Pain in Toes When Running

The toes might be a small part of your body, but they can significantly derail your running routine when one is injured. Many running toe injuries can heal within days or weeks with just putting ice on the injury and cutting back on mileage; however, a more serious injury might require a trip to the foot doctor 1.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.


A common toe complaint for runners is also, luckily, the mildest: a blister. Blisters are caused by friction between your skin and either your socks or shoes. The outer layer of skin separates from inner layers, and the space between fills with lymph fluid. Blisters are most common when you try out new shoes or increase your mileage. However, most serious causes of toe pain include hammer toe or stress fractures. Hammer toe causes one or more of the smaller toes to bend upward. A corn or callus can develop on the top of the toe because its position causes it to rub against your shoes. The joint can become painful and swollen. Stress fractures are common in adolescent athletes, and usually caused by overdoing it in your runs.

Black Toenails

If your toenail is in pain and it’s turning black, you likely have the common affliction, runner’s toe. If your nail is under pressure, whether it’s because your shoe is too tight or your toe is being impacted frequently during your run, the pressure can cause a friction problem between the nail and the tissue surrounding it. Fluid accumulates, and blood capillaries get broken, causing the color change. The pain will grow as the fluid builds. As the pressure builds under the toenail, your existing toenail will start to separate from the toe. The blackened nail will eventually fall off, but it could take several months. If the pain is manageable, leave the toenail alone--80 percent of black toenail problems are best treated by leaving them be, according to

At-Home Treatment

For toe strains or minor pain, treat them by taking weight off the foot, elevating it and icing it. For a black toenail, you might need to relieve the pressure if the pain gets to be unbearable. This can be done at home, according to Sterilize a sharp needle, then prick into the thin layer of skin at the edge of the toenail. Let the fluid come out. Apply antibiotic cream to ensure it heals without infection.

Medical Treatment

In many cases, it is a better idea to let a doctor check the problem and treat the pain. A doctor can safely release pressure on runner’s toe. For other injuries, a doctor can take an X-ray to check for a fracture, so you should always go to a doctor if you suspect a broken toenail. The doctor can also tape the toe to prevent movement and recommend a rehabilitation or strengthening program to quicken healing and prevent future injury.


Many running injuries can be prevented by wearing proper footwear. Get professionally fitted for running shoes and wear thick socks meant for athletes. Treat your toenails properly, always cutting them down so the nails won’t bump into the front of your shoes. When you are increasing your mileage, only boost it by 10 percent each week. Any more, and you could cause a toe fracture due to overuse.