Toenail damage from 200+ mile ride

I completed my first century ride a couple weekends ago, but it came at a price - my toenails are falling off!

This was my second year riding this route with a group of mostly United Methodist ministers who ride 220 miles from Lynchburg to Norfolk to raise awareness of the UMC’s Annual Conference offering. The non-profit I work for was a recipient last year. I posted on my first attempt here.

Since the previous attempt, I’ve moved out to the country and so have had more opportunity/motivation to train daily (at least 15 miles/day with 30-40 mile rides on the weekends). So this year I figured I’d go for the whole tour:
Day One - 100 miles
Day Two - 107 miles
Day Three - 18 miles

As you can see from the elevation profiles, while the general progress was down, day one still had a few challenging climbs. I ended up hopping in a SAG vehicle at mile 60 (mostly because of leg cramping) and picking back up at mile 75, giving me a total of 85 miles the first day. I didn’t notice the pain at the cuticles of my large toes until the endorphins wore off after the ride. Probably the result of wearing Chuck Taylors, using toe clips, and not trimming the nails just before the ride.

In any event, I really wanted to nail a century, so went for a fresh start on day two, recognizing the best day to ride 100 miles is probably not the day after riding 85. Strategies this day included tightening my shoelaces to keep my toes from jamming against the toe clips, and preventing cramping with regular doses potassium the form of Gu shots. All in all it was a good day of riding. toes still hurt, but the pain eventually dulled. Saddle pain actually wasn’t that big a deal as long as I got off every 10-12 miles, which was necessary anyway to refill my water bottle.

There were 18 riders in all, I was the lone unicyclist. Two riders, a young couple who were mostly into mountain biking, were happy to hang back with me at a pace of 11-13 mph. Having this company made a huge difference.

I won’t bore y’all with a detailed write-up of the day, but will say the last 15 miles (6-7:30pm) were by far the easiest. I think the sun going down was big factor, it was very flat, and a storm was moving in from the west, blowing a nice wind at my back. I “flew” at 14 mph the rest of the way, finishing up with 109 miles (the extra 2 are from missing a turn).

That evening the toe pain was worse than ever, but 18 mile ride into Norfolk on day 3 went easily enough. The trip organizer wanted everyone to stay together to make an impression at the “finish line”, so he had me lead the pack, which was kinda fun.

At home that night, I examined my toenails closely for the first time, and discovered that the left big one especially appeared raised up with a large blister or bruise underneath the nail. Went to the clinic the next day and the doc poked it with a needle; a huge amount of yellow fluid poured out. The right big toe was similar but not as severe.

He said basically a large hematoma formed under the nail, separating it from the skin beneath. The nail would slowly disconnect and fall off in the next several weeks. It may or may not grow back. It’s supposedly a common occurrence with Marathon runners.

I’m pretty intrigued by the whole thing more than anything else. I’ve been having fun grossing out my friends and co-workers.

Anyone else experience this?


Nice! I’ve experienced the same thing, but not from unicycling. I’ve run a lot of ultra-marathons and often experience what you’ve got after 100 mile races or other, long, back-to-back high mileage runs (i.e. after my speed hike of the 335 mile Pinhoti Trail a month ago). Nothing to worry about. The nail MAY fall off on its own, however I’ve had to “encourage” it along most of the time by triming back until it’s almost off and eventually it will “loosen” up enough that you can pull the rest of it off painlessly. I know, pretty gross right?

I’ve had that happen from when my muni riding boots were a bit too small - every upd would push my toes into the end of the shoes, and both big toe nails eventually went black and fell off (after a 24 hour enduro race).

They took about a year to grow back, but are fine again now. No lasting problems (and no problems riding without nails while they grew back).

I replaced the boots with the next size up and haven’t had a problem since.


That used to happen to my toes when I climbed a lot. It was almost like I shed my toenails annually. In my case they would shed and the new nails were already growing in underneath. I think that was because it happened over a prolonged period of wearing very small tight climbing shoes, and not just a couple of days.

In your case I think you nailed the culprit: Chucks. There isn’t very much in those shoes to keep your heel back into the heel counter. You may want to size your next shoes with that in mind. The best fit would be a shoe that holds your heel back, and still gives you a centimeter of room at the toe.

my toenail is doing this right now! but it’s due to me dropping a massive rock on it.
Im also not allowed to pull it off at all because being diabetic im more prone to infections and complications of infections :stuck_out_tongue:

I also lost a toenail - mine from dropping a sheet of plywood onto my bare toe, with the edge of it hitting just right (or wrong?) on the toenail.
Grew back over time, no more issues.
But be careful once the nails fall off, as the tips of your toes will be sensitive and vulnerable.

Definitely shouldn’t have looked at this post while eating. I’ve made a mental note to myself to be more careful in future!!!

I hope the toenail gets well soon :slight_smile:

Well you sure nailed something!

Good show.

I had this happen when I was younger, an entirely different reason.

tag in the house resulting in a slammed door to stop the tag, it only caught my big toenail, went over the rest of em. . .

you know come to think of it, it still hurts to think about that O__O

I know someone who this has happened too. It occurred through sprinting, and actually damaged her toe nail bed, so her nails on her big toes kept falling out and regrowing in weird ways. She has since had the beds “burnt” so they don’t grow nails, though one of them is still growing bits of nails even after a second “burning”.

If you do get them “burnt” off, then eventually, after a few decades, the bed will have shrunk to nothing, making your toes look like you never had nails.

Note: “burning” may involve either using something hot, or something really cold (aka freeze burning). Also usually involves numbing the area, and hurts after.

Chuck Taylors + long unicycle rides = foot problems. They seem fine for Street/Flat-type riding, but they provide no support for cycling. For best results you want something with a very rigid sole. I love my 5.10s, but even with them I find my feet going numb sometimes, and have to remember to move my feet around.

Sounds like you did awesome on your ride though, congrats!

Oh. My. God. I NEVER want this to happen to me. Holy crap, that is horrifying. I’d be flipping out over that.

I hope it grows back properly! Congrats on the ride.

I just had mine trimmed all the way back and it feels so weird :smiley:
Dry dressing for a few days then im set to have some cool hardened skin where my toenail was, they might also do that burning thing :stuck_out_tongue:

I have noticed some foot numbness on longer rides with 5.10s. Will stiffer soled shoes help? Do you have any specific recommendations for appropriate shoes?


Frank -

Those chucks were falling apart the last time I saw them, I am guessing you are still using the same pair, go get some new shoes hippie =]

P.S. -
Have you bought some chickens for your new place yet?

P.P.S. It is awesome seeing people linking to mapmyride beta. You can actually tag your ride with a predefined “unicycle” tag when you create the route now - thanks to my input from working there :sunglasses: The new route engine is much faster and smoother now than the old site.


I feel a little bit detached. :slight_smile:

James - I actually bought a new pair since you last saw me. I turned the old ones into sandals. I think I’ll use the money I get from Aflac to buy some nice cycling shoes.

No chickens yet, though I’ve finished building the coop. We’re actually looking to buy a house soon, so we might wait til we move…or my toenail grows back, whichever is sooner.


i just threw up in my mouth a little bit