Nail fungus education: Coming to an event near you

Runners are at high risk of developing nail fungus
Citing the health risk of nail fungus to the growing population of runners in the U.S., the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) has launched "Best Feet Forward," a nationwide, year-long campaign to educate America's 10.4 million runners about the prevention and treatment of this progressive and potentially serious infection.

Mobile education

The "Best Feet Forward" program was kicked off at the 20th Los Angeles Marathon with the unveiling of the "Toe Truck," sponsored by Penlac Nail Lacquer (ciclopirox) Topical Solution, 8%. The campaign will roll out to 21 marathons and other major running events throughout the country in 2005.

The Penlac "Toe Truck," a key part of this fun and energetic mobile health education program, will travel to most of these events to provide runners and their families with free foot screenings by local podiatrists as well as information about foot and nail care. The health education initiative is supported by Dermik Laboratories.

"Nail fungus is an important health and foot care issue for runners, and the 'Best Feet Forward' campaign is consistent with our mission to promote education and wellness among the running population," said Becky Lambros, executive director of RRCA. "We encourage runners and their families to take advantage of the free foot screenings that will take place at major road races throughout the U.S. this year. Look for the 'Toe Truck' to come to your city."

Risk factors

Runners, and in fact all exercise enthusiasts, are at risk of developing nail fungus because of the following risk factors, which are common to the running population:

  • Nail trauma associated with running can make the nail bed more susceptible to fungal growth.
  • Sweaty socks and tight athletic shoes promote a warm, moist environment that can contribute to the growth of the fungus.
  • Because nail fungus is contagious, warm, moist environments such as communal showers and gym locker rooms are places where the fungus can be contracted.

"The sweaty socks and shoes that runners consistently wear may be breeding grounds for the fungi that cause this unsightly and potentially painful infection," said John Mozena, D.P.M., podiatrist and marathon runner. "Because nail fungus can seriously impact your running as well as your general foot health, we urge runners to practice prevention and seek medical care at the first sign of the problem."

What nail fungus is

Nail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, is a persistent fungal infection of the nails that affects approximately 35 million Americans. Nail fungus occurs when fungi called dermatophytes, usually Trichophyton rubrum, invade the nail. The incidence of nail fungus increases with age and is higher in men, but it can affect people of any age or gender.

The symptoms of nail fungus include changes in color and thickness of the nail. As the disease progresses, the nail thickens and causes pressure, especially when shoes are worn. People with nail fungus may have difficulty wearing shoes, which can make it difficult to perform such activities as running and walking. Since the appearance of the nail may be embarrassing to people who suffer from this disease, they may avoid recreational activities that require taking off their shoes and socks.

How to prevent it

Runners may have an increased risk of getting infected with nail fungus because of a greater exposure to specific risk factors, such as walking barefoot in contaminated areas (locker rooms and communal showers), exercising and wearing sweaty athletic socks. In order to prevent nail fungus, people can take the following measures:

  • Wash and dry feet daily.
  • Wear socks that absorb moisture.
  • Make sure shoes are completely dry before putting them on.
  • Do not wear tight shoes or the same pair of shoes every day; train in sneakers made of materials that breathe.
  • Inspect feet regularly and have a doctor check for nail fungus and other running-related foot ailments during office visits.
  • Wear shower shoes or flip-flops if possible when showering in public areas.
  • Don't apply nail polish to nails that are suspected of infection.


If a person develops a fungal nail infection, an appropriate diagnosis is key for treatment. There are some physical signs that help medical professionals determine if a nail condition is due to fungi or some other problem. Because the fungus can invade the nail and spread, it is important to stop the progression of the disease at the first symptoms of infection.

The successful treatment of nail fungus does not happen overnight, especially considering that the nails, particularly toenails, grow slowly. No matter which treatment is used, it can take about six months for fingernails to grow out and up to a year or more for toenails.

Effective treatments for nail fungus, including both oral and topical medications, are available by prescription. People should visit their doctor and find out what treatment is most appropriate for them.

Click here to see the "Toe Truck" schedule

Founded in 1958, the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) is a grassroots running organization in America.

This article was prepared by Biotech Business Week editors from staff and other reports. Copyright 2005, Biotech Business Week via To see more of the, or to subscribe, go to

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