What is a Black Toe ?
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Black toe is a relatively common condition among vigorous walkers, runners, hikers, and participants in other sports and activities where the feet are subjected to stress and strain, such as football, basketball, track, baseball and soccer. The condition generally is the result of impact trauma, particularly in the big toe.
People who walk and run on hard surfaces such as concrete and asphalt are more likely to get black toe than those who exercise on natural surfaces like grass or softer man-made surfaces. Hikers can experience black toe because of the toes banging against the front area of their shoes or boots, especially on downhill sections of trails.
Symptoms of Black Toe
The most obvious symptom of black toe is a black or dark blue color on part or all the toenail caused by bruising or pooling of blood under the nail. Given that black toe most frequently is a result of trauma to the toe or the nail, it may be accompanied by pain or discomfort that usually diminishes within a few days. Black toe can also occur after lengthy periods of vigorous activity even without noticeable trauma or pain.
In some cases, discoloration of the toenail can result from causes other than black toe, some of which are benign. Others, such as the rare disorder, subungual melanoma, are cause for concern
The most common cause of black toe is repeated trauma from the toe banging against the end of the shoe. Since the big toe is usually the longest toe, the banging produces bleeding and bruising of the nail, causing it to become discolored (often blue and then black). The banging of the toe against the front of the shoe or boot is usually a sign that the shoes are too short, or that they fit too tightly and do not allow sufficient room for the feet to move dynamically during walking and running.
Other causes may include the following:
- Sudden trauma or injury to the toe or toenail.
- Fungal infection.
- “Morton’s toe,” a condition in which an individual’s second toe is longer than the big toe.
- Rarely, a subungual (occurring under the toenail) melanoma, a form of skin cancer.
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