About an hour ago, I was working out barefoot (yeah, I know... really, really bad idea), accidentally kicked the bench's base, and ended up with a big toenail that was still attached, but separated from the toe at roughly a 45 degree angle.

After getting over the shock, horror, and somehow managing to neither pass out nor vomit (both of which felt like appealing options at the time), I made it to the bathroom. Eventually, I squirted some Neosporin onto the nail bed, gently pushed it down so that it's "only" separated at about a 5-10 degree angle (any more, and it started to hurt), and put a loose band-aid over it to kind of hold it down. 10 minutes later, I ended up wrapping the whole foot loosely in gauze, mainly to protect the carpet from blood that was seeping out around the edges when I walked.

So, now, here I am at the computer, about an hour later (I did other searching first), asking, "WTF do I do now"? So far, it hasn't really started to hurt, but I'm also just sitting here and putting no stress on it whatsoever. Earlier, when I was limping up and down the stairs, it was aching a bit. Obviously, I can't spend the next N months sitting motionless at my computer desk, and sooner or later I'm going to have to deal with getting that foot into a shoe (I doubt whether anyone will complain if I limp into Walgreens or CVS with a gauze-wrapped shoeless foot, but at the very least I'm going to have to have some kind of footwear when I go to work on Monday).

I've identified the following specific immediate issues that need to be dealt with:

  1. How hard should I try to keep the toenail flat against the nail bed, as opposed to allowing it to creep up and away from it? The problem I see is that the more firmly I hold it down, the more stress it's going to put on the area it grows from as I walk and the skin to which the nail is taped squishes, stretches, and generally moves around. On the other hand, it seems like once I'm finally back to wearing a normal shoe on that foot again, taping it firmly in place is probably a lesser evil than allowing it to constantly get pushed around by the shoe itself.

  2. I'm definitely open to suggestions for specific products to purchase this afternoon and things to do that will make the next few days and weeks more tolerable. Right now, I'm still kind of in shock & afraid to do much besides sit motionless... at least, until I have some concrete plan for what to do next.

By the way, unless it's a matter of life, limb, or death, going to the hospital isn't an option. I have health insurance, but I really don't want to get hit with $1,000+ in copays and deductibles just so they can tape it down and tell me there's nothing else they can do.

  • Care to explain why you feel this is a Fitness or Exercise related issue? Unless you're planning to undertake some sports actvity this question is off-topic. See this meta discussion for more information
    – Ivo Flipse
    Jul 18, 2011 at 7:52
  • 1
    Damaged toenails fall into the category of "gruesome and horrifying (but generally non-life-threatening) injuries likely to occur with sports & fitness activities".
    – Bitbang3r
    Jul 19, 2011 at 11:48
  • I don't think this is off topic.
    – Scott
    Sep 4, 2015 at 22:16

1 Answer 1


I have damaged my toenails many times from playing soccer. The good new is, it will stop hurting as much very soon. Ice and advil will help with that. The bad news is, you are going to lose the toenail. I think the key is have this happen in a slow, controlled manner, as the nail naturally falls off, rather than to have it ripped off from its precarious position. My suggestions are as follows:

Cut it down as far as you can every day. This will depend a lot on how much it hurts. Tape or bandage it firmly so it can't get caught on things. Wear a loose sock and a sandal on that foot.

My guess is that you will be walking normally in a day or two. It may take a couple weeks to fully lose the nail, and a couple months for it to grow back. They first regrow might be mis-shapen or otherwise odd, but it's nothing to worry about.

  • 1
    Update: I got sandals on Sunday, and I've been walking around (and sleeping) for the past day with my foot in a box (sandal taped to the box bottom, hole cut in top) to protect the nail from accidental contact. Don't laugh... the box already has dents to prove I would have been screaming in agony at least once or twice by now without it. As long as I don't touch it, it doesn't really hurt (it stung for about a half hour after using peroxide on it last night, though).
    – Bitbang3r
    Jul 19, 2011 at 11:54

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