Preventing and Dealing with Ingrown Toenails

There are different disorders and diseases that your toenails can get while you are wearing shoes or walking and running barefoot, and one of the worst things that can happen is that your toenails will start to become ingrown. What are ingrown toenails? And how can they be prevented and treated? We will find out we take a look at what ingrown toenails are and how to deal with them.

What are Ingrown Toenails?

ingrown toenail

Ingrown toenails, also known as onychocryptosis, are a common condition on the foot where one or both sides of a toenail grow into the surrounding skin of the toe. This phenomenon occurs when the toenails are not growing adequately in their natural direction, which is forward towards the end of the toe. Instead, the toenails would grow to the sides, thus piercing the skin that surrounds them.

This foot condition can cause pain, redness, swelling, and even infection, which can then worsen the symptoms. Ingrown toenails are most commonly found on the big toe, although they can also occur on any toe, and they may also appear on the nails of the fingers. 

What are the Causes of Ingrown Toenails?

There are several causes of ingrown toenails, with some being more common than others. Here are some of the details that you need to know about each of those causes.

Improper Nail Trimming

trimming nails

One of the common causes of ingrown toenails is improper nail trimming, where the nails are cut too short or rounded at the corners. When the toenails are cut too short, the nail will curve downward as it grows instead of growing straight, and when the nail is curved, they will start digging into the skin of the toe. On the other hand, when the nails are rounded at each corner, the nails would then curve sideward as it grows, which will also force the nail to pierce into the skin at the sides of the toe.

If your improper nail trimming is due to the difficulty of reaching your feet when cutting your toenails, you can read our article about the Ways to Cut Toenails When You Can’t Reach Your Feet to learn about the best tips.

Tight-Fitting Shoes

man putting on leather shoes

Tight-fitting shoes are also a major cause of ingrown toenails. Shoes that are too tight, especially on the toe box or on the forefoot area, can prevent your nails from growing properly. In tight shoes, there is no room for the nails to grow forward, as the end of the shoes is already right at your toes. So, the nails would most likely grow sideways. The pressure that tight shoes give to the nails can also force them to grow abnormally.

Naturally Curved Nails

curved nail with ingrown

There are people that have naturally curved nails, meaning that the sides of their toenails are curved by nature and are more prone to becoming ingrown. These naturally curved nails will be more susceptible to problems when they are trimmed improperly or when they are inside tight-fitting shoes.

Preventing Ingrown Toenails

Fortunately, preventing ingrown toenails is relatively easy as long as you are consistent in taking care of your toenail, particularly when they are naturally curved. Here are the various ways you can prevent ingrown toenails on your feet.

Trimming the Nails Straight Across

trimming toenails straight

One of the best methods to prevent ingrown toenails is to simply trim the nails straight across instead of rounding out the corners. Through a straight trim, the nails will be able to grow properly in the right direction instead of growing sideways or curved. Moreover, you should also cut the nails just right and never cut them too short, or else you will expose the nail bed and cause more problems to your nails.

If there is a portion of the nail that is already out of the nail bed (which is usually translucent white in color as opposed to pink), you should just cut about half of that portion instead of removing all of it. Be careful in trimming or cutting your nails, and use only high-quality nail clippers to make fewer mistakes.

Wearing the Correct Size of Shoes

trying on different shoes

Of course, avoiding tight-fitting shoes is also essential in preventing ingrown toenails, and you can do this by just wearing the correct size of shoes for your feet. Luckily, getting the correct shoe size is very easy nowadays, as all you really have to do is try different sizes of shoes in a sporting goods store. But if you don’t have the time to visit a physical store, you can just measure your foot from the heel to your longest toe and then use those measurements to check your correct shoe size online.

Treating Ingrown Toenails

toe separator

When treating ingrown toenails, you will most likely experience pain from using various products for your toes. Check out below for the different items that you can utilize to treat ingrown toenails.

  • Toe Separators – these can be used to keep the toes apart, which can then help in reducing the pressure on the corners or sides of the nails. Toe separators are usually made of soft plastic or foam and are inserted right between each toe. There are bigger versions of toe separators that spread all the toes of a foot apart, while there are also smaller ones that are used between just two toes.
  • Toe Guard – also known as a toe protector, this product is utilized to provide protection for an ingrown toenail so that the pain, soreness, and inflammation won’t worsen. The toe guard is made of soft plastic and covers all areas of a toe. The toe guard is usually worn on the big toes, but there are also other sizes available for other toes on your feet.
  • Nail Softener – this product is specifically used to soften the toenails and make them easier to cut or trim. In addition, this softener is also used to make the nails more flexible and prevent them from growing inwards and becoming ingrown.
  • Epsom Salt – this is mixed with warm water to create a foot bath that is effective in reducing the swelling, inflammation, and pain that is caused by ingrown toenails. Moreover, the foot bath can also help in making the nails softer so that a medical professional will have an easier time cutting the side of the ingrown.

These are the things you should know about when it comes to ingrown toenails and how you can prevent or deal with them. For many people, ingrown toenails are inevitable, as they would have naturally curved nails or they wear closed high heels or shoes that have a narrow toe box for work. But, through proper nail care and treatment, ingrown toenails will stop becoming a long-time problem.

If you are looking for more tips and recommendations, you can also check out our Guide to Selecting the Right Foot Care Solutions for You.