Medicine / Dermatology
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Athlete's foot and jogger's nipples and hungry treadmills, oh my!

April 14, 2007

Matthew Vasey, MD

Run Forrest, Run. While Forrest Gump managed to inspire the nation running from coast to coast, little attention was paid to the impact of this on his body, in particular his skin. Runners will forever be battling the effects of their trade on their skin. Skin conditions joggers face include infections, inflammatory conditions, trauma and of course environmental injuries.(7)

The fungus, Tinea pedis, or athlete's foot is almost epidemic in this population when compared to couch potato counterparts. (4) Also, while not limited to runners, those who enjoy loitering in dressing rooms for one reason or another must watch out for gram-negative infections between the toes. (2) When it comes to these skin infections of the feet, funguses, bacteria and viruses, such as those that cause plantar warts are fair game.

Inflammatory reactions can sometimes occur if a runner is allergic to a component of their shoes (1), uticarial rashes or small areas of redness may show up for unknown reasons shortly after warming the body up and some cases have been reported of exercise inducing anaphylactic shock! (5)

Traumatic injuries to the skin of runners can include: jogger's toe, talon noir or black heel, runner's purpura or little red spots on the legs, blisters, piexogenic pedal papules where pressure squeezes foot fat closer to the skin's surface, runners rump, friction burns from treadmill injuries, joggers alopecia from headband type accesories, and even joggers nipples. (7)

One case of frostbite is reported of a runner taking a jog in sub-freezing temperatures with modest clothing and an open zipper to his trousers.(6) The most serious of effects on runners skin is that which results simply from prolonged sun exposure, and that is skin cancer. (3)

Be sure to excersise skin precaution when out running.


1. Adams BB. Sports dermatology. Dermatol Nurs 2001;13:347-63.
2. Aste N, Atzori L, Zucca M, Pau M, Biggio P. Gram-negative bacterioal toe web infection" a survey of 123 cases from the district of Cagliari, Italy. J Am Acad Dermatol 2001;45:537-41.
3. Atton AV, Tunnessen WW. The athlete and his skin. Clin Rev Allergy. 1988;6:403-29
4. Caputo R, De Boulle K, Del Rosso J, Nowicki R. Prevalence of superficial infections among sports active individuals: results from the Achilles survey, a review of the literature. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 2001;15:312-6.
5. Fisher AA. Sports-related allergic dermatitis. Cutis. 1992;50:95-7.
6. Hershkowitz M. Penile frostbite, an unforeseen hazard of jogging. N Engl J Med 1977;292:178.
7. Mailler-Savage E, Adams B. Skin manifestations of running. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2006;55:290-301. on Social Media