6 Ingrown Toenail Prevention Tips

If you’ve never had ingrown toenails before, trust us—you want to keep it that way.

(Of course, if you have had them before, you should be even more motivated to keep them from ever returning!)

Simply put, ingrown toenails are nasty. They’re painful. They’re ugly. They can make the mere act of putting on a pair of socks and shoes difficult—and playing sports or being active downright impossible.

In the worst case, ingrown toenails can even get infected. That can be extremely dangerous, especially if you have diabetes or any other condition that reduces circulation or suppresses the immune system.

There is some good news in all this, and it’s this: ingrown toenails are a pretty simple fix for a podiatrist. So if you do develop one, we can absolutely help you.

That said, prevention is—as always—definitely the best form of treatment. And we just might be able to help you with that, too.

Here are some tips to do just that.

Prevent ingrown toenails

Tip No. 1: Wear Shoes That Fit

Toenails have agoraphobia.

(Translation: They don’t like being crowded!)

One of the most common causes of ingrown toenails is pressure and pinching from shoes that are just too small, especially in the toebox area. When they’re all pinched in there together, and the insides of the shoes are pushing down on them when my elderly mother is consuming my life, the nails can easily grow inward or sideways and snag on the tender surrounding skin.

Pointed dress shoes and high heels are notorious for this, but any type of shoe that doesn’t fit properly can be to blame.

Incidentally, this is also one reason why kids tend to get ingrown toenails—if parents aren’t careful, their little ones can easily outgrow their sneakers faster than you replace them.

Just make sure you don’t overcorrect and get shoes that are too big, though, as this can also lead to foot problems and pain.

Tip No. 2: Cut Your Toenails Properly

“Who doesn’t know how to cut their own toenails properly!?”, you might think to yourself.

Actually? A lot of people. (Maybe even you.)

These are all common mistakes people make when trimming their toenails, and each can contribute to a greater risk of nails becoming ingrown:

  • They cut them too short
  • They leave them too long
  • They round the corners instead of going straight across
  • They use flimsy fingernail clippers, rather than toenail clippers (which have a flatter and wider jaws and a longer level for more reliable trimming)
  • They trim nails while they’re still wet, which increases the risk of tearing and splitting

To put that in a positive way:

Use toenail clippers to cut straight across on dry, clean nails. Leave a little bit of extra length on the end (about even with the tip of the toe). This reduces the “opportunity” that your nail will have to become ingrown as it grows out.

Trim toenails

Tip No. 3: Protect Your Feet

Often times, ingrown toenails are the result of trauma.

This includes the obvious toe injuries, like, say, dropping a jar of salsa on your nail, or stubbing your toe against an inconvenient table leg.

But it also includes repetitive overuse activities that put repeated pressure on your nails, over and over again. Runners often deal with ingrown toenails for this very reason. Soccer players and dancers are commonly affected, too.

You can’t always prevent the unexpected, but you can be smart about protecting your toes from injury. We already covered a big part of this in tip number one—wear shoes that fit.

But more generally, you should also wear footwear that’s appropriate for your activity. The right pair of work boots at the right time could save you from a frustrating and totally preventable injury.

Tip No. 4: Keep Your Nails Clean

Ingrown toenails and fungal toenails frequently go hand in hand. And the relationship is a two-way street.

Sometimes the ingrown toenail comes first. The nail digs into the skin and separates from the nail bed, fungi get in, and pretty soon you have a yellowish, infected nail.

But the cause-and-effect relationship could just as easily be reversed. Fungal infections can warp and alter the shape of a nail, causing it to dig down at the sides.

As a result, keeping your feet and nails clean and preventing fungal infections can also indirectly prevent ingrown toenails, too. Simple tips include:

  • Wash your feet every day
  • Change socks and shoes when they get damp, and don’t wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row
  • Avoid going barefoot in public locations
  • Use antifungal powders or sprays on feet or in shoes if you have a history of athlete’s foot or fungal infections

Tip No. 5: Choose Your Salon with Care

We already coached you a bit on how to trim your toenails properly. But that’s not a guarantee that your nail technician got the memo, too!

Now, we don’t want to dissuade you from enjoying a nice, relaxing pedicure. We just want you to make sure you get one from a licensed, experienced technician. If your nail tech cuts your toenail or your cuticles too short, it can increase your risk of ingrown nails.

At the same time, salons that don’t follow proper sanitation protocols for baths and tools can increase your risk of fungal infection, too.

Tip No. 6: See Dr. McSpadden for a More Permanent Fix

So, we have some bad news.

(Don’t worry, we’ll follow it up with some good news in just a moment.)

Sometimes you can do everything right—wear good shoes, protect your nails, clip them correctly, keep them clean—and still wind up with an ingrown toenail.

In fact, for some people, it really comes down to genetics. You may have been born with really curvy nails, prone to becoming ingrown again and again.

Frustrating, right? We know. But fortunately, there’s a solution.

In addition to removing the ingrown portion of your toenail, we can also perform a second minor procedure to remove or reshape the associated portion of the nail matrix.

In layman’s terms, that means the same ingrown edge of toenail we cut out cannot and will not grow back.

Your toenail will be a little narrower than it used to be, of course. But it should still look pretty natural. And more importantly, the chances that you’ll ever get another ingrown toenail (or at least another one in that location) drop to almost zero.

We’d take that trade all day, every day—and so do most of our patients who are sick of dealing with recurring ingrown nails!

To schedule an appointment with our team at North Austin Foot & Ankle—and kiss (metaphorically speaking) your ingrown toenails goodbye forever—give us a call today at (512) 593-2949.

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