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Why Are My Fingers and Toes Swollen After Running?

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Updated May 15, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: Why Are My Fingers and Toes Swollen After Running?

"My fingers look like sausages after a long run. Why does that happen and what can I do about it?"

Answer: It's common for runners to have swollen fingers and toes after a long run, especially when running in warm weather. One reason for swollen fingers and toes after running is an electrolyte imbalance. The salt in your blood must be kept in balance to prevent swelling in your tissues. So if you lose too much salt (through sweat) or you have too much salt in your diet, you may notice swelling in your extremities first. In rare cases, extreme swelling of your hands and feet during a marathon or long run may be a sign of hyponatremia, which can result from drinking excessive amounts of water, causing a low concentration of sodium in the blood. Other signs of hyponatremia are nausea and vomiting. Hydrating properly with water (4 to 6 ounces every 20 minutes) during runs and consuming sports drinks during long runs are key to maintaining electrolyte balance.

Another explanation is that your blood flow increases while you're running, but some of the excess fluid may accumulate in your hands and feet it has to travel against gravity. If you've noticed swollen fingers or toes during or after your runs, may want to remove your rings, loosen your running watch, and make sure your running shoes are not too tight before you start running. Swinging your arms in circles occasionally during your runs and stretching your fingers and then making fists several times to get the blood flowing may help.

Source: "How Much Water is Too Much Water?" American Council on Exercise, accessed 2/21/13

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