Here are the causes and solutions to a big toenail that has stopped growing and is painful or sore.

It’s one thing to injure your big toe – and the nail gets caught in the crossfire and sustains damage, causing it to cease growing, turn black and eventually fall off.

This can happen to runners and hikers whose footwear and impact activity cause repeated trauma to the big toenail, which is cramped tightly inside a shoe.

But there are some other reasons why one’s big toenail could develop pain and cease to grow.

“If your big toenail has stopped growing and is causing you pain, there are several potential causes and solutions to consider,” says Alpana Mohta, MD, DNB, a dual board certified dermatologist who specializes in clinical and aesthetic dermatology.

“One common cause of a painful, non-growing toenail is a fungal infection,” continues Dr. Mohta.

“This can be treated with antifungal medication or, in severe cases, removal of the toenail.

“Another cause could be an injury to the toenail, such as stubbing it or dropping something heavy on it.”

For instance, if you’ve noticed something funky lately about your big toenail…ask yourself if in the recent past you accidentally dropped a weight at the gym on it but didn’t think much of it after that.

“Trauma to the toenail can damage the nail matrix (the part of the nail responsible for growing the nail) and cause the nail to stop growing,” explains Dr. Mohta.

“In this case, seeking medical attention and following the recommended treatment plan can help alleviate the pain and promote healing.

“In addition, aging is a also a major concern for nail growth.

“As we age, our nails naturally grow more slowly, and they may become brittle, dry, and prone to splitting or breaking.

“This can cause the toenail to stop growing or grow more slowly.

“Certain medical conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema and fungal infections, can also affect the nail matrix and prevent the toenail from growing properly.

“Next common cause of arrested toe nail growth is lack of certain nutrients, such as protein, iron and vitamin B12 — can affect the health of the nail matrix and prevent the toenail from growing.

“Additionally, improper footwear or improper nail care can also lead to a painful, non-growing toenail.

“Wearing shoes that are too tight or have narrow toe boxes can put pressure on the toenail and cause discomfort.”

If you’re a runner or hiker, you should first go on short excursions with new shoes or hiking footwear, in the event that at some unexpected point, you begin feeling bothersome pressure on a big toe – which can especially happen from running or trotting downhill.

“Ensuring that you have properly fitting footwear and regularly trimming your toenails can help prevent these issues,” says Dr. Mohta.

“If the pain persists despite these efforts, it is important to consult a medical professional for further evaluation and treatment.”

Dr. Alpana Mohta is a dual board certified dermatologist and owner of Her areas of interest include clinical dermatology, dermatopathology and dermatosurgery. She has over 85 research publications in numerous journals. Apart from her regular medical practice, she is also a medical writer, reviewer and advisor for many companies. 
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 


Top image: Shutterstock/Alexander Raths

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