Removing toenails/nailbeds in the name of hiking?

2:00 a.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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Got your attention huh? The thought of it makes you cringe, doesn't it? Yet, I've heard of thru-hikers purposely doing this very thing in order to facilitate a less-complicated backcountry experience.

I'm being perfectly serious here. I see my toenails as a bane to my existence, and I'd love to not have them there. They serve no purpose for me since I stopped wearing peep-toe pumps with painted nails...Now, I know how to remove my toenails--I've accidentally lost a couple over the years--but I'm wondering how I can permanently keep them from returning?

Has anyone in the trailspace community done this, or do any aspiring Podiatrists have any suggestions?

I imagine something involving a weak acid, and maybe some sort of poultice?

3:24 a.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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I had an ingrown and deformed toenail on my right big toe surgically repaired. The surgeon removed the offending section of nail and nail bed, then cut open the area at the base of the nail to scrape away the tissue that forms the nail so it wouldn't grow back.

It was not a very pleasant experience and I couldn't imagine having it done to the entire nail on all ten toes. OUCH!!!!.

 

9:00 a.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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i used to suffer a lot more subungual hematomas (when your toenails turn purple and get a blood blister underneath) than i do now, probably some combination of using better socks and doing a better job finding shoes that truly fit.  by 'truly fit,' i mean shoes and boots that have both a roomy toe box and that lace up in such a way that they keep my foot in place on steep downhills.  this injury primarily occurs from toes banging the front of your shoes/boots on downhills, from your foot slipping forward.  also, on really long walks, i smear my toes with vaseline or something similar; that definitely helps with friction blisters.  

when i get them now, much more occasionally, i force myself to ignore it.  eventually, the blister under the nail dries out.  when that happens, it's no longer painful, just unsightly.  

i can't imagine intentionally removing in-injured toenails, but i guess there are different ways to look at this.  

9:14 a.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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Ultrarunner Marshall Ulrich had his surgically removed. I read about it in his book, Running on Empty. There's a 2009 New York Times article on it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/22/fashion/22FITNESS.html

He's still the exception, even within ultra runners, and I'm not personally recommending the practice.

I've lost a few temporarily myself, but it tends to be more of an unsightly inconvenience than anything else.

9:23 a.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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I suppose if I was hiking thousands of miles a year it might have an appeal. Currently, the thought makes me shudder and does not remotely recommend itself. I have accidentally lost fingernails before, and found the experience and subsequent healing process quite abhorrent. 

9:53 a.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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Heck, why stop at the nails?  Toes are over rated!  They are just fodder to get stubbed, broken, or frost bite.  I was thinking of contacting a farrier and getting steel shoes shod to the bottom of my feet, precluding bruised nails altogether, since boots would then be unnecessary.

Ed

9:58 a.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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When I had my first big foot blow-out, BillS suggested I get the book FIXING YOUR FEET. I did and it talks a lot about toe nails. I would never let the subungual hematomas just lay there and heal on their own. Partly because it HURTS and moreover because of the potential for infection. I bought a medical grade manual nail drill for my kit. It relieve the pressure and allows them to drain. I would not want to lose my nails. They do serve a purpose in protecting your toes. Fit and clip are the key. I also got some of the tapes that are talked about in the book to make taping toes that lose nails or blister at the end more comfortable in the boots with tape on then and to help prevent new blisters at the tapes edges.

Ed..why not got to feet too and get bionic ones! Then you could avoid any shoe covering expenses! Just have the metal bases of the prosthetic "shod".

10:13 a.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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I've read a post on a mountaineering website about a person using a method which involved acid to permanently remove toenails.  He had some pictures posted and it didn't look very pleasant. 

10:58 a.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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I am happy with mine, thank you!

11:35 a.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

Heck, why stop at the nails?  Toes are over rated!  

 I was going to say the same thing lol. 

7:08 p.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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I've heard that renowned long distance hiker Nimbelwill Nomad had his toenails removed and silver nitrated dripped into the nail beds to prevent them from regrowing.  He's hiked several thousand miles since, so it seemed to work well for him.

I used to have pretty bad nail problems.  For me, a combination of cutting them short and using light, cheap sneakers has worked well.  YMMV.

7:24 p.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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And - if anyone is curious about what Mr. Ulrich's feet look like, there is a great picture here: http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2009/10/22/fashion/22fitness-toenails-2.html

7:35 p.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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They don't look that bad. I have seen worse on woman who wear spike heals to make the men in their lives....and not in their lives....happy about their legs and femininity. I have always been a tom-boy so was not into big heals. But my mom and sis were and they ended up with some dang ugly feet...ingrowns, gnarly toe knuckles, bunions, corns......way worse feet that I have had in bad hike conditions. All on dry land in nylons and shoes!

3:39 a.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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That's a great link, Seth. That's exactly what I'd like to have happen to my feet. Looks beautiful.

8:00 a.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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I had minor in grown toenails.   Went to the podiatrist.  Fairly simple procedure and recovery was not bad.  The rest of my toenails are very thin and just curve over then ends of my toes.  Never had a problem with them.

If you get them removed you'll never have to worry about nail fungus.

8:30 a.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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uhhh ouch!

11:50 a.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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if anyone decides to remove their toes, Limmer has made custom boots for people who lost them to frostbite (Willi Unsoeld among them).

11:55 a.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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leadbelly2550 said:

if anyone decides to remove their toes, Limmer has made custom boots for people who lost them to frostbite (Willi Unsoeld among them).

 Will this work for those who lose them intentionally to hacksaw?

Where's my whiskey...

2:53 p.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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I tried to remove this toe but the hospital stitched it back on.


20120221_113005.jpg

Cut off at back of toe nail (so I was taking care of both)

Then they cut the toe nail off the cut off end and stitched the toe back on overlapped the toe nail on the cut and stitch all corners as a splint/brace.

Toe two had each bone in 3 peices.  This towe now fused and does not bend.

Toe three had each bone in 2 peices.

Big toe knuckle was crushed to 50% of height.

Worst pain was when as an outpatient I kicked the back of the seat upon entering car for hospital.

I learnt to walk without putting my big toe on the ground and became a good left foot kicker. 

11:08 p.m. on February 22, 2012 (EST)
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I am surprised Ulrich's feet are so healthy.  I will save you all pics of my old frost biten dogs.  Not pretty, but far from the worst I've seen.  One associate can no longer hike.  He got a case of fostbite that never healed conmpletely.  Smells bad as it looks.

Ed

10:51 a.m. on February 23, 2012 (EST)
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Long-distance solo sailors will sometimes have their appendix removed before sailing. You might consider that as well.

Teeth can also be a problem. As a precaution, you might wish to have all your teeth removed immediately and replaced with lightweight dentures. Consider the thought of having an impacted tooth and a raging toothache; or a mouthful of broken teeth from a fall; while days from dental care.

I won't go into the obvious hazards that external genitalia present when hiking and climbing...

10:55 a.m. on February 23, 2012 (EST)
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overmywaders; BOB-IT!

Ed: After reading this, I feel like I may be a whiner regarding my 6 toenail episode. A week and a half in and only losing two of teh six black ones. AND it isn't looking near as ugly as it was a week ago.

8:39 p.m. on February 23, 2012 (EST)
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I had all my toe nails removed, while I like to say it was for my PCT hike that is not correct.  I had very bad infection from 17 to 18 years old.  My family doctor treated my toes for 1 year before my parents took me to another doctor, and found 2 problems which required all my nails to be removed.  I went into the Navy with no problems and while not having any problems for many years I would agree with anyone that my toes are ugly, but I have no problems on the trail and don't worry about my nails causing problems boots and socks.  One last note they removed them all at the same time and used acid to stop the nails from growing, but I get a very small nail that will show up from time to time, it will not take hold of my toe and falls off after a few weeks.

4:31 a.m. on February 24, 2012 (EST)
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giftogab said:

Ed: After reading this, I feel like I may be a whiner...

 Naw, toe nail bruises hurt like the dickens while hiking.

Ed

7:25 a.m. on February 24, 2012 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

Heck, why stop at the nails?  Toes are over rated!  They are just fodder to get stubbed, broken, or frost bite.  I was thinking of contacting a farrier and getting steel shoes shod to the bottom of my feet, precluding bruised nails altogether, since boots would then be unnecessary.

Ed

 Thats exceptional! good stuff.  why stop at the toes just get rid of everything that hurts.

9:03 a.m. on February 24, 2012 (EST)
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I'd like to cut my nose off and gouge my eyes out this time of year.  Pollen is horrible.

I think that if you have a problem with something like your toe nails that prevents or keeps you from enjoying something then get it fixed.  I had mild ingrown toe nails for years.  If I did everything right all the time I didn't have a problem. Got them fixed a couple of years ago.  I'm really happy that I did. 

My podiatrist used Phenol (phenyl alcohol) to kill the nail bed.  Basically he cut out the side of the nail and killed the edge of the nail bed. It was only uncomfortable to walk on for 3-4 days. I had to apply anti fungal  to prevent a nail bed infection while the nail grew back. 

10:58 a.m. on February 24, 2012 (EST)
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ocalacomputerguy said:

I'd like to cut my nose off and gouge my eyes out this time of year...

 LOL, I thought you were describing a reaction to tax seasosn!
Ed

1:29 p.m. on February 24, 2012 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

ocalacomputerguy said:

I'd like to cut my nose off and gouge my eyes out this time of year...

 LOL, I thought you were describing a reaction to tax seasosn!
Ed

 No, that would be an arm and leg or something unmentionable to send to them with a note that says "Is this enough?"

11:00 p.m. on February 25, 2012 (EST)
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I just have to say this is the most disgusting thread I've ever read.  It completely whoops butt all over some of the insane masochistic stuff I've seen (like self-amputating knuckle by knuckle with a sharp wood chisel and hammer).  I'm sure that sounds unreasonable to some, but I'm shooting straight with you here.  It freaks and grosses me out.

A friend of mine married a runner, and he told me she often loses nails.  She's told him that she's met quite a few runners who had them removed, and she's considered having it done herself.  This conversation lasted all of a few seconds before I had to ask him to stop.  I remember reading Green Berets as a teenager, and as they talked about torture with bamboo under the fingernails, I got lightheaded and almost passed out.

I hope I forget this thread exists and that I posted in it.  No offense to pillowthread intended.

11:36 p.m. on February 25, 2012 (EST)
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*****WARNING ZENO PICTURE BELOW*********

Zeno! That is funny, when I sent this pic of the current condition of my toes to my sister she said the same thing! She had read a book when quite young that had the bamboo under the nails and could not stand to talk about or see anything toe/finger nailish!

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toe.jpg

So, that is what I have one missing and two more on their way out. No pain at this point, though.

12:17 a.m. on February 26, 2012 (EST)
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No worries, Zeno. I hope your memory modification works out...though you might not want to continue reading this post, or this thread....

That is a great photo, giftogab! What stories you'll tell! Reminds me of the time I was relaxing at a table one day...I had just finished eating, and was tipping back on on a standard steel folding chair, reveling in my digestion, when I decided to stand up. I had taken my shoes off earlier, and was just tramping around in my wool socks.

Since I had decided to get up quite spontaneously, and without any forethought, when the chair leg landed directly on the nail of my 4th toe on my left foot I was unable to stop my forward momentum. As I stood up, shifting my weight onto those front two legs of the chair, I felt a sensation that I just could not appreciate at the time...exponentially more intense than the pain that accompanies the nails I've lost to walking/running.

By the time I looked down, a few loud expletives later, that area of my sock was already red. Peeling the sock off my foot, I found the nail completely removed, and literally had to shake it out of my sock...

I remember the day it finally dried out and I woke up pain-free...wow was it good to just pull on a pair of socks the normal way...glad you're pain-free now too, giftogab!

12:22 a.m. on February 26, 2012 (EST)
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To me, the picture reveals a lot of bruising in my foot so I must have really put the hammer to those toes on the decent. My other foot has three toes in the same condition as the two to the left of my big toe in the pic. After a week and a half of discomfort and pain the pain is gone and now it is really just sort of pressure on the five toes and the big toe just feels weird not having a nail to the end. It is getting whiter and am losing length each morning. Just glad the nail bed hardened as the toe nail died! Not like you getting the thing RIPPED off! So at least it is not tender and that bodes well for the hike that I have ahead of me.  In don't know....it sorta feels like I have earned a badge of something or other through this! At work, people cannot figure out why I would ever hike again after that.....HA....cannot WAIT to be on the trail!

10:36 a.m. on February 26, 2012 (EST)
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I mean no disrespect, but you shouldn't be hammering your toes going downhill. That indicates insufficient room in the toebox of your boot and/or you need to get a boot that fits your foot volume better so that it holds above the arch and doesn't allow your foot to slide forward.

One of the joys of the FGL "old school" boots is the protection of the feet... when properly fitted and laced (two caveats there).

JMO, YMMV

1:46 p.m. on February 26, 2012 (EST)
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Over: this is the end of a long discussion. I wasn't laced properly at all and have good room. Didn't have super feet either. Perfect storm. Dark descent, in a hurry, blah blah blah...it is my own fault.

2:56 p.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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overmywaders said:

I mean no disrespect, but you shouldn't be hammering your toes going downhill. That indicates insufficient room in the toebox of your boot and/or you need to get a boot that fits your foot volume better so that it holds above the arch and doesn't allow your foot to slide forward.

One of the joys of the FGL "old school" boots is the protection of the feet... when properly fitted and laced (two caveats there).

JMO, YMMV

 I don't understand why someone would keep wearing boots that make their toenails fall off. On the other hand, I know at least one woman who buys her hiking boots the same size as her regular shoes. She loses a nail or two every season.

You might want to look at boots like the Salomon Quest or Comet which have a built-in lace lock that allows you to set different tension above and below the ankle. Set it tighter in the top portion to stop your foot from sliding down into the toebox on a descent, and leave the bottom portion looser for comfort.

4:09 p.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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Come'on you guys. I don't keep hiking in boots that make my toenails black. This has been a long discussion and this is the first and only time these boots have done this to my feet and it was a clear case of lace loosening. I am done looking at boots as this has been a two years process and I am leaving in three weeks for my trek. I got rid of the ASOLO's that I tried out and went back to the keens which have been fine on every hike I have taken except this one. I even bought larger ones when I replaced the last pair to accomodate altuitude. I would like the lace lock feature, but at this juncture, I don't think change will be productive as I haven't time enough to test them out.  I appreciate the suggestions, just not applicable to my situation.

5:06 p.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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giftogab said:

Come'on you guys. I don't keep hiking in boots that make my toenails black. This has been a long discussion and this is the first and only time these boots have done this to my feet and it was a clear case of lace loosening.

I relate, sometimes you just make a mistake that gives you blister or impacted toes. This weekend I was out from three days in the Unicoi range, covering many miles and lots of elevation change. The last day I waited too long to change my sweaty socks, and gave myself a small blister on the ball of my foot. I have hiked hundreds of miles in these boots, and this is the first blister there I have gotten. 

Maybe I should throw them out and get new ones ;)

5:12 p.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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gonzan said:

Maybe I should throw them out and get new ones ;)

 You should. In fact get a few pairs. Its the only rational option. ;)

5:28 p.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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gonzan said:

Maybe I should throw them out and get new ones ;)

Definitely.  You should buy yourself new pair.  You can break them in the next time you go on a 4-5 day hike.  Make sure you get some steel toed ones.  The toe box will be nice and big.

6:06 p.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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I have three pair right now! HA!

7:54 p.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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ocalacomputerguy said:

..Make sure you get some steel toed ones.  The toe box will be nice and big.

Just in case the irony (sic) escaped some, John's remark about steel toed boots was in jest.  Steel toes are not a good idea; the metal makes the boot unnecessarily heavy and saps the heat away from your toes on cold days.

Ed

10:32 p.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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Aw ED! I just had mine dipped in pewter this afternoon!

11:40 p.m. on March 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Having practiced Podiatric medicine for 40 years; active hiker in BSA for 20 years I thought I had heard it all. Wow ! Use comon sense, If you have foot problems, see a Podiatrist, once who experienced in backpacking. Wholesale removal of toenails ?  Dr. Torquemada would be honored !!! If you have problems address them.

 

12:48 a.m. on March 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Harry Why Woodbadge Owl said:

Having practiced Podiatric medicine for 40 years; active hiker in BSA for 20 years I thought I had heard it all. Wow ! Use comon sense, If you have foot problems, see a Podiatrist, once who experienced in backpacking. Wholesale removal of toenails ?  Dr. Torquemada would be honored !!! If you have problems address them.

 

Well, you came late to the party Harry. This thread was a spin off from another thread. I had not laced my boots properly and had a steep decent. Ended up with the bad toe nails from banging the fronts. I am sure after 20 years of hiking you must have had a blister or two under a nail. It isn't rocket science and was not infected, so no podiatrist needed. Just Epsom salt and time. I am not one to run to a doctor for every little thing. Drives up health care costs and takes time from work.  From my thread, Pillow entertained this thought and we all went from there. Called conversatin'. we like doing a bit of that round here.

2:34 p.m. on March 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Oh baby yo feet so sexy

11:54 p.m. on March 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Callahan said:

Oh baby yo feet so sexy

 HA HA HA!  will tell the pedicurist tomorrow you said so.

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