5 Common Reasons Why Toenails Turn Black In Color

Toe nails can turn black because of various health issues

Everybody would’ve noticed a person with a black toenail at least once in their life. It looks disgusting, unclean, and makes you want to keep distance doesn’t it? But what if we tell you that such black nails aren’t necessarily due to a lack of cleanliness but indeed a health issue?

Black toenails occur due to different types of health issues that injure the blood vessels, the skin, or cause infections. Common medical conditions such as kidney disease, anemia, and diabetes also have side effects of blackening your toenails.1 But there are some much more common reasons why your toenails might turn black. Here’s how:


Reasons Why Toenails Turn Black

1. Fungal Infections Result In Black Toenails

Fungal infections to the toe can turn it black in color

Fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot, will cause various shades of discolorations in your toe when they turn severe. From yellow, white, blue, green, purple to black, depending on the type of fungus, your toes change color. Another factor that plays a role here is the subungual debris or dermatophytes, a waxy white waste that lines the nail bed. These waste substances thrive in warm or moist atmospheres, blacken the toe, and will even make it stink.


Fungal infections require medical attention. The doctor might have to biopsy a part of the affected nail for correct diagnosis. Treatments vary from medications or topical creams for milder cases to laser treatment for severe cases.

2. Melanoma Or Skin Cancer Can Affect Your Toes

Skin cancer can turn the nail bed underneath the toes black


This particular type of skin cancer causes dark brown spots on your body due to hyperpigmentation of the skin. Since this type of cancer grows slowly and painlessly over a period of time, it is quite tough to diagnose quickly. Melanoma can also affect your toes and cause discolored spots under your nail bed.

A good way to recognize the cancer growth would be to observe the discolored spot. If the spot extends from the nail to the cuticle, it’s probably a good time to get it checked by a doctor. Melanoma, although rare, is usually treatable. So, regularly check your toenails for any possible discoloration to ensure on-time treatment.


3. Repetitive Athletic Activities Can Blacken Your Toes

Athletic activities can cause minor injuries to the toes and turn them black

If you’re a runner or a jogger or follow any other similar athletic activities, you’ve higher chances of experiencing blackened toes. Since you work your feet when wearing shoes most of the time, constant rubbing or other movements can injure the toe and infect it. Also, since your feet are mostly sweaty, you will get infected easily.


Ensure that you air your feet every now and then and keep them clean. Never wear shoes that are too tight or uncomfortable for your toes.

4. Injuries Or Trauma Can Lead To Discolored Toes

Injury to the toes can affect the blood vessels and turn black


When you hit your toenail hard on something or a heavy object falls on the toe, the blood vessels break open. This causes blood to collect under the toenails and makes them black in color. Known as subungual hematoma, this type of injury is the easiest to diagnose as the toes turn black immediately after getting hurt.

Since the blood accumulates in one region, the doctor will prick a needle into your toe and drain the blood, reducing the pressure and the discoloration. Remember, do not try to release the blood at home.


5. Skin Tone Can Make Toes Appear Black

Some toenails might look black just because of the skin tone

Sometimes, black toes can just be false alarms. In such cases, the dark color underneath your nail might just be your skin tone. Get the diagnosis right before wondering if you’ve hurt your toe.

Most commonly, such discoloration occurs on multiple toes and the spots might be of just about the same size. You can also recognize certain infections by observing if your finger nails are also blackening. You can thus recognize by constant observation if you have a benign or malignant black toenail. Malignant black toenails will usually just turn severe on a single toenail.

Simple Tips To Prevent Black Toenails

  • Always wear shoes that fit you perfect and prevent you from sweating too much.
  • Be careful and avoid any injuries to your toes.
  • Trim your toe and finger nails frequently and keep them clean.
  • Change your socks every day and air your shoes after use.

Learn to keep yourself clean and check your finger and toe nails often. If you notice any color change, go to your doctor immediately. Do not waste time especially if you’re diabetic. Depending on the cause, the doctor can decide if a treatment is required or not.