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Injury Prevention

How To Treat Blisters, Black Toenails and More

For all the work we do to take care of our bodies, the feet are easy to overlook.

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For all the work we do to take care of our bodies, the feet are easy to overlook—that is, until painful blisters and ingrown toenails demand your attention. Still, triathletes often minimize these issues as superficial, which is a mistake, says Dr. Cary Zinkin, a podiatric sports physician and spokesman for the American Podiatric Medical Association. Issues such as blisters can be a sign that something’s off.

Black toenails

If your cycling or running shoes don’t have enough clearance to accommodate the natural swelling that takes place during athletic efforts, the pressure causes the capillaries under your toenail to burst. Shoes should have at least half an inch of clearance in the toebox.

Blisters

“Triathletes experience most of their foot pain via blisters or hot spots, caused by friction of the feet within the shoes,” says Dr. Zinkin. Friction can largely be avoided by assuring your new kicks fit well before purchasing. “Shoes are designed for different types of feet, and should not be purchased online where the athlete cannot try them on.” If you get blisters from racing sockless, you may want to consider a tri shoe with a built-in liner (check out the offering at Zootsports.com) or apply petroleum jelly inside the shoe around known hot spots.

Ingrown toenails

Athletes should keep their toenails shorter when preparing for a race—but stay away from toenail clippers, says April Dahl, manager at The Salon at Encore in Las Vegas. Clipping encourages the toenail to grow back underneath the skin, causing ingrown toenails. Instead, Dahl suggests filing toenails.

Cracked heels

Splitting skin on your heels can painfully end a race before it even begins. “Hydration is key to keeping heels and cuticles from cracking,” says Dahl. To combat dry, peeling skin, she suggests whipping up these DIY spa treatments post-workout.

Eucalyptus Oil Foot Soak

1 cup Epsom salt
2–5 drops eucalyptus essential oil
1 gallon warm water

Mix items together, submerge tired feet.

Coconut Body Scrub

½ cup table sugar
¾ cup coconut oil

Blend sugar and oil, apply to feet in a circular motion, and rinse.