Oh, I can relate to this one. My first year of hiking was almost my last. My big toes hated me. Even lost some of my second nails. Either that or I developed some kind of fungus and they decided to fall off. By year two, I was down to an occasional black/blue toenail. Eventually, I learned how to hold on to my nails and it wasn’t because I was producing more keratin.
My problem was simple. I was losing toenails because my boots were too small. Of course, they fit when I purchased them, but little did I realize the dynamics of human physiology. When hiking, you exert a lot of pressure on those feet, especially when going downhill. For those that are not flat-footed, you arch helps to absorb some of the force – like a built-in shock absorber. Afte a while, the feet swell and flatten out a bit. Unfortunately, the toes are on the receiving end of the punishment. The solution is simple!
Buy your hiking shoes/boots 1/2 size larger than your normal size. This requires some adjustment. I typically hike with a synthetic sock liner and a light wool blend hiking sock. The synthetic sock wicks away moisture and the wool blend will provide some cushion and keep your heel from sliding around. If your heel moves around, you will normally get blisters. You can keep the 1/2 size larger shoe from moving by tightening the laces a bit.
Another thing that you can do to keep your toenails is to trim them. Trim them like you normally do and you should be fine. Don’t pull your black/blue nail off, let it fall off naturally. If you do let it progress naturally, you may find a fresh, new nail underneath. This process could take several months! You should also use trekking poles to lessen the impact on your knees and feet. I use these and they are awesome: Kelty Upslope 2.0 Trekking Poles, Ano Blue
For more tips on hiking or trekking poles, refer to an earlier blog: https://thelatebloomerhiker.com/2013/05/10/hiking-poles-are-not-for-wimps/