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Tips for Clipping Your Toenails to Prevent an Ingrown Toenail

You probably don’t think about your toenails much unless you’re treating yourself to a pedicure -- or you have a painful ingrown toenail. 

In humans, toenails are our version of claws except they are wider and flatter. Although their function changed as man evolved, toenails still function in two important ways – as a counter balance while walking and as a shield to protect our toes from injuries as well as infections. This protection function isn’t a given though. We need to do our part with at-home care so that toenails can do theirs.

Dr. Jarna Rathod -Bhatt and Dr. Rahul Bhatt, our highly skilled podiatrists at Apple Podiatry Group, share their expert advice on how to clip your nails to prevent ingrown toenails. 

The 411 on ingrown toenails

An ingrown toenail occurs when a toenail, usually the big toe, grows into the skin surrounding the toe. Ingrown toenails are fairly common and are among the top reasons patients seek treatment from a podiatrist. In fact, 20% of all people who seek treatment for a foot problem suffer from an ingrown toenail. 

But don’t let the fact that ingrown toenails are common lull you into thinking they’re no big deal. Ingrown toenails can be painful and cause inflammation and dangerous infections, especially if you suffer from circulation issues or underlying medical conditions like diabetes. 

There are a variety of factors that increase your risk for ingrown toenails, such as heredity or wearing shoes and socks that are too tight or short. Foot injuries can also lead to ingrown toenails. Although some risk factors are out of our control, learning how to properly clip your toenails can lessen your chance of developing an ingrown nail. 

Use the proper equipment

As is the case with most maintenance projects, having the proper tools to do the job is a big part of doing it correctly. Use toenail clippers or scissors that are especially made for trimming toenails. Fingernail clippers are smaller and have a more rounded cutting surface, whereas toenail clippers are flatter. You can round out your toenail clipping toolbox with a nail file or emery board, but remember to file only in one direction so you don’t damage or fray the nail. 

Don’t cut nails too short

When it comes to clipping your toenails, proper technique is super important. Cutting the nails too short is the leading cause of ingrown toenails. Properly trimmed toenails should measure slightly longer than the tip of the toes. If you cut your toenails too short, the corner edge of the nail can dig into the skin -- and voila, an ingrown toenail develops. 

Unless you have particularly rigid toenails, trimming your toenails when they’re dry is best and makes for a smoother cut. If you soak your nails or clip them when you get out of the shower or bath, they can bend or tear more easily. 

Simply cut straight across

Properly done, trimming your toenails should literally be a straightforward process. This is not the time to get creative. Clip toenails straight across and take your time, making several small cuts across the nail. There’s no need to do it in one pass with one long clip. 

Resist the temptation to round the nails at the sides. The ultimate goal is to allow the edges of the nail to comfortably rest against the skin on either side of the nail. 

If you’re experiencing pain or redness in your toe and think you may have an ingrown toenail, book a consultation by clicking the online booking feature. Or you can call one of our Apple Podiatry Group offices in Arlington or Irving, Texas, to schedule your appointment.

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