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4 common skin conditions faced by most runners and how to stop them

My big left toe has what looks like a blister on the right side of the nail. It is a little puffy and much whiter than the rest of the skin. Noteworthy because in over 10 years of marathon joggling and training, I’ve experienced a total of one blister. This would be number two.

According to this article about endurance athletes and their skin conditions from the American Academy of Dermatology, anywhere from 20 to 44 percent of marathon runners report blisters as their most common complaint. But there are other skin conditions that runners deal with. Here’s a list of things you might experience and how you might handle them. Note: While I am a longtime endurance joggler and scietist, I am not a medical doctor so for really persistant conditions go see a dermatologist.

Blisters. These bubbly babies are caused by friction & moisture. Anything that increases rubbing like tight fitting shoes, running fast, or wet socks can lead to a blister.

  • Prevention: Wear moisture wicking socks made of synthetic materials. These should be thicker at the toe and heel. Also, use Drying powders, petroleum jelly or adhesive pads to reduce blisters. I personally like to use Body Glide but other things work. After a run, soak your feet in a water solution of epsom salts. This is supposed to prevent blisters but even if it doesn’t, it does feel good. For more info check out what Runner’s World has to say about blisters.

Jogger’s Nails. Do your feet ever look like this picture? If so, then you know about Jogger’s nails. This is a condition where the nails have small, semi-circular white spots on them. It’s the result of an injury at the base of the nail usually caused by ill-fitting shoes. While they are unpleasant to look at, they eventually grow out and should not be a source of concern.

  • Prevention. Make sure your shoes fit and your socks are not too tight. These injuries are typically the result of your toes pressing against the front or top of your shoes.

Chafing. We covered this one before. It’s also caused by friction. It’s particularly tough on more sensitive parts of your skin like beauty marks, moles, and nipples. Yes, chafed nipples are called jogger’s nipples. You don’t even want to know what juggler’s nipples are!

Black toe nails. It seems my little brother gets these often. Here’s a picture if you just must see one. This is caused by your toes hitting the top or front of your shoes. It could also be caused by a rugrat who thinks it’s cute to step on their uncle’s toes as hard as they can!

  • Prevention. Wear good fitting shoes and don’t let people forcefully step on your feet. Runner’s World published a way to treat them but I can’t in good concious tell people to drill a hole in their toe-nail. Leave them alone and they’ll eventually go away.

I’ll leave you with this quote from a real dermatologist, Dr. Scott B. Phillips

“Although the benefits of exercise far outweigh any temporary dermatologic conditions that may result, it is important for athletes and their doctors to recognize these potential problems and take the necessary steps to prevent them in the first place…”

This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. Hello,
    I’m really sorry to bug but I’m LOOKING high and low for an answer. I’ve recently begun training by myself for a local marathon in our town. I’m in my 30’s and just feel the need to get back to high school shape and accomplish something important to me. I’ve gotten up every morning at 5 am to run, I’ve changed my eating habits, lifting weights, toe raises, lunges, squats, all of this to get in shape. My problem is that I am having the WORST pain in my ankles while jogging in the morning. I’ve finally managed to get to 3.5 miles (I know, i have worst to do) but I’m literally trying to block out the pain the entire time. When I first begin to run is when it’s the most excruiating. If I stop, it’s really hard to start up again, worst of all during the day, if I try to jog from one spot to another, like across the parking lot at work or down a hallway i can barely lift my ankles off the floor? I’ve only been running for about 3 weeks. Is this my ankles just strengthing or do you think I could possibly have an injury already? I haven’t fallen or down anything wierd. Lastly…it feels so much better now, wearing sneakers as opposed to heels, with this pain my feet just don’t even want to fit in my heels right anymore. What do you all think?

  2. Nesha,

    So good to hear from you. Now, I’m not a doctor so my response is purely based on my own experiences. It doesn’t sound like you have an injury. It sounds more like normal pains that inexperienced runners get. I would suggest you keep up with the running and try to forget about the pain. Eventually, your body will learn to adapt and it won’t hurt so much. Truth be told, running does hurt sometimes. This is probably what stops most people from doing it.

    Make sure you have a good pair of running shoes. When my legs or feet start to hurt, I go get a new pair. Also, for me there is a certain amount of running it takes for my body to warm up. It sometimes hurts for the first 3 miles. But after that, my body is used to it and I can run for many miles pain-free.

    Hope that helps. Good luck with the running and let me know how you’re doing. I believe anyone can run a marathon if they are willing to put in the training time.

  3. I wanted to check back in and tell you, this is DEFINETLY NOT an injury because now it’s switch to the other foot. I think it’s my body getting adjusted like you said. Somedays it hurts so bad when I first begin, other days I run fluidly. Funny thing is I run much faster, but shorter distance with someone (my 14 year old son). In the morning, usually 5 am. I run at a much slower pace. But at least I’m able to run a nice distance now. Current nice distance for me is 2.5 miles. I’ll be back when I get to five miles and let you know how I’m doing 🙂

    thank you for the advice!

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