5 Reasons You Lose Toenails When Hiking!

Why Do I Lose Toenails When Hiking

Walking away unscathed from a hiking trip is always a miracle. But the rigors of hiking make many injuries common ground.

As if the mental drain from hiking isn’t already a mountain to climb. Ankle injuries are perhaps the most common on hikes, but toenails coming off pops up on the list.

That’s especially true for long-distance hikes where your feet suffer high pressure. Your toenails can come off if they take too much beating on the road.

Losing your toenails when hiking points to loads of trauma. First, your toenails can come off due to excess pressure and contact with the front of your hiking boots. Also, factors like poor lacing, wrong boot sizes, and overgrown nails trigger the loss of toenails. Then, you can pick up a fungal infection that will cause your toenails to fall off.

This article will explain further and tell you how best to avoid those them.

When the curtain closes on this article, you’ll worry less about losing your toenails. Here’s to safer and more pleasant hiking experiences for your toenails!

Why Do My Toenails Come Off When I Hike?

Why Do I Lose Toenails When Hiking

Trauma on your toenails is why they may come off during hikes. There’s quite a list because your toenails can face trauma in more than one way.

Constantly sliding to the front of your hiking boots and hitting it is the worst form. The direct impact on your toes can go beyond displacing toenails and fracture your toes.

Adding to the trauma, a fungal infection during a hike can also cause your toenails to fall off. So, without further ado, let’s look at why your toenails come off when you hike.

#1. Loose Hiking Boots

Your feet will have too much unusual motion in hiking boots if there’s excess space. Also, it’s never a good idea to have loose boots; they should fit properly.

The feet swell during long hikes, but you need more reasons to have extra space in your boots. That will only allow your feet to move from side to side and front to back.

The result is sores, blisters, and anything in between. That’s mainly a problem during downhill hikes. You have gravity to fight, and that’s when you need balance the most.

Your feet suffer more going downhill than uphill. So it’s best to limit the room for unwanted motion in your boots as much as you can. Get fitting hiking boots!

#2. Overgrown Toenails

When you let your toenails grow too long, it can leave you with a bloody mess. That’s because your toenails will keep pressing into your boots during the hike.

There’s also damage to your toes because the nails will press back into them. The pain will be on a massive scale. But that’s something you can easily avoid.

You can lose your toenails permanently if they come off because they’re overgrown. So always ensure to trim your toenails before every hike.

#3. Poor Boot Lacing

Your lacing will cause you trouble when you don’t get it right. It’s always best to keep it simple and fitting. Loose laces will let your feet slide and hit the sides of your boot.

Also, thick laces will add pressure on your feet, which is bad news for your toes.

#4. Poor Hiking Form

Form matters a lot when you’re hiking downhill. It’s vital to know how to handle the effect of gravity and limit the motion of your feet. Too much motion can cause injury.

Moving downhill means your feet will naturally move forward, so you’ll be fine if you keep it that way. The problem comes when they also move from side to side.

So, you should build your balance and learn to position your feet properly. Taking slow steps helps because you have more time to calculate your steps.

Going too fast might knock you off balance, and you can only avoid obstacles when you slow down.

#5. Inappropriate Socks

It’s normal to feel that thick socks will make your boots comfortable, but it’s not entirely so. Your feet will feel comfy, but the story changes when you move.

That’s because thick socks fill the space between your feet and the top of your boots. So your toes will hit the top as you take steps.

Such a scenario will cause you pain in your toes. That can make your toenails fall off if it goes on for too long.

Also, thick socks can lead to fungal infection due to poor aeration. So, always ensure you get proper socks for your hiking boots.

How Do I Protect My Toenails When Hiking?

Checkmating the factors that may cause your toenails to come off is the best way to protect them.

“It’s better to be safe than sorry.” So taking necessary precautions will do you a lot of good.

Here is a table that shows some ways to protect your toenails when hiking.

Get Fitting Hiking BootsFitting hiking boots mean fewer chances of your feet sliding to hit the front of your boots.
Improve Your Hiking FormBalancing your feet in motion, especially when going downhill, helps you avoid kicking rocks.
Lace Your Boots ProperlyEnsure you get a good grip on your laces, so your feet stay in your boots.
Trim Your ToenailsToenails should be short to avoid pressing into hiking boots and feeling every bit of impact.
Use Appropriate SocksEnsure to get socks with a medium thickness that allow your feet to sit nicely in your boots.

Why Do My Toenails Turn Black After Hiking?

Your toenails can turn black after a hike due to a ruptured blood vessel. That results from the bumps and impact of pressure from the boots or the road.

Continued impact on your toes for a long stretch will surely end up rupturing a blood vessel. Although the impact may not cause an open wound, it’ll still cause some damage.

Once you have a ruptured blood vessel, you may feel pain but not notice any signs. But you’ll see signs of a ruptured blood vessel when the blood begins to thicken.

That’s when you’ll notice a black spot on your toenail. It’ll be evident as your toenail will separate from the toenail bed. The color will keep changing as the wound heals.

It’s best to let the toenail heal if it doesn’t hurt. Tampering with it will cause some damage.

But make sure to get medical care if your toe swells. Otherwise, the black spot will ease off on its own.

Why Do Hikers Put Vaseline On Their Feet?

The idea is to reduce friction on the feet. Thus it serves as a way to control blisters. Friction on the feet causes blisters, and reducing friction keeps blisters at bay.

You can’t avoid pressure and friction during hikes, and the damage is always severe. It causes the outer and inner layers of skin to separate, resulting in blisters and whatnot.

So finding a way to reduce foot friction during hikes can spare lots of pain. Lubricating your feet before you wear your socks is a proven way to reduce friction.

Of course, Vaseline isn’t the only lubricant, but it works magic! First, you’ll need a substance that can last long, and Vaseline does just that.

It also helps to pack a small portion of Vaseline and reapply during hikes. You’ll notice that your feet won’t feel sore for long distances when applying Vaseline.

Do Lost Toenails Grow Back?

Yes, lost toenails do grow back. But it’s crucial to avoid pulling them off yourself. Instead, giving them time and letting them fall off naturally is best.

Forcing toenails off will damage the ligaments that hold them in place. Thus that will reduce the chances of them growing back again.

But you can seek proper medical care if you feel leaving the broken toenail in place is hurting you. Medics can trim parts of the toenail away and offer you some advice.

After the nail comes off, you will wait for the new one to grow. That usually takes about three months to happen. So do your best not to hurt your toe during that time.

So, all hope isn’t lost when you lose your toenails. It’s important not to force them off; the best approach is to let nature take its course. After that, it’s a thing of patience.

Try to avoid much pressure on the toenail as it grows. That’s because doing that may alter its form and shape, and how it looks may seem off.


You can lose your toenails when you hike due to prolonged trauma on your toes. For example, when your toes repeatedly hit the front of your hiking boots.

Inappropriate hiking gear can also hurt your toenails. But not to worry, your toenails will grow after you lose them. So always ensure not to force them off.

Josh Matthews

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