An ingrown toenail can feel a bit like a traffic ticket. They’re both painful, odds are good you’ll probably get at least one of each in your life, but there’s never going to be a convenient time for dealing with either.
In both cases, the best way to handle either is by doing your best not to get them in the first place! While we don’t have much advice for a lead foot, we do have plenty for ingrown toenails.
If you are suffering from ingrown nails rather frequently, there may be some changes you can make to reduce how often they occur. And even if you don’tget them regularly, following the tips below can help you reduce that number to near zero.
How Do You Trim Your Nails?
Yes, there are right ways and wrong ways to clip your nails. Certain methods can leave your nails more likely to curve downward and become ingrown.
First, are you using the right tool for the job? Smaller clippers intended for fingernails are not going to give you as smooth and controlled cut as larger clippers. Larger clippers tend to be thicker as well, making them stronger for thicker toenails.
As an added bonus, keeping your fingernail and toenail clippers separate will help prevent fungus and other unwanted organisms from transferring between your toes and fingers, should that ever become a concern.
When to clip your nails might depend on how tough and thick they are. If your nails are tougher and thicker than average, clipping after a shower will give the water some opportunity to soften them up.
However, if your nails are relatively normal or thin, softening them further may make them more likely to bend and tear when you try to clip them, which will increase your odds of ingrown nails. Go with your best judgment, but don’t go down a path that is consistently leaving your nails torn and jagged.
Now, here’s the big money question: How short and curved should you trim your toenails?
Cut straight across. Curving too much on the sides can angle your nails downward. Also, leave about 1-2 mm of the edge of the nail. You should be able to get your fingernail under the end. Cutting shorter than that risks damaging the cuticle, which can lead to injury and infection.
What Kind of Shoes Do You Wear?
The environment you grow on can shape who you become. For your toes, that’s literal.
If your footwear is cramming your toes together and not providing them enough space, they are going to endure excess force. This can be bad for your toenails, which may be forced to grow in a more curved manner.
(It can also be terrible for your toes in general, aiding along deformities such as bunions and hammertoes!)
A shoe should always fit comfortably without sliding, but also have enough room to wiggle your toes freely. You should also have about half to a full thumb’s width of space between your longest toe and the front edge of the shoe.
Given how fast children’s feet can grow, cramped shoes tend to be a common cause of ingrown toenails at younger ages. Check how your children’s shoes fit every few months and adjust accordingly. Remember that there is no such thing as “breaking into” or “stretching out” a pair of shoes!
Are You Protecting Your Toes from Injury?
Toenail trauma is not only painful in itself, but it can cause a toenail to grow incorrectly as well, leading to ingrown nails later on.
If you work in an industry with heavy duty materials or equipment, steel-toed boots can help prevent not only ingrown toenails, but severe damage as well.
Toenails are not just at risk on the job, though. If your shoes slide too much, you can be ramming your toes repeatedly against the front of your shoes. Runners face the consequences somewhat frequently when they see their toenails turn black and start to fall off, but it can be a problem for anyone who spends all day up and about.
To put it bluntly, the fewer things you ram your toes into or have ram into your toes, the healthier your toenails will be in general.
What if it Keeps Happening?
So you’ve done it all. You cut your toenails correctly. Your shoes fit perfectly. Your toe safety record is pristine.
But you’re still getting ingrown toenails. What gives?
When external factors are eliminated, the odds are likely that your problem is genetic. Some people are simply born with toenails that are more naturally curved and likely to become ingrown.
If this is you (and if you come to us, we will confirm whether it is), you may want to consider partial or full removal of the nail to stop the problem for good.
A nail removal procedure can be performed in-office with local anesthesia. The nail bed will be medically treated to ensure no new tail tissue will grow back. You may have about a day of downtime where you should stay off your foot as much as possible, but normal activities can still be conducted within reason.
If there are other options that may work for your nails, we will be sure to discuss them with you as well.
If ingrown toenails have been plaguing you no matter what you’ve tried, don’t wait on it any longer. Come to Ankle & Foot Specialist of N.J. to find the solution you and your toes deserve.
We have three offices in the area to serve you. Contact us at:
- Hillsborough – (908) 722-3668
- Edison – (908) 222-8980
- Warren – (732) 356-3668
Not sure which would work best for you, or simply prefer reaching us via the Internet? Fill out our online contact form and a member of our staff will get back to you within practice hours.