minutes walking.

That worked for me, none since 👍
 

ranthr

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C Frances 2005, 2007
Le Puy en Velay -SdC 2009
Via de la Plata 2011
gr 653 from Oloron to Puente la Reina 2012
Gr65 from le Puy to Figeac 2013
Irun to Santander 2013
Porto to SdC 2014
Astorga to SdC 2015
My son who educate physioterapists once taught me about some muscels just inner from your toes that you can train to raise individuall when you go down, to avoid pushing your toes against the front of hour shoe. Have worked for me.No more black toenails like on my first caminos.
 

omar504

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016,2017,2018
I've had this too..this year the nail came off and is slowly growing back but the area at the front has calloused over whilst the nail is only half grown..not sure what will happen when it meets the fleshy growth which is higher than where the nail is growing. I assumed it was too tight boots as, like most people, I have one foot slightly longer than the other and it only effects the longer fooyt
 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2017)
Frances(2018)
Ingles(2019)
Aragones(2020)
Portuguese(2020)
My wife and I have walked three Camino Frances - the full 800 kms, each time Sept - Oct in 2015, 2017 and 2019. We've decided to walk again in 2020 to avoid the Jubilee Year crowds in 2021. The first time we walked CF (Napoleon route), I noticed that my right foot "big toe" had darkened under the nail, which I later learned was "black toe", caused by my toe jamming up against the shoe box during brutal downhill climbs. This was no surprise to me, since we took the forest route down to Roncesvalles. I subsequently lost the toe nail. It was painless and grew back.

During our second camino, we decided to walk the Valcarlos route. I wore the same high top Patagonia boots. Same outcome. Black toe on right foot big toe.

For our third camino, I was determined to study up on how to prevent black toe. My brother, who is a doctor and hiked with us and his wife on our 2017 camino, bought me "Fixing your Feet" book, which I read cover to cover. I learned the importance of trimming your nails, etc. I even went to have a pedicure (first one in my life!) a week before our third camino. I bought a pair of Merrell Moab high top hiking shoes and broke these in before the camino. My wife and I walked the Valcarlos route again. I wore two pairs of socks (liners and merino wool), and wrapped my big toes in lambs wool and paper tape. And each camino we've used trekking poles and walked slowly during steep downhill climbs.

Guess what? Got black toe again - this time even worse. Within a few days, it was clear I had black toe on both big toe nails. One developed a severe blister at the bottom of the nail and I started taking an antibiotic since it looked nasty and I was afraid it would become infected (it did not). Mid-way through our camino, I noticed that the nails on the adjacent toes (next to big toe) on both feet had become dark. Now that I'm home, two nails have come off, and two others I'll lose soon.

My wife has not had black toe problems on any of our three caminos. If anyone has suggestions regarding how to reduce chances of developing black toe, I would love any and all advice. Otherwise, I'll counsel myself that black toe is my own genetic deficiency and an inevitable but painless casualty of walking the camino.

Gracias ! Bob
Your shoes were not sized properly for distance walking/ hiking, Bob. :)

The most important theme for achieving a proper fit is: You do not choose a shoe based on measurements, you buy a shoe based on its Fit N Feel regardless of instrument measurements.
  1. When you go to the store, do so toward the end of the day.... you will have been up on your feet, so that will help with getting the correct fit. Additionally, you will need to wear the same backpack with the same gear you will be carrying... you want this additional weight on you as this will put the same downward pressure on the foot that you will be having while on Camino.
  2. Wear the exact same sock(s) you will be wearing while you are walking on the Camino. And if you have a special insole or orthotic, bring it with you.
  3. At the store, the measuring that will be done on your feet is only to get you in the ballpark for the correct shoe size.
  4. Start by standing up; never measure while sitting. You want the full weight of your body, with the pack on, to put the same pressure on your feet to spread them out as will happen while walking. That alone will increase the volume and size of your feet.
  5. Make sure those 'Camino' socks are on your feet; if you wear socks with liners while walking, do the same thing at the store.
  6. While standing, have someone near to you that you can use to steady yourself. With the measuring device on the ground, step onto the instrument and center all of your weight onto the foot being measured. Do the same for the other foot.
  7. Start with that size, but be aware that both the width and the length need to feel like there is adequate room for your feet. Ideally, like Goldilocks, everything will be just right. But, don't count on it. Be picky.
  8. If you have special insoles or orthotics, put them into any shoe you try on as they will take up space inside the shoe.
  9. When you find what you think will fit you well, you will need to see if your toes have enough clearance. Toes should not be able to be forced to the front of the shoe and touch the shoe. Not even a little. If they do, long walking and downhill grades on the trail or path or road will traumatize the bed of the nail, and that is when toenails can blacken and fall off.
  10. With your shoes tied securely, but not too tight, walk around the store with your pack on. Go up stairs and down stairs, scuff the shoes to the floor so that your feet are forced to do any movement they will do and see if your toes so much as butterfly kiss the front of the shoe. Kick the front of the shoe into a post or stair or wall or someone's shin.... does that make any of your toes touch the front of the shoe? That goes for all the little piggies.
  11. Next, pay attention to the width of the shoe. It shouldn't feel snug on the sides and there should be no rubbing or pressure points at all. They will not go away with "break in". They will create soreness, pain, and blistering. Even if it seems to be tolerable, it is like water torture; as your feet are continually exposed to those pressure points your feet will break down against them bit by bit, and bruising, blisters, and soreness will follow.
  12. You may need to go up a size. . . or even more. . and go with a wider width to avoid those things I mentioned above. The notion that one avoids blisters by wearing snug footwear has been shown to do just the opposite.
 

Bob Howard

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2016
Frances 2018
Your shoes were not sized properly for distance walking/ hiking, Bob. :)

The most important theme for achieving a proper fit is: You do not choose a shoe based on measurements, you buy a shoe based on its Fit N Feel regardless of instrument measurements.
  1. When you go to the store, do so toward the end of the day.... you will have been up on your feet, so that will help with getting the correct fit. Additionally, you will need to wear the same backpack with the same gear you will be carrying... you want this additional weight on you as this will put the same downward pressure on the foot that you will be having while on Camino.
  2. Wear the exact same sock(s) you will be wearing while you are walking on the Camino. And if you have a special insole or orthotic, bring it with you.
  3. At the store, the measuring that will be done on your feet is only to get you in the ballpark for the correct shoe size.
  4. Start by standing up; never measure while sitting. You want the full weight of your body, with the pack on, to put the same pressure on your feet to spread them out as will happen while walking. That alone will increase the volume and size of your feet.
  5. Make sure those 'Camino' socks are on your feet; if you wear socks with liners while walking, do the same thing at the store.
  6. While standing, have someone near to you that you can use to steady yourself. With the measuring device on the ground, step onto the instrument and center all of your weight onto the foot being measured. Do the same for the other foot.
  7. Start with that size, but be aware that both the width and the length need to feel like there is adequate room for your feet. Ideally, like Goldilocks, everything will be just right. But, don't count on it. Be picky.
  8. If you have special insoles or orthotics, put them into any shoe you try on as they will take up space inside the shoe.
  9. When you find what you think will fit you well, you will need to see if your toes have enough clearance. Toes should not be able to be forced to the front of the shoe and touch the shoe. Not even a little. If they do, long walking and downhill grades on the trail or path or road will traumatize the bed of the nail, and that is when toenails can blacken and fall off.
  10. With your shoes tied securely, but not too tight, walk around the store with your pack on. Go up stairs and down stairs, scuff the shoes to the floor so that your feet are forced to do any movement they will do and see if your toes so much as butterfly kiss the front of the shoe. Kick the front of the shoe into a post or stair or wall or someone's shin.... does that make any of your toes touch the front of the shoe? That goes for all the little piggies.
  11. Next, pay attention to the width of the shoe. It shouldn't feel snug on the sides and there should be no rubbing or pressure points at all. They will not go away with "break in". They will create soreness, pain, and blistering. Even if it seems to be tolerable, it is like water torture; as your feet are continually exposed to those pressure points your feet will break down against them bit by bit, and bruising, blisters, and soreness will follow.
  12. You may need to go up a size. . . or even more. . and go with a wider width to avoid those things I mentioned above. The notion that one avoids blisters by wearing snug footwear has been shown to do just the opposite.
Yes, the foot needs room. And an expanding foot needs more room. Dead on davebugg.
 

longwayhome

Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJpdP to Santiago ( Sept-Oct 2018)
My wife and I have walked three Camino Frances - the full 800 kms, each time Sept - Oct in 2015, 2017 and 2019. We've decided to walk again in 2020 to avoid the Jubilee Year crowds in 2021. The first time we walked CF (Napoleon route), I noticed that my right foot "big toe" had darkened under the nail, which I later learned was "black toe", caused by my toe jamming up against the shoe box during brutal downhill climbs. This was no surprise to me, since we took the forest route down to Roncesvalles. I subsequently lost the toe nail. It was painless and grew back.

During our second camino, we decided to walk the Valcarlos route. I wore the same high top Patagonia boots. Same outcome. Black toe on right foot big toe.

For our third camino, I was determined to study up on how to prevent black toe. My brother, who is a doctor and hiked with us and his wife on our 2017 camino, bought me "Fixing your Feet" book, which I read cover to cover. I learned the importance of trimming your nails, etc. I even went to have a pedicure (first one in my life!) a week before our third camino. I bought a pair of Merrell Moab high top hiking shoes and broke these in before the camino. My wife and I walked the Valcarlos route again. I wore two pairs of socks (liners and merino wool), and wrapped my big toes in lambs wool and paper tape. And each camino we've used trekking poles and walked slowly during steep downhill climbs.

Guess what? Got black toe again - this time even worse. Within a few days, it was clear I had black toe on both big toe nails. One developed a severe blister at the bottom of the nail and I started taking an antibiotic since it looked nasty and I was afraid it would become infected (it did not). Mid-way through our camino, I noticed that the nails on the adjacent toes (next to big toe) on both feet had become dark. Now that I'm home, two nails have come off, and two others I'll lose soon.

My wife has not had black toe problems on any of our three caminos. If anyone has suggestions regarding how to reduce chances of developing black toe, I would love any and all advice. Otherwise, I'll counsel myself that black toe is my own genetic deficiency and an inevitable but painless casualty of walking the camino.

Gracias ! Bob
I am a stickler for all the above points about generous fit , double layer socks etc , but if your foot moves forward in the footwear it will still strike the toe box thousands of times depending on the descent distance, and you will have Toe Mash. What I do successfully is as follows,
1. wear light weight mid ankle BOOTS
2. lace the boots firmly at the ankle to hold my heel in the back of the shoe where it belongs (see you tube vids and practice). This also protects my damaged ankles.
3. TIGHTEN the laces at the beginning of every descent and check foot position is correct, ie not sliding forward.
4. Wear inner soles with arch support which keep the foot in place.
 

wayfarer

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-Santiago-Finistera-Muxia. April/May 2012
Sarria-Santiago Sept. 2013
SJPP - Almost Orrison April 2014
A quick and easy method to check your shoe size is to push your foot forward in the shoe/boot until your big toe just touches the front of the boot, you should then be able to fit two of your fingers between your heel and the back of the boot. Also check out lacing techniques.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015, 2017, 2019) and plans for 2020 (Sept, Oct)
Thanks for so many helpful comments. Lots for me to consider before our next camino ! Bob
 

easygoing

Camino Sharon
Camino(s) past & future
I have walked the Camino Francis 7 times, twice in 2017 and 2018. (2019)
My wife and I have walked three Camino Frances - the full 800 kms, each time Sept - Oct in 2015, 2017 and 2019. We've decided to walk again in 2020 to avoid the Jubilee Year crowds in 2021. The first time we walked CF (Napoleon route), I noticed that my right foot "big toe" had darkened under the nail, which I later learned was "black toe", caused by my toe jamming up against the shoe box during brutal downhill climbs. This was no surprise to me, since we took the forest route down to Roncesvalles. I subsequently lost the toe nail. It was painless and grew back.

During our second camino, we decided to walk the Valcarlos route. I wore the same high top Patagonia boots. Same outcome. Black toe on right foot big toe.

For our third camino, I was determined to study up on how to prevent black toe. My brother, who is a doctor and hiked with us and his wife on our 2017 camino, bought me "Fixing your Feet" book, which I read cover to cover. I learned the importance of trimming your nails, etc. I even went to have a pedicure (first one in my life!) a week before our third camino. I bought a pair of Merrell Moab high top hiking shoes and broke these in before the camino. My wife and I walked the Valcarlos route again. I wore two pairs of socks (liners and merino wool), and wrapped my big toes in lambs wool and paper tape. And each camino we've used trekking poles and walked slowly during steep downhill climbs.

Guess what? Got black toe again - this time even worse. Within a few days, it was clear I had black toe on both big toe nails. One developed a severe blister at the bottom of the nail and I started taking an antibiotic since it looked nasty and I was afraid it would become infected (it did not). Mid-way through our camino, I noticed that the nails on the adjacent toes (next to big toe) on both feet had become dark. Now that I'm home, two nails have come off, and two others I'll lose soon.

My wife has not had black toe problems on any of our three caminos. If anyone has suggestions regarding how to reduce chances of developing black toe, I would love any and all advice. Otherwise, I'll counsel myself that black toe is my own genetic deficiency and an inevitable but painless casualty of walking the camino.

Gracias ! Bob
Screenshot_20191211-054710.pngI used to get black second toes and since I started wearing these no more black toe. I get it because my second toe is bent and the nail bed hits the bottom of my shoe. Zen toes come in two sizes and I wear the large size on my big toe. Last fall I met a woman with a painful blister under her toe nail and she was able to wear her shoes again when I gave her an extra Zen toe.
 
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Ssamp1109

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
January (2018)
Hello Bob, I found a shoe shop in Pamplona and the owner was very familiar with black toe and its causes. He was a long distance hiker himself who had Camino pilgrims walk past his shop everyday. According to him my knowledge of foot care was sadly wrong. He had me dump my Merrell Moabs as they were too small. They fit perfect in Florida on level ground but not for a February hike in Spain. It seems under the stress of hardcore hiking in Camino conditions a foot swells significantly in size making the toes slam the shoe box. So, one needs to anticipate this and start with a shoe that has ample toe box size. Next, he told me that a persons blood supply to the foot returns to the heart via a system of veins which socks will restrict. His personal choice in hot weather was to wear no socks at all. When he does wear socks they are thin and loose, very loose, even to the point of cutting the the top elastic of the sock. He says that once the blood pools in the feet they sense a shortage of oxygen rich blood and tell the brain of the shortage which has the brain send a message to the heart to pump harder making the situation worse. I walked out of his Pamplona shop in a pair on very thin, light weight running type shoes with a large toe box (shoes too large can be adjusted with inserts/sock; shoes too small are non adjustable) and very loose socks. The new shoes were about $60 us and saved the walk for me as I had not one further issue other then wet feet from the slush. As a side note, my son was in a special operations military unit and he told me that on their 50 K movements through all kinds of conditions most of the guys used running shoes and left the high dollar hiking boots home. Hope this helps.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF April/May 2019
As well as having the correct fitting shoes/boots and lacing them to prevent forward movement, especially on descents, it's very important to have correct fitting socks. Socks that fit too snuggly can also cause toe nail trauma. Also, when putting shoes/boots on make sure that your socks don't get pulled up against your toenails.
 
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Dave C.

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francis (2016)
SJ to Santo Domingo (2017)
Santo Domingo to Fromista (2018)
SJPdP to Burgos (2019)
I love my shoes (Salomon X-Ultra) with one exception. After about 1,800 kilometers on the Camino there is only one re-occurring problem. About two days in I always get a blister forming on my R "pinky" toe. I replace the footbeds often, and I know I need a wider toebox, but I love these shoes. I just put a small bandaid on the toe every morning and walk on.
All the best and hope you find the cure for your problem.
 

Theresa Brandon

Artist, photographer, dreamer
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Inglés (2018), Camino Ingles (from La Coruña, 2019), Camino Portugues (2020)
...I get it because my second toe is bent and the nail bed hits the bottom of my shoe....
I have the same issue with my toe hitting the foot bed, so I will give these a try.
 

Charles Zammit

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
St Jean Pied de Port - Finisterra 2017
GR70 France 2018
Via Francigena 2019
Each time you lose a nail the bed weakens, the new nail is thinner and more susceptible to damage and the cycle persists.
It will be some years, if ever before the damaged nails will become as resilient as they were before injury.
 

Oddyspapa

My soul is staying on the way, always.
Camino(s) past & future
Full CF (May/Jun of 2014, 2018 )
Full CF+Finisterre (2016 May/Jun)
Will go again 2020
I walked CF 3 times and will go 2020 again. Fortunately I never had any blister or black toe, so far. Over the all above suggestion, I'd like add one more tip. You need to adjust the tightness of your shoes from time to time when you walk long day depends on the terrain. I saw lots of people tied their shoes be tighten in the morning and forget about it. In case of uphill or flat, there is no need too be tighten. But in case of downhill, you'd better re-tighten your shoes near ankle area. This will help the toe does not hit the front of shoes in shoe box. I wish you don't have any black toe in 2020 camino.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
I love my shoes (Salomon X-Ultra) with one exception. After about 1,800 kilometers on the Camino there is only one re-occurring problem. About two days in I always get a blister forming on my R "pinky" toe.
It is possible to buy a pair of socks where one is shaped for a right foot and the other for the left foot. This keeps the socks closer to the smaller toes so there is less rubbing than having the shoe pushing excess sock material against the small toe. If you don't want to spend the money you could trim and sew an older pair of socks to see if this works for you. I suggest using green thread for the right sock and red for the left (like a boat's running lights).
 

BobM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
V Frances; V Podensis; V Francigena; V Portugues; V Francigena del Sud; Jakobsweg. Jaffa - Jerusalem
I get several black toes on all my long hikes with a pack. Personally, I just tolerate them because although they look unsightly they don't hinder my walking.

All the explanations in this thread make sense, but I would like to add another possibility.

Odd things can happen to the complicated system of muscles, tendons and the like in our feet as we age. "Clawing" is one such phenomenon that might make our some of our toes dig into our boots with each step or maybe even arch into the top of the boot.

If you ever experience unexpected and painful foot cramps at rest or after going to bed, it might give you a clue as to what might be happening as you hike under the load of a pack.

All of these decrepitudes have occurred to me now that I am no longer a downy-faced youth.

Bob M
 

BobM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
V Frances; V Podensis; V Francigena; V Portugues; V Francigena del Sud; Jakobsweg. Jaffa - Jerusalem
. . . .As a side note, my son was in a special operations military unit and he told me that on their 50 K movements through all kinds of conditions most of the guys used running shoes and left the high dollar hiking boots home. Hope this helps.
Porters in the Himalayas have learnt by long experience to do much the same thing.

A porter will typically carry a load of 50kg (very roughly 120 lbs) for a working day. I have occasionally seen porters in Nepal carrying almost double that weight. Under such loads each foot splays markedly as it bears the load momentarily at each step.

The very last thing a porter wants is a boot that would obstruct foot splaying. So they prefer flexible shoes and often sandals rather than 'correct' hiking boots. Such boots have another undesirable effect: they make the feet hot and thereby increase swelling.

Some trekking companies give their porters 'good' hiking boots, which invariably are sold in a local market.

Porters may be poor and sometimes exploited, but they are not stupid.

Bob M
 

Marcus-UK

Old Git
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Ingles (2016) Camino Portuguese (2017) Considering Invierno 2019
During our second camino, we decided to walk the Valcarlos route. I wore the same high top Patagonia boots. Same outcome. Black toe on right foot big toe.


Gracias ! Bob
IMOO the issue "Black Toe" is that the nail bed is bruised by the foot sliding forward and impacting on the boot toecap. Bruised toes were fairly common in my days footslogging in the infantry in mountainous terrain. At the time the standard issue DMS infantry boot was fairly poor quality and not really fit for purpose. The cure for the DMS boot was in how the laces were tied. The lower part of the boot was laced very tightly to constrict the foot moving forward and the top half laced more loosely. This works by spreading the forward movement loading over the top of the foot almost up to the ankle.
If you cannot constrain your foot moving forward in the boot then the boot "Last" is the wrong one for your foot. A combination of using lacing techniques and a custom thermal foot bed packed to the correct height may alleviate problems.
 

Bjarne Rasmussen

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past Camino Frances ( 2016 ), future Via de la Plata ( 2018 )March, April
My wife and I have walked three Camino Frances - the full 800 kms, each time Sept - Oct in 2015, 2017 and 2019. We've decided to walk again in 2020 to avoid the Jubilee Year crowds in 2021. The first time we walked CF (Napoleon route), I noticed that my right foot "big toe" had darkened under the nail, which I later learned was "black toe", caused by my toe jamming up against the shoe box during brutal downhill climbs. This was no surprise to me, since we took the forest route down to Roncesvalles. I subsequently lost the toe nail. It was painless and grew back.

During our second camino, we decided to walk the Valcarlos route. I wore the same high top Patagonia boots. Same outcome. Black toe on right foot big toe.

For our third camino, I was determined to study up on how to prevent black toe. My brother, who is a doctor and hiked with us and his wife on our 2017 camino, bought me "Fixing your Feet" book, which I read cover to cover. I learned the importance of trimming your nails, etc. I even went to have a pedicure (first one in my life!) a week before our third camino. I bought a pair of Merrell Moab high top hiking shoes and broke these in before the camino. My wife and I walked the Valcarlos route again. I wore two pairs of socks (liners and merino wool), and wrapped my big toes in lambs wool and paper tape. And each camino we've used trekking poles and walked slowly during steep downhill climbs.

Guess what? Got black toe again - this time even worse. Within a few days, it was clear I had black toe on both big toe nails. One developed a severe blister at the bottom of the nail and I started taking an antibiotic since it looked nasty and I was afraid it would become infected (it did not). Mid-way through our camino, I noticed that the nails on the adjacent toes (next to big toe) on both feet had become dark. Now that I'm home, two nails have come off, and two others I'll lose soon.

My wife has not had black toe problems on any of our three caminos. If anyone has suggestions regarding how to reduce chances of developing black toe, I would love any and all advice. Otherwise, I'll counsel myself that black toe is my own genetic deficiency and an inevitable but painless casualty of walking the camino.

Gracias ! Bob
I think it's because you need to go up a size of your footwear, that has worked for me. Best regards from Bjarne.
 

Fresco

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances. 2016. Frances to Leon and then Primitivo 2019
My wife and I have walked three Camino Frances - the full 800 kms, each time Sept - Oct in 2015, 2017 and 2019. We've decided to walk again in 2020 to avoid the Jubilee Year crowds in 2021. The first time we walked CF (Napoleon route), I noticed that my right foot "big toe" had darkened under the nail, which I later learned was "black toe", caused by my toe jamming up against the shoe box during brutal downhill climbs. This was no surprise to me, since we took the forest route down to Roncesvalles. I subsequently lost the toe nail. It was painless and grew back.

During our second camino, we decided to walk the Valcarlos route. I wore the same high top Patagonia boots. Same outcome. Black toe on right foot big toe.

For our third camino, I was determined to study up on how to prevent black toe. My brother, who is a doctor and hiked with us and his wife on our 2017 camino, bought me "Fixing your Feet" book, which I read cover to cover. I learned the importance of trimming your nails, etc. I even went to have a pedicure (first one in my life!) a week before our third camino. I bought a pair of Merrell Moab high top hiking shoes and broke these in before the camino. My wife and I walked the Valcarlos route again. I wore two pairs of socks (liners and merino wool), and wrapped my big toes in lambs wool and paper tape. And each camino we've used trekking poles and walked slowly during steep downhill climbs.

Guess what? Got black toe again - this time even worse. Within a few days, it was clear I had black toe on both big toe nails. One developed a severe blister at the bottom of the nail and I started taking an antibiotic since it looked nasty and I was afraid it would become infected (it did not). Mid-way through our camino, I noticed that the nails on the adjacent toes (next to big toe) on both feet had become dark. Now that I'm home, two nails have come off, and two others I'll lose soon.

My wife has not had black toe problems on any of our three caminos. If anyone has suggestions regarding how to reduce chances of developing black toe, I would love any and all advice. Otherwise, I'll counsel myself that black toe is my own genetic deficiency and an inevitable but painless casualty of walking the camino.

Gracias ! Bob
I hiked about 700 miles this summer in Scotland and the El Camino Frances and Primitivo. Recommend you try Altra Trail Runner shoes sized 1.5 sizes bigger than normal and Injinji toe socks. They worked perfectly 👍 for me.
 

YMMV

Your Mileage May Vary
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (Planning for April 2020)
FWIW, I've run seven marathons, including Boston on a couple of occasions. Most marathoners, including myself, have experience with black toes and losing toe nails and soon learn they need to choose a wider toebox or larger shoe size.

That's because feet "grow" and change shape while preparing for a marathon.

I've done plenty of weekend hikes and backpacking trips, but this will be my first Camino so I don't have first hand knowledge with extended hiking, but I would be surprised if the same principals don't apply to hikers covering long miles, day in, day out.

Feet can lengthen and widen a full shoe size, sometimes more, while marathon training. That's because they flatten out, losing a bit of the arch, from the pounding over the miles. The same can happen hiking many miles. And a pilgrimage thru-hike, walking long distances day after day, can also lead to swelling that may not have the opportunity to recuperate. One benefit of a proper marathon training program is there is always a rest day or easy day after a hard day or a long day. This gives the body a chance to heal. So in this way, a thru-hike may be more difficult.

So, I'd suggest getting together with a knowledgable sales person who has lots of long distance hicking experience (not someone on commission looking to make a quick sale). Bring/wear the socks you intend to wear on your Camino, and purchase a hiking boot/shoe that has plenty of room for your toes to wiggle freely and allow room for your feet to grow. Shoes are a very important piece of gear if they are to carry you comfortably on your Camino de Santiago.

Your foot should be fairly stable within the shoe and shouldn't move forward even under the steepest descents typically found on hiking trails. That would be the sign of an ill fitting shoe. Your toes should never hit the front of the toebox.

Also related, when purchasing shoes, use a manufacturer's shoes size as a guide. What I mean is a size 9 for Shoe Company A is probably different than size 9 for Shoe Company B. Also, don't assume that because you wear a certain size dress shoe, you should fit into the same size hiking shoe. And if you find a shoe that you are comfortable with, check to see if they have a wide version in that shoe size and try it out.

Also, don't be caught up with a particular brand of shoe. They change over time, and frankly many of the large brand name companies have become more fashion orientated in these past few years, and are using lesser quality materials. Luckily, there are several cottage industry companies that are filling the void and making quality hiking footwear. They are worth taking the time to check out.

Also, some people mistakenly add too much padding to their foot or shoe in an effort to cushion the toes. This can have the adverse effect of squeezing or jamming the toes, which should also be avoided.

Hope some of this helps.

P.S. Fun fact » Marathoners shrink about 1/2 an inch due to the spine compressing while running their marathon - which is 26.2 miles / 42.2 kms. (Luckily the spine lengthens back to normal over the following few days, or I'd be about 5'9".)
 

YMMV

Your Mileage May Vary
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (Planning for April 2020)
I love my shoes (Salomon X-Ultra) with one exception. After about 1,800 kilometers on the Camino there is only one re-occurring problem. About two days in I always get a blister forming on my R "pinky" toe.
I love my Salomon's. For shorter hikes. And I wish I could use them for my upcoming Camino Frances. But they are known to have a narrow toebox. Sound like your shoes are too narrow. Also, sounds like your right foot is the larger of the two (there is always one larger foot than the other) and you should fit your shoes by that foot on your next purchase.
 

Bob Howard

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2016
Frances 2018
In 2016 I took an informal survey, asking almost everyone I met how they liked their shoes. The overwhelming first choice was Salomon. Yes, Salomon does have one model that is wide--2E. If there were a 4E Salomon I would get it. Maybe there is someone on this forum that can answer this. Why is it Europe that there ware so few options for a wide walking/hiking shoe? I stopped in Corte Ingles outdoor equipment floor in Pamplona in both 2016 and 2018 just to browse. There were no wide shoes available.
 

BobM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
V Frances; V Podensis; V Francigena; V Portugues; V Francigena del Sud; Jakobsweg. Jaffa - Jerusalem
What a fascinating and informative post from YMMV re marathons and application to long distance hikes.

Just when I thought I had it all figured out, YMMV comes along to inject a little humility.

Bob M
 

BobM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
V Frances; V Podensis; V Francigena; V Portugues; V Francigena del Sud; Jakobsweg. Jaffa - Jerusalem
[QUOTE="YMMV, post: 807341, member: . . One benefit of a proper marathon training program is there is always a rest day or easy day after a hard day or a long day. This gives the body a chance to heal. So in this way, a thru-hike may be more difficult.
[/QUOTE]
I scheduled (and took) 2 rest days on my first big hike, the Camino to Santiago as insurance to give me the best chance of completing the whole 800km in one attempt. I did not really need them, and the 'camino buddies' I had come to know all moved on ahead of me. I should have skipped the rest days. The point being that psychological factors are as important as physical factors in probably all really challenging activities.

Now I walk half-stages if I feel the need for a break.

Half stages for the first one or two days of a long walk can also be useful to assist bodily and mental adaptation. No matter how realistically I train before a long hike, reality is different to training in familiar conditions. I always need a few days for body and mind to settle into a new routine.

Bob M
 

nathanael

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, Norte Plata
View attachment 67694I used to get black second toes and since I started wearing these no more black toe. I get it because my second toe is bent and the nail bed hits the bottom of my shoe. Zen toes come in two sizes and I wear the large size on my big toe. Last fall I met a woman with a painful blister under her toe nail and she was able to wear her shoes again when I gave her an extra Zen toe.
I also use get black toenails until I mentioned it to my Orthopedic specialist. In examining he stated that my small toes were curved downward and that was the reason. He suggested cutting under the bottom of my toes the tendons to straighten them. I had this procedure done with great pain with the freezing the needles were with excruciating pain. I was told to stay off my feet for a few days until healing, now no black toes.
 

BobM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
V Frances; V Podensis; V Francigena; V Portugues; V Francigena del Sud; Jakobsweg. Jaffa - Jerusalem
I also use get black toenails until I mentioned it to my Orthopedic specialist. In examining he stated that my small toes were curved downward and that was the reason. He suggested cutting under the bottom of my toes the tendons to straighten them. I had this procedure done with great pain with the freezing the needles were with excruciating pain. I was told to stay off my feet for a few days until healing, now no black toes.
Some of these problems become more troublesome as we age and tendons tighten. Many of us would have noticed we have trouble touching our toes (without cheating ) as we become less young, for example.

The hands and feet are no different. We have been discussing 'black toe', but a somewhat related phenomenon commonly referred to as 'trigger finger' can affect the little finger and thumb . Google it

I have it on one hand that makes it a slight chore putting a glove on that hand. Personally I don't think it is worth fixing surgically .

Those who get black toe might want to look at their fingers. Especially if you have Scandinavian ancestry. Trigger finger is anecdotally relatively more common among Scandinavians than other population groups.

Bob M
 

Doughnut NZ

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2019)
I noticed that when I was walking down hill that I was trying to dig my toes into the bottom of my shoes. I was doing this as if I was walking bare foot and using my toes for extra grip.

Once I realised this I was able to consciously stop doing it and that cured my black toe.
 

YMMV

Your Mileage May Vary
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (Planning for April 2020)
What a fascinating and informative post from YMMV re marathons and application to long distance hikes.

Just when I thought I had it all figured out, YMMV comes along to inject a little humility.

Bob M
Sorry.
 

BobM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
V Frances; V Podensis; V Francigena; V Portugues; V Francigena del Sud; Jakobsweg. Jaffa - Jerusalem
I noticed that when I was walking down hill that I was trying to dig my toes into the bottom of my shoes. I was doing this as if I was walking bare foot and using my toes for extra grip.
The effect you described was once a very useful accomplishment indeed. Our remote pre-human ancestors spent much of their lives in trees, so avoiding falls into the jaws of hungry predators would have been very useful.

Bob M
 

Doughnut NZ

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2019)
🐒 Here was I thinking that my pre-human ancestors had fins and a tail and swam around in the sea. I have always been attracted to the ocean.🐋
 

BobM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
V Frances; V Podensis; V Francigena; V Portugues; V Francigena del Sud; Jakobsweg. Jaffa - Jerusalem
🐒 Here was I thinking that my pre-human ancestors had fins and a tail and swam around in the sea. I have always been attracted to the ocean.🐋
Of course you are correct if you go back far enough.

Fun Fact: The salinity of our cell fluids apparently matches the salinity of ancient seas in which our primordial cells developed.

As for me, I sometimes use my toes to pick up an object that has fallen to the floor; just to prove that if great great etc etc granddad could do it, so can I.

Bob M
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015, 2017, 2019) and plans for 2020 (Sept, Oct)
For what it's worth, my camino boots are one size larger than my normal foot size to accommodate swelling and two pairs of socks (silk liners and merino wool outer pair). In reflecting on my recent camino, I neglected to pay close attention to lacing the boots as described in a few videos to keep the heel of my foot firmly tied to the back of the boot to prevent the foot from slipping forward and having my toes push into the toe box. Lesson learned. I also like the idea of buying toe caps for my two large toes and the toes next to the large toes. Will try these two techniques during our Sept-Oct 2020 camino frances. Hopefully my toe nails will regenerate by then so I'll have fresh nails to protect on our next camino. Bob
 

Raggy

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
I have various niggles with my feet, but black toe is not one of them. I suppose I should be grateful, but I do feel rather out of place when sharing a meal with folks who have the complaint. It always feels awkward to be the odd one out at a black toe dinner.
 

YMMV

Your Mileage May Vary
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (Planning for April 2020)
I just watched this instructional video, entitled 'How to Correctly Lace Walking Boots'. There are lots of good points in this, including how to prevent blacktoe. I have no affiliation. Hope this helps some of you.

 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2017)
Frances(2018)
Ingles(2019)
Aragones(2020)
Portuguese(2020)
Lacing techniques are helpful in various applications and it is good for people - who are going to walk distances over varied terrain - to become familiar with them.

I would put a caveat to all lacing techniques: They are not going to help with foot injuries, including nail bed trauma, if the proper fit, with regard to length of the footwear, is not achieved. So be sure that footwear fits by using a proper method to determine the size of shoe/boot one needs, NOT what size is measured by a salesperson.

I very much appreciate how thoughtful everyone participating in this thread has been in the tips and techniques you have taken the time and trouble to post 😃 👍
 

canoelake

New Member
Thanks for so many helpful comments. Lots for me to consider before our next camino ! Bob

My husband and I walked the Camino Frances 6 years ago, both wearing Salomon trail runners. Neither of us had so much as a tiny blister anywhere over the entire route.
We couldn't find them in a local store this year when we were headed to Portugal so we both ended up with Merrells. We went through the same pre-sale procedure of kicking our toes forward, standing on an incline, feeling for any pressure points. They felt almost as comfortable But in Portugal we both ended up with the same sore toe on the same foot after 2 days - and both turned to black toe which we are still dealing with. I will never do a Camino in anything but a Salomon again. Lesson learned. There are many things, arch, lacing, toe width, that come to play when you are walking hundreds of kilometers. If you do find a brand/fit that works for you, don't settle for anything else. I should have gone online since I knew my sizing for that brand.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015, 2017, 2019) and plans for 2020 (Sept, Oct)
Canoelake, for our first camino (2015), my wife bought a pair of high top Vasque hiking boots from REI. The fit was perfect and she broke these in before hiking CF. She developed blisters the first day, which got worse over several days. This caused her to walk differently and she then developed severe knee pain. Thanks to Jako trans, she then just carried a day pack and we successfully walked to Santiago. When we returned to the US, she went to a doctor and learned that she had developed two stress fractures. When we were in Castrojerez, we ran into a pilgrim-athletic trainer who highly recommended Solomon trail runners. My wife bought a pair and wore these on our second (2017) and third (2019) caminos. She was blister free and loved the shoes. For her Christmas present, I bought her a new pair and she'll break these in for our 2020 camino. Bob
 

Snigelanna

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2018 Irun - Santander

2016 St-Jean-Pied-de-Port - Burgos

2015 Sarria - Santiago
Open toe sandals. I wear nothing else. ALways surprised to see most people wearing such heavy duty trekking gear. Why? No need in summer or autumn. I recommend sandals and golf clothes. (You will, however, be frowned upon by ”real” hikers. Just ignore.)
 

Tess56

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
May (2013)
My wife and I have walked three Camino Frances - the full 800 kms, each time Sept - Oct in 2015, 2017 and 2019. We've decided to walk again in 2020 to avoid the Jubilee Year crowds in 2021. The first time we walked CF (Napoleon route), I noticed that my right foot "big toe" had darkened under the nail, which I later learned was "black toe", caused by my toe jamming up against the shoe box during brutal downhill climbs. This was no surprise to me, since we took the forest route down to Roncesvalles. I subsequently lost the toe nail. It was painless and grew back.

During our second camino, we decided to walk the Valcarlos route. I wore the same high top Patagonia boots. Same outcome. Black toe on right foot big toe.

For our third camino, I was determined to study up on how to prevent black toe. My brother, who is a doctor and hiked with us and his wife on our 2017 camino, bought me "Fixing your Feet" book, which I read cover to cover. I learned the importance of trimming your nails, etc. I even went to have a pedicure (first one in my life!) a week before our third camino. I bought a pair of Merrell Moab high top hiking shoes and broke these in before the camino. My wife and I walked the Valcarlos route again. I wore two pairs of socks (liners and merino wool), and wrapped my big toes in lambs wool and paper tape. And each camino we've used trekking poles and walked slowly during steep downhill climbs.

Guess what? Got black toe again - this time even worse. Within a few days, it was clear I had black toe on both big toe nails. One developed a severe blister at the bottom of the nail and I started taking an antibiotic since it looked nasty and I was afraid it would become infected (it did not). Mid-way through our camino, I noticed that the nails on the adjacent toes (next to big toe) on both feet had become dark. Now that I'm home, two nails have come off, and two others I'll lose soon.

My wife has not had black toe problems on any of our three caminos. If anyone has suggestions regarding how to reduce chances of developing black toe, I would love any and all advice. Otherwise, I'll counsel myself that black toe is my own genetic deficiency and an inevitable but painless casualty of walking the camino.

Gracias ! Bob
Walking sandals ! Try Merrell Kahuna
 

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