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Toe nails

Findjoy

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Way of St James (2018)
I posted a question about blisters a few weeks ago and the responses were very helpful.
I will be walking the Frances way at end of this month and training hard with my walking companion. Last Thursday we hiked 20 kms and did well, except a very sore big toe nail. Yesterday we hiked another 20kms and my toenail is painful and, I think, starting to turn black.
My big toe does stick up and often, over time wears a hole in my trainers which are just fabric. Yesterday I tried a foam tube bandage but it didn't improve things.
Does anyone have any suggestions as to what I might be able to do? Many thanks.
 

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
Toes are deeply meaningful to pilgrims. They merit great respect, because if you don´t treat them right, they will shut your Camino right down!
I am not a toe/shoe/foot-strike/stride expert, but you will find a few of those here on the forum. It does sound to me like your toe is too crowded inside your shoe, and it´s banging against the inside. You may have to get shoes with a bigger toe-box, or experiment with walking in open-toe sandals... or cut a slice in the shoe-leather to make more room for that poor toenail. But first, try walking with thinner socks. Fat socks crowd your shoes, and can make your toenails bruise black.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
The advice from @Rebekah Scott is good. Turning black suggests bleeding under the nail to me. In my experience that usually means the nail and the underlying nail bed have already parted company. It is very likely that at some point in the near future the whole nail will appear to be loose with an air gap underneath. Disconcerting when it happens for the first time but don't panic - they grow back eventually! So long as it is not painful enough to seriously limit your walking I would not be too anxious about it. Happens to me a lot. I am walking in Japan at the moment and have been for the past month. Mostly road walking and hard on the feet. I have lost 3 out of 10 so far. None painful and none a problem.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) portugues(2013)San Salvador (2017)
Earlier this morning I took to google to get more information on blisters and black toenails. While I have a medic as my walking companion, and she checks my feet every day, I was piqued into following through on the DON"T statements. I have some more information now, but I think it is up to each person to make a choice with as much useful information as can be had. I intend to ask when I next go to my podiatrist, and will act accordingly for my next section of a camino. so, google away, and if you can, pay a visit to a podiatrist for advice on YOUR feet.
 

MikeyC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF - September 2016
CF - April May 2017
Shikoku - October 2017
Kumano Kodo - October 2017
CF - 2019
I used Teva hiking sandals last time for 700km after similar toe problems. Waterproof socks on wet days. Hiking poles for additional ankle support up and down hills.
 

nidarosa

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes please!
Also if your toenails tend to cut holes in your shoes, it sounds like you need to cut them shorter! Any length of nail sticking up higher than the toe could potentially get damaged and bruised. If you can't cut it short enough, get a nail file and make it as smooth as possible. Most black toenails I have seen could have done with a cut ...
 

Dorpie

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago to Finisterre to Muxia 2013
Camino Frances May 2015
Camino Frances July 2017
As others have suggested I fear your current toenail is not long for this world. Don't be tempted to help it on its way until it's ready though, I lost 8 toenails on my first Camino and know of what I speak. As long as you give time for fresh toenail to start growing underneath it should remain unsightly rather than terribly painful.

Preventing loss in the first place is of course most desirable. while too little space and crowding can definitely be a cause I think mine was too much space and effectively kicking the front of my boot as I took each step and my foot moved from back to front. I used sandals, though still with a toe box last time and had far fewer issues.
 

Kernandi

Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2018)
I have a similar problem with my second toe (I had a bad bunion surgery years ago and my big toe is now “floating” and can’t grab and do the work it should so the second toe ends up getting abused). I don’t like walking in sandals so that wasn’t a solution for me. I found the most amazing thing (from a reference on here somewhere probably) — toe caps. They sound uncomfortable but they aren’t! They are miraculous. This is what I use but they make them for big toes also. https://www.amazon.com/ZenToes-Pack-Gel-Toe-Protector/dp/B01N0C1QIA
 

LTfit

Veteran Member
The reason for your particular problem is hard to know without looking at your feet/shoe/sock & walking biomechanics but sounds like you indeed need another shoe.

Also just want to mention that no matter what combo I've used, I always end a Camino with at least one black toenail, most often two or three, unsightly but pain-free in my case. Usually they come off before the next Camino! Downside is that the nail that grows back is slightly deformed.
 

VNwalking

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (14/15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/??/Invierno ('19)
Happens to me a lot. I am walking in Japan at the moment and have been for the past month. Mostly road walking and hard on the feet. I have lost 3 out of 10 so far. None painful and none a problem.
Ditto. Whenever I wear proper boots I lose nails, no matter how roomy (or not) the toebox is.

But first, try walking with thinner socks. Fat socks crowd your shoes, and can make your toenails bruise black.
So true, in my case, too. The solution has been to wear thin socks and lightweight Keens.
Everyone's feet are different, though, so it's a matter of experimentation, and maybe a visit to a podiatrist for foot advice.
 

dgallen

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (5), Portuguese, Norte, Primitivo(2), Aragones, Finisterre/Muxia (3), Camino del Rey
If you google black toenails and backcountry via youtube you'll find an excellent video on tne best way to tie boots to prevent damaging feet. I lose toenails every Camino (Camino toes) but have updated my shoe tying technique and it has made a huge difference.
 

Iriebabel

Iriebabel & the cyborg turtle
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances April (2018)
Camino Del Norte end of March 2019
I agree with @dgallen and all other posters here about boot fit and tightness affecting your toenails. If you do not have a good fit and you have loose lacing as you go downhill your foot will slide forward hitting the front and or top of the shoe. Definately keep toenails trimmed and double check your boot fitting. I also have Keen hiking sandals for those moment when my feet need some air

Yesterday I did a long walk in my new Lowa Aerox mid. I normally hike with Lowa renegades but switched to a lighter shoe for this walk due to knee issues. I used regular hiking socks on purpose partly to see how they feel and partly due to hot florida sun. Not even 30 min later I felt a rubbing around the ankle. I switched to Wrightsock lightweight double layer Merino Coolmesh II hiking socks.. omg what a difference! Walked for 4 hours felt nothing more than my crazy knees. Fit of my boots were perfect and my Superfeet green inserts were perfect (extra one in my pack) . Moral to the story : I will continue to test and tweak my equipment as this is my first camino...good luck figuring it out and also consider seeing a podiatrist before your next long walk.
 

wayfarer

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-Santiago-Finistera-Muxia. April/May 2012
Sarria-Santiago Sept. 2013
SJPP - Almost Orrison April 2014
Here is my two cents worth. Sore or black toe nails means they are impacting on the front of the boot. When trying new boots for proper fit, shove your foot forward into the boot/shoe until your toe just touches the front of the boot. You should then be able to fit two fingers side on between your heel and the back of the boot. Cut your toenails short, forget fashion, and look up proper lacing methods on YouTube to stop your foot moving forward in the boot.
 

Findjoy

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Way of St James (2018)
Thanks everyone for your amazing advice. I have been seeing a podiatrist for months getting feet looked out, nails cut short and use fine merino wool hiking socks from Icebreaker. My boots are Keen and are roomy across my toes. However, after watching the videos on boot lacing, I need to lace my boots differently as there is some slippage I think and I will look into the toecaps idea. Having never had a black toe nail before it is a little scary and I have to admit I'm a bit of a wooz when it comes to injuries and icky bits!
 

Anamiri

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances
Without knowing exactly what your foot or shoes look like, here are three things to consider
1. Cut your toe nails short
2. Make sure your shoes are long enough, and the toe box roomy enough for your toes not to hit as you walk. Dont worry if your feet look big - its infinitely more attractive than black and missing toenails.
3. Look at getting specialist advice on your shoes, you may need the type of shoe that has the 'curved front sole', which rolls your foot forward. I have Brooks, which do this and eliminate that problem for me. A flatter sole shoe may not work for the mechanics of your foot.

I have the type of toes that cut through shoe fabric in no time, however short the toenail is. Buying the Brookes solved this problem - they are not cheap. Prior to getting the right shoes, I lost a lot of toenails.
Do not scrimp on buying the right shoes, you depend on your feet to carry you to Santiago, be kind to them - scrimp on other things - not shoes.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF April 2016 April - Jun
Del Norte, Finesterre 2018 May - Jun
@Findjoy I used to lose toenails all the time until I ditched the shoes. Now I wear open-toed sandals on all my caminos and my toes and toenails are happier for it.
I saw a mention some time ago, that you wear Ecco sandals! Are these your open-toed sandals? I have Eccos, very comfortable indeed but never thought of wearing them all the time! Now I'm tempted!!
 

Nanc

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (Sept 2016)
SDC/ Finesterre/ Muxia (2016)
once you have worked out the best boot possible and lacing technique, consider hikers wool to soften the impact
 

Pong

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés - April - May 2016
Camino del Norte - April - May 2017
Frances - March-April 2018
All sound advice already posted. I would add that once you get a shoe/boot with a good fit, when donning the shoe, kick your heel back into the heel cup to be sure your foot is properly placed there. Then use a non-slip lacing method to keep the heel back there and prevent your foot sloshing 'round in the shoe. I'm sure you can find instruction on lacing methods on youtube. I've lost toe nails in the past, but not on my Caminos (knock on wood). Oh, and I've used the toe caps. I carry 2 for the great toes and two for other toes. I don't use them all the time, but as soon as I feel the slightest bit of tenderness under a nail, I pop one on the afflicted digit. I don't carry much for "just in case", but the toe caps are an exception. I found losing my toe nails VERY painful.
 

MichelleElynHogan

Veteran Member
As an old friend used to tell me,
Yo feets too BIG.
Which means, really, your feet are just the right size for you, just not for your shoes. Drop 'em fast and grab a pair 1/2 to a full size bigger. Then, make sure the socks are for hikers. They are very cushy and will treat your feet like they are on a cloud. "Darn Tough," is a brand name of popular socks but there are others.
The toe nail may be a goner. Check with your Doctor, very quickly so if it has to be excised, you will have as much time to heal as possible, before departure.
ONE MORE POINT: I recommend that a pair of gel heel cushions be added. This will further cushion each step and ward off or at least minimize the chance of plantar fasciatis, (heel pain).
 

Colette Z

Happy Pilgrim
Camino(s) past & future
CF-Finisterra-Muxia 2017; SK Camino Kosiče-Levoča 2017; Norte Mar’18; Ingles Nov’18; VDLP Mar’19
I posted a question about blisters a few weeks ago and the responses were very helpful.
I will be walking the Frances way at end of this month and training hard with my walking companion. Last Thursday we hiked 20 kms and did well, except a very sore big toe nail. Yesterday we hiked another 20kms and my toenail is painful and, I think, starting to turn black.
My big toe does stick up and often, over time wears a hole in my trainers which are just fabric. Yesterday I tried a foam tube bandage but it didn't improve things.
Does anyone have any suggestions as to what I might be able to do? Many thanks.
I lost 1 toenail last year on C Frances, a second one while training for my Norte and now despite great fitting trail runners I fear a 3rd and 4th will fall off.....lol cheaper pedicures
 

Kathryn1966

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2017
I lost four toe nails and finally after 7 months after walking the Camino my toes are better but what I have leant wear a larger size shoe as your feet do swell, keen sandals are great, ice breaker socks, wearing two pairs, in soles and before you set off in the morning rub your feet with vassoline it stops friction and the burning and when you stop for the night wear a pair of thongs respect your feet and they will take you far
 

lovetoread3

Member
Camino(s) past & future
future
I have a similar problem with my second toe (I had a bad bunion surgery years ago and my big toe is now “floating” and can’t grab and do the work it should so the second toe ends up getting abused). I don’t like walking in sandals so that wasn’t a solution for me. I found the most amazing thing (from a reference on here somewhere probably) — toe caps. They sound uncomfortable but they aren’t! They are miraculous. This is what I use but they make them for big toes also. https://www.amazon.com/ZenToes-Pack-Gel-Toe-Protector/dp/B01N0C1QIA
I wonder if you think they would help prevent my pinkie from rolling under the toe next to it. I have tried various methods of taping to keep my pinkie 'straight' rather than lying lazily on its side but nothing really works well. Every time I walk a lot, it causes me blisters and I'm not looking forward to THAT while I'm walking the Camino. Thanks!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Sarria to Santiago 2014
Pamplona to Santiago 2017
Norte. 2018
I have a similar problem with my second toe (I had a bad bunion surgery years ago and my big toe is now “floating” and can’t grab and do the work it should so the second toe ends up getting abused). I don’t like walking in sandals so that wasn’t a solution for me. I found the most amazing thing (from a reference on here somewhere probably) — toe caps. They sound uncomfortable but they aren’t! They are miraculous. This is what I use but they make them for big toes also. https://www.amazon.com/ZenToes-Pack-Gel-Toe-Protector/dp/B01N0C1QIA
I’ve used these for years. They do not crowd your ties as you would think. I wear toe socks and then the caps and light wool over that.
 

MaryLP

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sarria to Santiago - May 2014
St. Jean Pied de Port to Pamplona - Starting September 27, 2015
On my third Camino I lost four toenails. After analysis of the situation I believe that my toe box on my trusty Merrills was too large. I should have put in new insoles to prevent toes from sliding forward and hitting when going down hill. Bigger boots not the answer. A good fit where the feet stay against the back of the boot is the answer. Tevas and sandals sound great but in mud and rain you really need hikers. Also check out proper lacing for downhill hiking.
 

Kernandi

Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2018)
I wonder if you think they would help prevent my pinkie from rolling under the toe next to it. I have tried various methods of taping to keep my pinkie 'straight' rather than lying lazily on its side but nothing really works well. Every time I walk a lot, it causes me blisters and I'm not looking forward to THAT while I'm walking the Camino. Thanks!
Yes! Get the smallest ones available and you will need to trim it down. Experiment with it on the pinkie or the one next to it.
 

falcon269

no commercial interests
Camino(s) past & future
yes
I wonder if you think they would help prevent my pinkie from rolling under the toe next to it. I have tried various methods of taping to keep my pinkie 'straight' rather than lying lazily on its side but nothing really works well. Every time I walk a lot, it causes me blisters and I'm not looking forward to THAT while I'm walking the Camino. Thanks!
Try a silicone lubricant like Two Toms.
 

BoH

Never more than 7-8 kg on the back!
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2011, -13, Norte -15 and again sept -18.
Toes are deeply meaningful to pilgrims. They merit great respect, because if you don´t treat them right, they will shut your Camino right down!
I am not a toe/shoe/foot-strike/stride expert, but you will find a few of those here on the forum. It does sound to me like your toe is too crowded inside your shoe, and it´s banging against the inside. You may have to get shoes with a bigger toe-box, or experiment with walking in open-toe sandals... or cut a slice in the shoe-leathe r to make more room for that poor toenail. But first, try walking with thinner socks. Fat socks crowd your shoes, and can make your toenails bruise black.
No open-toe sandals! "Keen" have the best models. Otherwise stones very easily will come inside. And yr toes are not protected!
Another thing is that u ought to have 10 mm free in front of yr toes. Otherwise u will have problems when the slope goes down, and yr feet will force forward in the shoe.
 

stevov

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
walked the portuguese way (senda littoral). from porto, vila do conde via viana and redondela Jun 17
Lost two toenails... both big toes...(i think it's called blood blisters) and only found out that for me double socking helped, a few days before completing the Camino. I was a little concerned but the nails did slowly grow back albeit not exactly the same. In line with the advices above I'll take more care next time.
 

Walking Lover

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CdS from Leon to Santiago, June 16, 2016 to June 30, 2016.
I posted a question about blisters a few weeks ago and the responses were very helpful.
I will be walking the Frances way at end of this month and training hard with my walking companion. Last Thursday we hiked 20 kms and did well, except a very sore big toe nail. Yesterday we hiked another 20kms and my toenail is painful and, I think, starting to turn black.
My big toe does stick up and often, over time wears a hole in my trainers which are just fabric. Yesterday I tried a foam tube bandage but it didn't improve things.
Does anyone have any suggestions as to what I might be able to do? Many thanks.
Sounds like you Don't have a large enough shoe box or shoes are not the right size. It is important to have a shoe large enough to allow the foot to swell, and they will from either the heat or the mileage.
 
Camino(s) past & future
May and October 2015
(2015 October)
June 2018 Portuguese
I used Teva hiking sandals last time for 700km after similar toe problems. Waterproof socks on wet days. Hiking poles for additional ankle support up and down hills.
Yes! I have Keen sandals that I bought in Burgos after having had trouble with closed shoes and a trip to the doctor. They have elastic laces so I can use lighter or heavier socks as needed. Not on the Camino now and still use the sandals.
 
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kelleymac

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
March/April 2015, Late April 2016, Sept/Oct 2017, April 2019.
I lost my two big toenails on my first camino. My nails were hitting against my shoe whenever I went down hill. I but a big band aid around each big toe and "pretended they weren't there". And a few months after I came home they fell off. They grew back, and looked a little weird and small for a year, but now look like they did before. On my second and third time walking, I have kept my nails really short, and put a big bandaid or leukotape around my big toes when the nail bed gets red and sore after a day of walking. I am trying to protect the toe nail and the nail bed and cuticle. I appreciate the advice here on lacing and I'll look into it and go on 7 or 10 mile hike (once it stops snowing here.)

One fact I haven't seen mentioned here is that (at least in the US) women's shoes' normal size are a B width. You might try to get a D width, or try mens hiking shoes. (Men's normal size shoes are a D width.) I have switched to mens' shoes, specifically Teva Kimtah hiking shoes, with a "mush sole". They are heaven for my feet. (Sadly, Teva no longer makes them. Happily, I have one more new pair in my closet.)

Advice for shoes: Get shoes that fit. Take the insole out of your shoe. Put your foot on it. If your foot overlaps the insole get wider or longer shoes. If your toes are scrunched up (any of them) get shoes with a bigger toe box. Your shoe should not be pushing (supporting) your foot to go into an unnatural shape. Also, your feet may get stronger and bigger with walking (develop more muscles!). Consider buying a new pair half way through-- in Burgos or Leon.
 
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easygoing

Camino Sharon
Camino(s) past & future
I have walked the Camino Francis 7 times, twice in 2017 and 2018. (2019)
I have a similar problem with my second toe (I had a bad bunion surgery years ago and my big toe is now “floating” and can’t grab and do the work it should so the second toe ends up getting abused). I don’t like walking in sandals so that wasn’t a solution for me. I found the most amazing thing (from a reference on here somewhere probably) — toe caps. They sound uncomfortable but they aren’t! They are miraculous. This is what I use but they make them for big toes also. https://www.amazon.com/ZenToes-Pack-Gel-Toe-Protector/dp/B01N0C1QIA
Thanks for the hint. I received these yesterday and for the first time in years my second toe on each foot didn't hurt after walking 12 miles. I wish I would have known about them sooner because the toes are already black and blue from last week's walk.
 

Jakke

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Portugues (2016), Via de la Plata / Sanabrés, Barcelona - Santiago, la Lana - 2019
Yes! So did I.. sandals worked for me from Porto to SdC and from most of the Via de la Plata (not on clay paths) and even more so on the Sanabrés. I lost 4 nails and they all grew back. This bit of information may ease your fears: when I bathed in the wonderful Roman baths of Ourense, the nails came loose and there was no pain at all. Just lifted them. Those nails had been black and felt a bit loose. Don't worry, be happy!
 
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oldman

oldman
Camino(s) past & future
C/Frances. SJPP - Estella May 2009.
C/frances. SJPP - Santiago April/ May 2013.
C/Finisterre. Santiag - Finisterre - Muxia May 2013.
C/Ingles. Ferrol - Santiago May 2013.
C/Frances. SJPP - Santiago May - June 2015.
C/Finisterre. Santiago - Muxia - Finisrerre - Cee. June 2015.
C/Frances. Logrono - Burgos May 2016.
Learn to lace your boots correctly for normal and downhill , stop and re do them if going down for any distance especially over rough ground, always keep your foot flat on the ground with your leg below your knee at right angles to your foot while lacing up your boots , even if you have to kneel down to do this .
tour toes should never push up against the front of your boot .
if the nail is showing some black its gone don't worry to much about it .
 

kelleymac

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
March/April 2015, Late April 2016, Sept/Oct 2017, April 2019.
I'm an Assistant Scout Master here at home, and it really impresses the scouts when I tell them I lost my toe nails. They sit up and pay attention to my talk on hiking, shoes, and foot care. :)
 

palmah

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (Spring 2010), Frances (Spring 2016), Portuguese (May 2018)
I have a similar problem with my second toe (I had a bad bunion surgery years ago and my big toe is now “floating” and can’t grab and do the work it should so the second toe ends up getting abused). I don’t like walking in sandals so that wasn’t a solution for me. I found the most amazing thing (from a reference on here somewhere probably) — toe caps. They sound uncomfortable but they aren’t! They are miraculous. This is what I use but they make them for big toes also. https://www.amazon.com/ZenToes-Pack-Gel-Toe-Protector/dp/B01N0C1QIA
I second the toe caps suggestion!
 

Jakke

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Portugues (2016), Via de la Plata / Sanabrés, Barcelona - Santiago, la Lana - 2019
Good for you, Kelleymac. Nine years ago I left scouting when I turned 60 and had to move to another town. I still long for those good times. In case you and your scouts consider hiking in Finland, I'll be glad to help you with some info.
 

Pong

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés - April - May 2016
Camino del Norte - April - May 2017
Frances - March-April 2018
I wonder if you think they would help prevent my pinkie from rolling under the toe next to it. I have tried various methods of taping to keep my pinkie 'straight' rather than lying lazily on its side but nothing really works well. Every time I walk a lot, it causes me blisters and I'm not looking forward to THAT while I'm walking the Camino. Thanks!
Three words: Injinji toe socks!!
 

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