Busted toenail. What to do?

Warning – this is a bit gross. 

So I hurt my toe a while ago (I think I dropped something on it – I can’t remember) and the bruise has been slowly growing up my toenail for the past month or so. Well, the toenail has finally decided to hit the eject button. The only problem is that it’s in that stage where it’s not really on but it’s not off, either. Part of the toenail has detached, a small piece has fallen off, and part of it is holding on for dear life. It’s making life difficult – and not only because it’s really uncomfortable on the long walk from the parking garage to my office in heels. No, I don’t seem to have any work-appropriate flats. I need to address that.


My real difficulty lies in how I should protect it during BJJ and swimming. I haven’t been to the pool in a few weeks for various reasons, but since I plan to sign up for the Chesapeake Bay Swim next weekend, I’ll need to get back in there soon, and I’m not super happy about the idea of my toenail flapping around as I kick. I also need to figure out what to do while I roll. I’ve been taping it up during class so far, but there’s going to come a time when the toenail is fully gone. And even with it just partially gone, I’d rather not have to pull tape off an exposed nail bed, you know? And we all know that Band-Aids aren’t worth crap either in the pool or on the mat. 


How do I tape, wrap, bandage, or otherwise protect my poor toe in a manner that will stay put while I train, but not cause undue misery during removal? If you’ve had experience with this or happen to be in the medical profession and can give me any advice, I’m all ears!

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3 Responses to Busted toenail. What to do?

  1. Feel your pain. Tore a big-toe nail off completely during a freak misstep (my foot slid under a rock, yowch) a week before a scuba diving trip; I was very concerned about the effects of salt water on my raw nailbed.

    This advice may not help at all for your BJJ, but for the open water swim: get the bandaids made for knuckles- they look like a sea skate egg case (common around the Chesapeake Bay beaches) or a pillowcase with a little tail on each corner. I also bought some spray like Mercurochrome… it’s antiseptic, antibiotic, and anesthetic. It’s in drug stores for $2 or so; spray it on the raw part, it deadens the area and keeps it clean. You can also douse some hydrogen peroxide on the area.. then some antibiotic ointment and the knuckle bandaid, and you should be OK for swimming.

    I used to lose nails all the time from running (bruises under the nail bed) and I can’t imagine anything that will help you while rolling, sad to say. Unless you can keep the nail intact (maybe replace the missing portion with a fake nail, then a well-padded bandaid and tape including the adjoining toe???) I think the pressure of the mat on the nailbed through any dressing will be intolerable.

    Sucks. Good luck healing fast. (FYI the salt water did not end up hurting at all and I think encouraged a faster healing process.)


  2. Khaki says:

    When I was 8 or 9, my big toe got caught in a “cup and saucer” ride at an amusement park, the toe was ok, but I lost the nail. When it grew back the nail was super strong, as if it wanted to make sure it would never fall off again.

    20 years later, my roommate left a big tire in the middle of my carport, I walked out there at night and slammed my “bad” toe into it. I hobbled back inside wimpering, and lifted my foot up onto the bathroom counter to see the damage. I don’t know why, it wasn’t the pain, or sight of blood or anything (cuz I’m tough, yo!), maybe a circulation thing from having my foot elevated while bleeding, but I passed out on the bathroom floor. I woke up thinking I was a kid and I was late for the bus.

    Anyway, the nail wanted to come off, it was half-on half-off
    for months, and I just kept that bastard wrapped up, band-aided, medical-taped all to hell for the entire time, Like 9 months, all through the summer – and I would go swimming (just recreation) and once in a while the adhesives would come loose and I would feel my toenail dangling and moving in the water. Eww, I can feel it right now as I remember it…

    The most painful was when the nail was almost grown back, and it forced itself to cut into the skin that had toughened upahhh memories…It grew back in a distinct half circle, as opposed to the slight curve regular nails have, even more like it’s holding on for dear life after being hurt twice…

    The nail is back and so strong that the military wants to study it for new armor possibilities.


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