They say that true love for a tennis player is measured by a simple test: if you have seen their toes and afterwards you still love them, it must be true love indeed. If you are a tennis player, you can most likely relate at some point to having experienced the damaged, broken, black and blue, and often entirely missing toenails that seem to be an inevitable part of the competitive tennis experience. Besides being extremely painful, their appearance can make wearing sandals an awkward exercise, although sandals are often the least painful footwear option. For ladies, it means pedicures can be embarrassing and the choice of nail polishes is most often limited to dark colours which serve to camouflage the injury. And for men, toenail damage is not a terribly aesthetically pleasing look either.
So what exactly is producing this telltale tennis injury? Perhaps more importantly, is there anything that can be done to prevent or lessen the damage?
This common injury is usually referred to as “turf toe”, (I know, not a terribly romantic name), and most often occurs due to repeated rubbing of the nails or impact with the front or sides of the tennis shoe during play. As this continues to occur throughout a match, the constant pressure can produce bruising underneath the nail which may eventually result in nail loss. The injuries are more common when playing on hard courts due to the sudden stops by players, rather than the sliding stops that are experienced on clay courts.
So, what to do? First, make sure you are wearing the right sized and shaped shoes. Have your feet measured and sized by a professional who specializes in or is familiar with athletic wear. Wear proper tennis shoes and consider moving up a half size larger from your actual shoe size. In addition, keep your toenails trimmed as short as possible, and consider a cushioned sock or even doubling up and wearing two pairs of socks. It may also help to tighten your shoe laces well, especially around your ankle, in order to keep your feet from sliding around during a match.
Hopefully, you already make it easy for someone to love your toes and if not, these tips should help you kiss turf toe goodbye for good, (that may not have been the best choice of metaphor). See you on the court!