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Do Soccer Players Lose Toenails?

Do Soccer Players Lose Toenails?

Playing soccer is always fun and exciting until you get injured, especially on your foot. Soccer is already hard and demanding but will be tougher if your feet are hurting.

Key Takeaways

  • Soccer players can lose their toenails during impact with other soccer players or when they accidentally kick the ground
  • Soccer players that keep long toenails are at a higher risk of losing them than those that keep their toenails short
  • Detached toenails are painful and will make it difficult for the soccer player to reach their maximum potential

Soccer players get injured on their feet in many instances on the pitch. The most common soccer injuries that affect the feet include plantar fasciitis, calluses, blisters, ingrown toenails, and bloodied toenails—which can cause the toenails to fall off.

A detached or broken toenail is common among soccer players just like athletes in other sports which involve rigorous use of the feet. Toenail loss is a painful condition that can stop athletes from actively participating in sports for weeks.

It is safe to remove a detached toenail by yourself but safer to consult a physician who can guide you on how to manage such a situation. When not managed properly, a toenail injury can open you up to bacterial or fungal infection.

Infected toenail injuries might require further medical attention which will help them heal properly and ensure that the toenail grows back.

What are the different factors that can cause a soccer player to lose his or her toenail? Keep reading to learn all that and how to protect your toenails from falling off.

Soccer players are practicing with the balls

Soccer players run an average of 7 miles in every game—these strains the feet a lot especially when their cleat isn’t the right fit. When players run in cleats that force their toes to constantly hit against the front part of the cleat, they develop bloody toenails.

Toenails are delicate body parts and are not tough enough to withstand heavy or sustained impact. This is why soccer players often complain of hurting toenails after participating in matches.

When such complaints aren’t properly attended to, some players often end up losing their toenails. During tackles on the pitch, players often get stepped on by their rivals which often causes their toenails to hurt, crack, break off, or get detached from the base.

Although players losing their toenails happens occasionally in soccer, most players (especially the amateurs) are still unsure of the actual cause. As it is often said, knowing the cause or source of a problem is the first step in solving that problem.

Below is a detailed list of the reasons why soccer players often lose toenails—and how you can avoid them.


You can develop nail trauma when another player steps on your foot or if you mistakenly stub your toe with great force. This causes blood and fluid to get trapped beneath your toenail.

When this happens, the toenail becomes either purple, black, or red and is often referred to as a black toenail. The scientific name for this condition is a subungual hematoma.


Sometimes, this condition occurs gradually, especially when your toes frequently hit against the front part of your cleats while running or kicking the soccer ball. A toenail trauma can start appearing as a small spot under the toenail until it becomes a large dark discoloration.

It may either hurt or feel tender to touch, depending on how severe it is. In severe cases, the affected toenail may become loose and fall off after a short period.

If the blood trapped beneath the toenail isn’t much, it can be drained by poking a tiny hole in the nail. In such instances, the nail often remains intact and continues to grow.

If the trauma is large and causes excessive pain, it is advisable to seek medical treatment. Allowing the pain to continue without seeking medical attention could cause the nail to stop growing or even get infected.

  • Seeking the help of a medical doctor is mandatory in the following instances mentioned below:
  • When the toenail gets loose
  • If there is continuous bleeding or discharge from under the toenail
  • The toe becomes severely swollen, and red, causing a lot of pain
  • If you have any underlying health condition that obstructs healing such as diabetes or neuropathy

Avoid treating a nail trauma by yourself especially when it involves drilling holes in your injured nail. If you can’t get to a doctor immediately, simply clean the affected area with a methylated spirit and bandage it to prevent infection while you prepare to see a doctor.

Bad soccer shoes

Poorly-fitting and wrongly designed soccer cleats can cause continuous trauma to the toenail while a player is running, walking, tackling opponents, or kicking the ball.

Although toenails are naturally thick, which enables them to protect the top of your toes, wearing poorly-fitting soccer shoes can make them abnormally thick. Thicker toenails can get broken or fall off more easily because they are usually less flexible.

When your toenails begin to get ticker, they start growing out of shape. They also start changing color, texture, and appearance. Thicker nails occur when extra layers of the nail grow underneath a nail’s surface.

Soccer shoes that are poorly fitting will often cramp your toes and deny them breathing or wiggle room. Playing balls in such shoes will crush your toenails and might even break your toes in severe cases.

Kid wear a soccer cleat on the field

Fixing bad toenails can take a long while because the nails grow slowly. Endeavor to always wear soccer cleats that fit properly and don’t put unnecessary pressure on your toes.

Never throw caution to the wind when you are on the soccer pitch. Soccer can often become emotionally charged, especially if you are losing. Learning how to control your emotions can go a long way in helping you to avoid losing your toenails.

An infection

When continuous trauma to your toenails is combined with poor foot hygiene, your nails might get infected by bacteria or fungi. Visible symptoms of such an infection might include nail loosening, colored deposits under the nail, and nail thickening.

A podiatrist is the best person to handle infected toenails. Nail fungus is a very common nail disease across the globe and a good number of Americans often suffer from it.

Toenail fungus usually caused by dermatophytes can affect injured nails when they aren’t properly cared for. These dermatophytes feed on the keratin present in the nails and they flourish in moist and warm environments.

Nail psoriasis is another form of skin disease that can spread to the nails and cause them to become brittle and thick. When soccer players get infected by this disease, they tend to lose their toenails easily while playing.

Infected toenails that aren’t properly treated can cause pain and discomfort. They can even extend to becoming chronic infections that will require more time and medication to heal.

Practicing good foot care hygiene can help cut down the risk of getting infected toenails while playing soccer. Keeping your nails short, clean, and dry always are recommended practices by healthcare professionals.

It is also important to avoid public pools, dirty shower floors, and stinky soccer boots as much as possible. These factors can hasten the spread of toenail fungus which can ruin the integrity of your toenails.

Underlying health conditions

Soccer players suffering from a health condition like cancer can begin to lose their toenails during chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can cause the nails to grow brittle, and weak, and can also disconnect them from the nailbed.

This is hugely reported in patients after several rounds of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy medications like Taxol and Taxotere are hugely responsible for nail loss in cancer patients.

A chronic autoimmune disease like psoriasis can also cause toenail loss in some players. Your healthcare team will know what kinds of treatment to administer before this health issue escalates beyond proportion.

Severe nail eczema is also linked to causing nail deformity, pitting, grooving, and thickness. This makes the toenails weak and playing soccer in such a condition can worsen it.

A player has an injury on the soccer field

Allergic reactions

The toenails can get allergic reactions from cosmetics and certain drugs. Such reactions usually start manifesting as a swelling around the nails and in some instances, the nails change color and become darker.

Sometimes, the nail becomes weak and detaches from the nailbed especially when engaging in rigorous sporting activities like soccer. Pre-existing nail conditions can also trigger allergies when certain creams and medications are applied.

Your nail’s reaction to chemicals in nail polishes, artificial nails, nail hardeners, nail gloss, and nail removers can also cause your nails to break off. Always buy original products and make adequate inquiries before buying cosmetics and certain nail products.

Is it normal for soccer players to lose toenails?

It isn’t normal for soccer players to lose toenails if they wear the right soccer cleats and practice good foot hygiene. The loss of toenails is usually due to trauma or an underlying disease.

While soccer players sometimes lose their toenails to injuries, you should be worried if it happens without any identifiable cause. Wearing soccer cleats that are too small or oversized is one of the major causes of toenail injuries among soccer players.

An oversized pair of soccer cleats will allow your foot to keep sliding back and forth while playing soccer. This causes the toes to repeatedly hit against the cleat’s toe area thereby causing trauma and injury.

It is also advisable to keep your toenails properly trimmed. When you witness a blood clot under your toenails after playing soccer, quickly consult a doctor to help relieve the pressure.

A badly beat-up toenail can get a player sidelined or make them play below expectation. Some players wear an extra pair of socks, tape their toenails, and even use silicone toe pads while playing soccer to keep their toes and toenails safe.

Paul Pogba


There are numerous reasons why soccer players lose toenails. However, playing safe, using the right soccer gear, and having good foot hygiene can prevent that from happening.

For example, the continuous use of narrow and tight soccer cleats can cause great damage to the toes and toenails.

The more trauma exerted on a toenail while playing soccer, the easier it becomes for it to get brittle, infected, or fall off. The good part remains that a lost toenail can regrow—although it takes a lot of time. You can keep playing soccer even without a toenail.

Even though toenail injuries often look alarming, they aren’t always as painful as they look. Nevertheless, ensure that they are properly treated to avoid deterioration and possibly infection.