Purple Toenails

Solving the Mystery of Purple Toenails

Have you ever looked down at your feet only to discover that you had somehow been hit with a case of purple toenails? Sounds gross, of course, but the problem of purple toenails is more common that you might think. And discolored toenails really are not as gross as they may sound at the outset. In fact, purple toenails can be caused by a few different situations and are generally nothing to be worried about. Even though toenail discoloration is usually not serious, it can still be painful – not to mention the affect on overall foot appearance.


The most common reason for the purple discoloration of toenails is bruising, which is not surprising since bruises all over the body tend to be purple, black and blue in color. In the same way a bruise elsewhere on the body can appear purplish in color, a bruise on the toes will cause the same interesting shading.

There are plenty of ways that the toes can be bruised, the most obvious being banging the toes or dropping something on them. Who hasn’t stubbed their toe against the bed frame or other large piece of furniture and wound up with a ripe purple or black toenail? Stubbing the toe can even lead to actually breaking the toe, which is painful with pretty much no treatment. As anyone who has suffered the catastrophe of a broken toe knows, there is nothing that can be done – no cast, no little toe sling, nothing. The only treatment for a broken toe is time, which means waiting for the bones to heal.

Any injury to the toe will cause discoloration and bruising, even if the injury is behind the toenail and not easily visible on the surface of the skin. If a heavy object is dropped on top of the toe or toenail, there will undoubtedly by a colorful bruise blossoming within hours, if not minutes, of the accident.

Most of the time, bruises are caused by the build up of blood under surface of the skin or behind the toenail, which is why it appears dark purple or black on the surface of the nail. Bruises – and the interesting colors they come with – will go away over time, and there is really not much that can be done to speed up the process. Time heals bruises, and the colors will usually fade over several days as the bruise gets better. If a bruise is unusually deep, it can take a longer time to heal and it may be a matter of weeks or months before the toenail returns its normal, healthy color.

Exercise and physical activities can also lead to discoloration of the toenails. Purple or black toenails are a common occurrence for regular runners and people who workout regularly on aerobic machines at the gym. If workout shoes do not fit properly, this can cause the toes to rub against the inside of the shoe. The rubbing and chafing is not good for the feet and toes and can lead to bruising, which, in turn, may cause the toenails to become discolored.

The best way to avoid injuring the toes and feet during exercise is to make sure your shoes fit correctly. Never wear shoes that are too small, especially when jogging or running. This can cause damage to both your feet and toes, in fact, many experts believe that the workout shoes are the most important piece of equipment when it comes to exercise and physical training.