If you’re an avid hiker, you know that enjoying the great outdoors sometimes comes with its fair share of physical discomforts. One commonly experienced issue is black toenails, which can be extremely painful and inconvenient.
But fear not! In this article, we will share some helpful tips and tricks that will help you prevent black toenails while hiking, so you can fully enjoy your time on the trails without any unnecessary discomfort.
How To Prevent Black Toenails Hiking in 9 Easy Steps
Choose the Right Footwear
Investing in a good pair of hiking shoes is essential to prevent black toenails while hiking. When choosing hiking shoes, look for ones that provide ample support and stability for your feet. High-quality hiking shoes are designed to withstand the rigors of hiking and protect your feet from impact and injuries.
They should have a sturdy sole that offers good traction on different terrains and a comfortable fit that minimizes friction and pressure on the toes.
Ensure Proper Fit
Before purchasing hiking shoes, it’s crucial to ensure that they fit properly. Ill-fitting shoes can cause blisters, discomfort, and black toenails.
When trying on hiking shoes, make sure there is enough room in the toebox for your toes to wiggle freely. Your heel should not slip in the shoe while walking, but it should also not feel too tight or constricting. Take the time to try on different sizes and styles to find the perfect fit for your feet.
Consider Toebox Space
The toebox, or the front part of the shoe that accommodates your toes, is an important factor to consider when preventing black toenails. Shoes with a spacious toebox allow your toes to splay naturally, reducing the chances of them getting cramped or rubbing against the shoe. Look for hiking shoes with a roomy toebox to give your toes the space they need to remain comfortable and avoid black toenails.
Opt for Breathable Materials
Hiking often involves spending long hours on your feet, and sweaty feet can lead to a moist environment that promotes the development of blisters and fungal infections. To combat this, opt for hiking shoes made from breathable materials such as mesh or Gore-Tex. These materials allow air to circulate and wick away moisture, keeping your feet dry and comfortable throughout your hike.
Trim and Maintain Your Toenails
Proper toenail care is crucial in preventing black toenails while hiking. Neglected or improperly trimmed toenails can become ingrown or cause excessive pressure on the toes, leading to pain and injury. Follow these tips to maintain healthy toenails:
Trim Your Toenails Properly
Before your hiking trip, make sure to trim your toenails properly. Use a toenail clipper and trim them straight across, avoiding rounded edges. Cutting them too short or leaving sharp corners can increase the risk of black toenails. Keep the length of your toenails just above the tips of your toes to prevent them from hitting the front of your shoes.
Keep Your Toenails Clean
Maintaining good hygiene is important for overall foot health. Keep your toenails clean by washing them with soap and water regularly. This helps remove any dirt or bacteria that can accumulate under the nails and reduce the risk of infection.
Moisturize and Strengthen Your Toenails
Dry and brittle toenails are more prone to cracking and breaking, which can result in black toenails. Apply a moisturizing lotion or oil to your toenails to keep them hydrated and supple. Additionally, consider using a strengthening treatment specifically designed for nails to promote their durability and lessen the likelihood of black toenails.
Wear Moisture-Wicking Socks
Choosing the right socks is just as important as selecting the right hiking shoes. Moisture-wicking socks are designed to keep your feet dry by pulling away sweat and moisture from the skin. Here’s why they can help prevent black toenails:
Choose Socks Made of Moisture-Wicking Material
Invest in socks made from synthetic moisture-wicking materials such as polyester or nylon. These fabrics are known for their ability to draw moisture away from the skin and allow it to evaporate quickly. Avoid cotton socks as they tend to retain moisture, increasing the risk of blisters and black toenails.
Avoid Cotton Socks
Cotton socks absorb sweat and moisture but don’t effectively wick it away, which can lead to a moist environment inside your shoes. This moisture can soften the skin and make it more susceptible to friction and irritation, resulting in black toenails. Instead, prioritize socks made from moisture-wicking fabrics to keep your feet dry and comfortable.
Change Socks Frequently during Longer Hikes
During long hikes or multi-day backpacking trips, it’s important to change your socks frequently to maintain dry feet. Pack extra pairs of socks and switch them out whenever you feel your feet becoming sweaty or damp. Changing into clean, dry socks can help prevent moisture buildup and reduce the risk of black toenails.
Properly Lace Your Shoes
Properly lacing your hiking shoes not only ensures a secure fit but also reduces the risk of slippage and toe banging, which can lead to black toenails. Follow these steps to achieve a well-laced shoe:
Use a Lace Lock Technique
The lace lock technique is an effective way to secure your shoes and prevent unnecessary movement. Start by lacing your shoes normally until you reach the second-to-last set of eyelets. Instead of crossing the laces over, thread each lace through the opposite eyelet, creating a loop on each side. Then, cross the laces, pulling them through the loops, and tighten to achieve a comfortable fit.
Ensure a Secure Fit
Properly laced shoes should provide a snug and secure fit, without feeling too tight or causing discomfort. Adjust the laces evenly on both sides, ensuring there is no excess space or pressure points. This prevents your feet from sliding forward, reducing the risk of your toenails hitting the front of the shoes during downhill sections.
Prevent Slippage and Toe Banging
Improperly laced shoes can lead to slippage, causing your feet to move around inside the shoe. This movement increases the likelihood of your toenails repeatedly hitting the front, resulting in black toenails. By using the lace lock technique and creating a secure fit, you minimize the chances of slippage and toe banging, protecting your toenails from injury.
Break in Your Shoes before Hiking
Breaking in your hiking shoes before embarking on a long hike is essential to prevent discomfort, blisters, and black toenails. Here’s how you can properly break in your shoes:
Gradually Increase Usage
Start by wearing your new hiking shoes around the house or for short walks to allow your feet and the shoes to adjust. Slowly increase the duration and intensity of wear over several weeks, gradually building up to longer hikes. This allows your feet to get accustomed to the shoes and helps identify any areas that may cause discomfort or irritation.
Walk in Different Terrains
To ensure your hiking shoes are adequately broken in, take them on walks in various terrains. This will help expose your feet and the shoes to different surfaces, allowing you to assess how well they perform on different trails. Walking on uneven surfaces, inclines, and declines can help identify any areas of discomfort and allow adjustments to be made before longer hikes.
Test on Shorter Hikes First
Before attempting a strenuous long-distance hike, test your hiking shoes on shorter hikes of increasing difficulty. This allows you to gauge how comfortable your shoes feel during different hiking conditions and make any necessary adjustments. By gradually pushing the limits of your shoes, you can prevent your toenails from being subjected to unnecessary stress and potential black toenails.
Apply Lubrication or Anti-Friction Products
To reduce friction and minimize the risk of black toenails, applying lubrication or anti-friction products to high-stress areas is beneficial. Here’s how you can use these products effectively:
Use Petroleum Jelly or Body Glide
Petroleum jelly or body glide products can be applied to areas prone to friction, such as the toes, heels, and sides of the feet. These products create a protective barrier on the skin, reducing friction and minimizing the chances of blisters and black toenails. Apply a thin layer before putting on your socks and shoes to provide additional cushioning and lubrication.
Apply on High Friction Areas
Focus on applying lubrication or anti-friction products on the areas that experience the most rubbing and pressure during hiking. This typically includes the toes, where toenails can collide with the front of the shoe, and the sides of the feet, where friction can occur from shoe materials and movements. By reducing friction in these areas, you can significantly decrease the risk of black toenails.
Reapply as Needed
Lubrication products may wear off over time or with excessive sweating. To maintain their effectiveness, be prepared to reapply them during long hikes or when you start feeling discomfort. Carry a small travel-sized container of petroleum jelly or a portable anti-friction stick to reapply as needed, ensuring continuous protection for your feet throughout the hike.
Consider Using Toe Caps or Toe Protectors
For hikers who are particularly prone to black toenails, using toe caps or toe protectors can provide an extra layer of safeguard. Here’s why you should consider using them:
Protect Toes from Impact
Toe caps or protectors are designed to shield your toes from accidental impacts and collisions with rocks, tree roots, or other hard objects on the trail. By adding an extra layer of protection, these protective shields can help prevent black toenails caused by sudden or repetitive trauma during hiking.
Prevent Friction and Pressure
Toe caps and protectors can also minimize friction and pressure on the toes by creating a barrier between your toenails and the front of your shoes. This reduces the likelihood of toenails hitting the shoe and developing black toenails due to repetitive rubbing.
Choose Appropriate Size
When selecting toe caps or protectors, it’s important to choose the right size for a proper fit. They should fit comfortably over your toes without causing additional pressure or constriction. Look for adjustable options that allow you to customize the fit to your toe shape and size. By wearing properly fitting toe caps or protectors, you can prevent black toenails and enjoy a more comfortable hiking experience.
Take Regular Breaks and Ensure Proper Rest
During long hikes or strenuous activities, it’s essential to take regular breaks and ensure proper rest for your feet. By doing so, you can minimize the risk of black toenails and other foot-related issues. Here’s what you should keep in mind during breaks:
Pushing yourself beyond your limits can lead to fatigue and increased chances of accidents. Regularly assess your energy levels and take breaks when needed. Overexertion can result in decreased concentration and stability, potentially causing toe banging or other injuries that can lead to black toenails.
Rest and Elevate Feet
During breaks, take the opportunity to rest and elevate your feet. This allows blood flow to return to normal and reduces swelling that may occur during prolonged periods of walking. By giving your feet a break and resting them in an elevated position, you can prevent excessive pressure on the toes and reduce the likelihood of black toenails.
Apply Ice if Necessary
If you notice any signs of inflammation or soreness in your feet during breaks, applying ice can help reduce swelling and alleviate pain. Wrap ice cubes or an ice pack in a cloth and gently press it against the affected area for 10-15 minutes. This can help relieve any discomfort and promote quicker recovery, decreasing the risk of developing black toenails.
Pay Attention to Terrain and Foot Placement
Being aware of the terrain and maintaining proper foot placement can significantly reduce the risk of black toenails. Follow these tips to stay mindful during your hike:
Choose Suitable Trails for Your Skill Level
Selecting suitable trails for your skill level can help prevent excessive stress on your feet and minimize the likelihood of accidents. Choose paths that match your hiking ability to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience. This reduces the chances of tripping, stubbing your toes, or hitting them against rocks or other obstacles.
Be Mindful of Foot Placement
Pay attention to where you place your feet while hiking. Be aware of any hazards, such as loose rocks, tree roots, or uneven surfaces, that could potentially cause your toes to collide with them. By staying mindful of your foot placement and taking small steps when necessary, you can avoid unnecessary toe injuries and decrease the risk of black toenails.
Adapt to Uneven Surfaces
When walking on uneven surfaces or steep inclines, it’s important to adjust your gait and foot placement accordingly. Take the time to carefully navigate these challenging terrains, minimizing the chances of your feet sliding or hitting against the shoe. By adapting to the terrain, you can maintain a more secure footing and reduce the risk of black toenails caused by collisions or pressure.
Maintain Proper Foot Hygiene
Maintaining proper foot hygiene is crucial for preventing black toenails and other foot-related conditions. Consider these tips for maintaining cleanliness:
Clean Feet Thoroughly after Hiking
After each hike, it’s essential to thoroughly clean your feet to remove any dirt, sweat, or bacteria that may have accumulated. Use warm water and mild soap to wash your feet, paying attention to the areas between the toes. Gently pat your feet dry afterward to avoid excessive moisture, which can contribute to the development of fungal infections and black toenails.
Dry Feet Properly
Properly drying your feet is just as important as washing them. After cleaning, use a soft towel to dry your feet, making sure to remove all moisture, especially between the toes. Leaving your feet damp increases the chances of fungal growth and can lead to a higher risk of black toenails. Take the time to ensure your feet are thoroughly dry before putting on clean socks and shoes.
Apply a Foot Powder or Antifungal Cream
To further prevent fungal infections and keep your feet fresh, consider using a foot powder or antifungal cream. These products help absorb moisture and reduce the risk of bacterial or fungal growth. Apply a small amount of powder or cream to your feet, paying extra attention to areas that are prone to sweating. This can help keep your feet dry, odor-free, and reduce the chances of developing black toenails.