Tennis Injury: Runner’s Toe

After a stretch of several tournaments over the past couple of weeks, I started to notice some discoloration under the toenail of my second toe.  This happened on both feet.  My toes were a little sore, but I didn’t think much of it and continued playing regularly.  A day after a particularly grueling weekend of tennis, my second toe on each foot became so sore that I could hardly walk.  There was significant bruising under the toenail on each foot, and it became really uncomfortable to wear any kind of shoe.

I did some research on the internet and discovered that the injury I sustained is called runner’s toe, which is also known as tennis toe.  This occurs from the toe continually getting jammed into the toebox of the shoe.  It is somewhat common amongst tennis players due to the sudden changes of direction that occur in tennis matches.  The skin underneath the nail bruises and bleeds, causing the purple discoloration that I noticed on my feet.  I also have a foot condition called Morton’s toe, which means that my second toe extends further than my first, large toe.  This causes my second toe to take a lot more pressure and impact into the toebox on my shoes.

While this injury can be quite painful, it isn’t usually a serious one.  I took some time off, and am currently on day 6 of no tennis.  The discoloration under my toenails is still there but both of my feet feel much better.  I’ve got a match scheduled for tomorrow morning so I’ll be able to test out my feet, but I don’t anticipate any problems.  In more extreme cases, you may have to schedule an appointment with a physician and have them drain the blood from underneath the toenail.  There is also a good chance that your toenail will fall off after sustaining this injury, but it will grow back after some time.  If you can, try to avoid wearing shoes while you are healing from this injury.

In hindsight, there are a few things that I could have done to help prevent this injury from occurring in the first place.  Most important is footwear.  My tennis shoes are getting to the end of their useful life, so I think my foot is sliding around more than usual.  I’m currently on the hunt for a new pair of shoes.  I’ve read that if you get this condition often, try using a shoe that is a half size larger than you would normally wear.  This gives your foot some room to move in the toebox without jamming your toes into the end of the shoe.

I also should have worn two pairs of socks when I started to notice the early signs of runner’s toe.  Having an extra layer of protection over my toes might have prevented the injury from becoming so bad.  I’ve read that applying tape to the injury before putting on your socks can also prevent it from getting worse.

Finally, it is recommended to keep your toenails extra short.  The shorter your toenail is, the less chance it has to make contact with the end of your shoe.

If you find yourself with this same injury, don’t panic.  It’s very painful for a couple of days, but in my experience, the injury heals quickly.  Take a few days off and trade your normal shoes for sandals.  With a little luck you’ll be back on the courts in just a few days!

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