What is Skier’s Toe?

Skier’s toe is the term given to a bruised and bloody toe caused by wearing your ski boots. Medically, this condition is called a subungual hematoma, and it’s a result of a toe getting repeated trauma. 

I’m Christine, the founder of this blog and lifelong skier. I get up to the mountains as often as possible and spend as many days as I can with skis on. I’ve dealt with skier’s toe numerous times over the years, so I know about it through first-hand experience. 

This post will show you what skier’s toe is. I’ll explain the condition in depth to give you a better understanding and also provide some tips for avoiding it. My goal is to help you stay informed so you can stay on the snow longer. 

Let’s jump in. 

Key Takeaways

  • Skier’s toe is a term given to a painful toe that is often accompanied by a bruised and bloody toenail. This is a very uncomfortable thing to deal with and can result in taking time off your skis if it’s severe enough. 
  • The medical term for skier’s toe is a subungual hematoma. This basically translates to an under-toenail bruise. If you have ever gotten one of those hideous purple toenails while skiing or through any other activity, this is the technical prognosis. 
  • You can avoid skier’s toe by always wearing boots that fit correctly and avoiding going off jumps or other features on the mountain that result in high impact. 

What is Skier’s Toe? 

Skier’s toe is a painful and uncomfortable issue that many skiers deal with at some point if they ski long enough. It’s caused by repeated trauma to your toe or toes and results in a purple toenail that usually falls off later. 

The medical term for skier’s toe is a subungual hematoma. This translates to under-toenail bruise in Latin and does a pretty good job of describing the condition. It can be super painful and will cause your toenail to turn purple and slightly black. 

Even though the sight of a purple or black toenail can be pretty scary, skier’s toe isn’t always that serious of a condition. If you experience discoloration without any pain, you only have a mild case of skier’s toe. 

But a bad case can make you want to stay out of your ski boots until the pain is gone. Your boots are generally the reason why the condition occurred in the first place, so when you put them back on after you have it, you can expect quite a bit of pain. 

Skier’s toe can happen when you wear boots that don’t fit properly or when your feet take a significant impact when you land after a big jump or dropoff. The impact and pressure on your toes cause enough trauma to result in bruising. 

How to Avoid Skier’s Toe

There is no guaranteed way to prevent skier’s toe altogether, and it can happen to even the most experienced skiers out there. But you can do a few things to help avoid it happening, which can keep you on the snow longer. 

The first thing to do is always wear boots that fit correctly. If your boots are too tight, you are more likely to get skier’s toe because your toes will be closer to the impact zone whenever you ski hard. 

The other way is to avoid going off big jumps and other features that result in heavy impact. This is especially true if you are an inexperienced skier who doesn’t know how to land properly. The impact directly leads to skier’s toe. 


Here are a few quick answers to some of the most frequently asked questions relating to skier’s toe. 

Does skier’s toe go away on its own? 

Skier’s toe can go away on its own, typically resulting in your toenail falling off. If the pain isn’t that severe, you can usually just wait it out or even continue skiing. Eventually, you will be okay. But if it’s a bad case, you might need to see a doctor to relieve the pressure. 

How do you stop skier’s toe? 

There is no way to stop skier’s toe entirely, but you can help prevent it by wearing boots that fit correctly and avoiding hitting any big jumps that you don’t have the skills or technique to deal with. But this is an injury that happens even to expereinced skiers. 

How long does skier’s toe take to heal? 

Skier’s toe can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to heal. If you have a bad case of it and your toenail dies, it won’t fall off for months, and your new nail won’t grow in for a long time either. But the pain involved with minor cases usually goes away in a few weeks. 

Final Thoughts

Skier’s toe isn’t a fun condition to deal with, and it can severely limit your ability to ski if you get a severe case. If the pain is really bad, you might need to see a doctor to relieve the pressure by boring a hole in your toenail. 

Have you ever had skier’s toe? Did your toenail eventually fall off, or was it a mild case? Let me know in the comments below. 

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