Last week I successfully honed the highly undesirable techniques necessary to severely bruise my toenails while hiking—and now have blackened souvenirs from the trip at the ends of my feet. Though obviously it’s much better never to do so, here’s what you too can do to accomplish this outcome.
1) Choose a long arduous hike with steep and sustained downhill sections. On my hike, I had a total elevation gain/loss of more than 5,000 feet, most of it on trail with a significant incline.
2) Do not tighten your boots appropriately over your upper foot and ankle, making sure that your feet can slide forward far enough for your toes to repeatedly hit the front of your boots, especially when your boots ram a rock or other obstacle. Even if your boots fit appropriately (as mine do), this will ensure that your toenails are positioned for maximum abuse. Also, even if you notice your laces loosening over the course of the hike, do not tighten them; this may help save your toenails from damage. (Alternatively, wear boots that are simply too small to begin with to ensure proper front-of-the-boot toe smash.)
3) Do not keep your toenails, especially your big toes’ nails, adequately trimmed. Keeping them long, with a protruding section of nail on the front, helps them painfully snag on the inside of your boots and also helps directly translate impact force down the nail and into the sensitive tissue at the base of the nail, ensuring severe bruising and likely nail loss.
4) Finally, for good measure, wear extra thick socks. Not only does this help with padding and cushioning, it also helps push your foot farther forward inside your boots into the needed toenail-destruction zone.
After adopting all of these techniques, here’s what my toes look like today.
Well, at least we’re at the end of sandal season.
If you care about your feet and toenails, please don’t follow my lead!
“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.