Cut toenails straight across, don’t cut them too short, and make sure your tool of choice is a large toenail clipper.
Trimming your toenails may seem simple enough, but it isn’t something to be done carelessly. While most people don’t need to visit a professional to take care of their toes — people with diabetes are an exception — they need to be sure they’re clipping their nails properly to reduce the risk of future foot problems.
You depend on your feet, so make sure you give them the care they deserve.
Trimming Toenails: Technique Is Important
Before you break out the nail clippers, you should understand why it’s so important that toenails be cut the right way. The proper technique is necessary “to avoid an ingrown toenail or infection,” says Alan K. Mauser, DPM, a podiatrist in private practice in Louisville, Ky.
Ingrown toenails, nails that become lodged in the skin instead of growing normally, are a primary reason for foot pain, and they can lead to serious infection.
“Some nails just naturally grow in, and no matter what you do conservatively, it’s not going to address the problem,” says Dr. Mauser. Instead, “it needs to be addressed surgically.”
But if you learn how to cut your toenails properly in the first place, you may be able to protect your feet from ingrown toenails.
Trimming Toenails: The Basics
- Cut straight across: “The nails shouldn’t dig down on the sides,” advises Mauser. Guide the clippers straight across the nail of each toe and avoid cutting nails into a curved shape.
- Use appropriate toenail clippers. These larger clippers are meant for larger nails, and will be easier to cut toenails with than fingernail clippers. Keep clippers and any other tools you use on your toes disinfected (cleaning them with rubbing alcohol before and after using them will do the trick).
- Leave nails a little long. Don’t cut nails too short, as it’s another reason ingrown toenails occur. It can also leave your toenail susceptible to infection — plus, it hurts!
- Cut nails when they’re dry, not wet. Wet nails may be likely to tear, bend, or not cut smoothly because they’re softer when wet. Cutting dry nails will give you a cleaner, smoother cut.
- Make a few small cuts. Don’t try to clip each toenail in one shot. Make a few small cuts across your nail.
- Try filing. If you prefer to file your toenails (or just to smooth them out after you clip them), don’t drag the file or emery board back and forth. Gently move the nail file in one direction across the top of your toenail until smooth and the appropriate length.
- Don’t cut cuticles. If you want to tame cuticles on your toenails, use a cuticle stick (an orange stick, which you can buy at a beauty supply store, drugstore, or similar store) to push them back. Cutting them can cause bleeding or infection, but pushing them out of the way gives feet a neat look without unnecessary damage.
Trimming Toenails: A Timeline
Everyone’s nails grow at different speeds, so there’s no set time frame for how often you should trim your toenails. Just keep an eye on how long your nails are and give them a trim before they start rubbing against your shoes and causing pain.
Clean, well-cared for, and neatly trimmed toenails mean comfortable, healthy feet. Your feet take a beating during the day, so keep toes in tip-top shape with proper, regular trims to prevent foot problems.