How to cut toenails?

Tips for Cutting Your 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.

How to trim your nails

Nail grooming is a simple yet important self-care routine. Not only do short, well-manicured nails look great, they are also less likely to harbor dirt and bacteria, which can lead to an infection. To properly trim your nails, follow these tips from board-certified dermatologists.

Nail grooming is a simple yet important self-care routine. Not only do short, well-manicured nails look great, they are also less likely to harbor dirt and bacteria, which can lead to an infection. In addition, the right nail clipping technique can help prevent common issues like hangnails and ingrown toenails.

Although nail clipping seems pretty straightforward, there are some important steps you should follow to ensure a healthy cut. To properly trim your nails, dermatologists recommend the following tips:

  1. Soften the nails. The best time to trim your nails is immediately after taking a bath or shower. However, if that isn’t possible, soak your nails in lukewarm water for a few minutes to soften them.

  2. Gather the proper tools. Use a nail clipper or nail scissors for your fingernails and a toenail clipper for your toenails. Remember to disinfect your tools monthly. To disinfect them, soak a small scrub brush in a bowl of 70 to 90 percent isopropyl alcohol and then use the brush to scrub your nail clippers or nail scissors. Afterwards, rinse the tools in hot water and dry them completely before putting them away.

  3. To trim your fingernails, cut almost straight across the nail. Use a nail file or emery board to slightly round the nails at the corners, as this will help keep them strong and prevent them from catching on things like clothing or furniture.

  4. To reduce your chances of getting an ingrown toenail, cut straight across when trimming your toenails. Toenails grow more slowly than fingernails, so you may find that you do not need to trim these nails as often.

  5. Smooth uneven or rough edges using a nail file or emery board. Always file the nail in the same direction, as filing back and forth can weaken your nails.

  6. Leave your cuticles alone. Cuticles protect the nail root, so it’s important to avoid cutting your cuticles or pushing them back. When you trim or cut your cuticles, it’s easier for bacteria and other germs to get inside your body and cause an infection. If you get a nail infection, it can sometimes take a long time to clear.

  7. Moisturize after trimming to help keep your nails flexible. This is especially important when the air is dry, as dry nails split more easily.

  8. Nails are a reflection of your overall health. If you notice a change in the color, texture, or shape of your nail, see a board-certified dermatologist. While some changes are harmless, others could be a sign of a disease, such as melanoma, or an infection, such as a nail fungal infection.

Related AAD resources

  • Quiz: Can you keep your nails looking their best?

  • Tips for healthy nails

  • Nail biting

Are you cutting your toenails correctly?

Scissors or clippers?

Aside from shape-shifting challenges, the equipment used for cutting your nails is often the greatest cause for concern. Scissor-type clippers are the best when it comes to cutting nails, as these offer the greatest amount of flexibility when taking into account nail shapes.

Flexibility is a key word here; as many people are unable to properly reach their feet to trim their nails. Or even more concerning, they can’t see them clearly either! Knowing your limitations will save you any possible “nail-ache” as you can only fix what you can reach and see.

When should you cut your toenails?

Trimming nails after showering is generally better, as any dirt under the nails is washed away allowing a clear visualisation of the nail and its surrounding structures. Cleaning your nails before cutting them will also help prevent infection, as will keeping your cuticles intact since this thin membrane acts a seal against fungi and bacteria. Whatever your approach with length or curvature is, always start slowly and carefully, as you can always come back to it and trim more nail.

So to cut to the chase, here’s how to look after your toenails:

  • Make sure you can reach and see the nails that you intend to cut.
  • Take note of the shape of your nails before you cut them and cut your nails according to your preference (curved or straight, long or short) but bare in mind the surrounding anatomy.
  • Use scissor-type clippers and clean your feet before trimming your nails. Start by trimming less to begin with and keep cuticles intact to prevent nail infections.
  • If you have any concerns, see a podiatrist for professional advice and treatment.

Wishing you all happy, healthy and toe-tally pain-free toenail clippings!

What’s the Right Way Cut Your Toe Nails?

Every day we see and treat toenails that have been trimmed incorrectly and have caused red, swollen and painful toes. So our podiatrists have asked us to give you the real deal on correct nail cutting.

Some people think they’re doing the right thing when they cut a wedge into the middle or cut down the sides of their toenails. Some people think it’s OK to cut their nails with wire cutters or tin snips. And some people just tear their nails off with their hands or with pliers! Please don’t use these nail cutting techniques.

Correct foot care and hygiene will help keep you active and pain free in the long term. It’s a small thing, but knowing how to trim your nails properly can save you ongoing problems with pain, inflammation and infection.

So here are the golden rules:

  • Use good quality sharp, clean clippers with a straight cutting edge.
  • Cut straight across your nail.
  • Leave a millimetre or two free in front of your nail bed (the pink bit).
  • Gently smooth and round each corner with a file. Don’t file hard or down the sides… just smooth the sharpness off each corner.

That’s it! Simple.

If you have any pain, swelling, redness, blood or discharge from your toes, it’s best to for a podiatrist to check and help with your nails. If you have diabetes or circulation problems a podiatrist should trim your nails for you regularly. They’ll also check the nerve function and circulation in your feet and alert you and your doctor to any changes. If you have any concerns or questions about your toenails, please call 9319 3030. We’d love to help.

How to Prevent Ingrown Toenails

How you care for your feet is one of the most important factors in preventing an ingrown toenail. If you’re experiencing the symptoms of an ingrown toenail for the first time you may have a chance to prevent the permanent formation of an ingrown toenail. Eliminate outside pressure on the toe by wearing sandals or loose fitting shoes for several days. Making simple changes to your footwear may allow you to resume normal walking immediately. You should cut back on athletic activities that require pressure to be placed on the toes for several weeks to allow the inflammation and pain to diminish. The practice of trimming the corner of the toenail off should be stopped. This leads to a condition where the toenail develops a hook deformity on each side. Allow the toenail to grow beyond the nail groove. Once the condition has been resolved, shoes should be found that leave plenty of room for the toes.

Here are some tips on how to prevent getting ingrown toenails.


Wear open-toe shoes or at least wear shoes that that fit properly. Your shoes should allow plenty of room for your toes to move. Socks should fit more loosely such that your toes aren’t pulled together.

When trimming your toenail, cut the edge straight across. Do not round the corners. Also, keep your toenails at just the right length – not too long and not too short. Leaving the nail too long could induce breakage, while cutting the nail too short makes the skin easily grow over the corners. Make sure that the corners of the nail are still visible above the skin.

If you notice any sharp edges after trimming the toenail, smooth these areas with a nail file to keep them from puncturing the skin.
Use comfortable footwear, preferably those that allow some ventilation. When choosing socks, opt for those made from cotton as these are more breathable.

Pay attention to proper foot hygiene. Clean and wash your feet daily, especially after a day in footwear that promotes perspiration. Moisture equates to microbial growth, which increases your chances of unhealthy nails and skin infections.

Opt for protective footwear if you often injure your toes or toenails, or if work setting keeps you at risk for toe injuries.

Schedule a visit with a podiatrist if you need special attention with regard to foot care. Diabetic patients and those dealing with diseases involving lack of circulation and loss of sensation, for example, should regularly see a podiatrist if they cannot tend to their own toenails.

Do not:

Do not use shoes or socks that are too tight or that tend to push the toes tightly together. Again, these cause unnecessary pressure to your toenails, making them curve inward more easily.

Do not leave your feet moist and warm for long periods of time. If this cannot be avoided, you can use medical powders that help absorb sweat and keep odor at bay.

Do not cut your nails too short when trimming, as well as round the corners. This increases the chance that they grow into the surrounding flesh.

Do not ignore signs or symptoms of poor hygiene or a fungal infection. See a doctor or podiatrist immediately if you suspect any infection, especially if you have conditions that affect blood circulation and nerve function in your lower extremities.

Do not tear or peel the nails. Instead, trimming them with a good nail clipper designed for toenails.

Health – How you care for your feet will prevent ingrown toenails.

You can keep your nails healthy by sticking to these principles.

Trim your toenails regularly. Keeping them at the proper length and shape, with the corners visible above the skin.

Maintain proper foot hygiene by keeping your feet clean and dry.

Opt for open footwear, or comfortable shoes that allow air to circulate through your foot. Air out your feet as often as you can.

During pedicures, avoid cutting or pushing back the cuticle. Also, make sure you use your own equipment, or ensure that all equipment used is sterilized before they are used on you. This helps prevent transmission of infection.

Do not pick or dig through the sides of your toenails as this can damage the integrity of the protective barriers.

Use a nail file to smooth out any pointed edges around the nail. Jagged edges can allow the nail to easily puncture the skin once the nail grows.

Ensuring proper circulation. When sitting or standing too long, move your feet, legs and toes to keep the blood flowing. Rotate your foot, wiggle your toes, and raise your legs every once in a while when sitting for long periods.


Learning how to select shoes that fit properly is the most important thing you can do to prevent an ingrown toenail. This is how 40% of ingrown toenail sufferers develop ingrown toenails. You must allow your toes room to move within your shoes. Restrictive footwear applies pressure to your toenails and toes that eventually cause permanent deformities such as ingrown toenails. When you take a step the act of bending your foot takes up more space within your shoe. There must be space available in the toe area to prevent the toes from binding. As a general rule, shoes that fit properly will have 3/8 to 1/2 inch space in front of your longest toe and the inside of your shoe.

The constant dampness created by wearing shoes with poor ventilation can cause curvature of the toenails. Curvature increases pressure on the skin from the side of the toenail.

If shoes are not absolutely necessary, give your feet a break. Work, sports and cold temperatures may require footwear but you should remain barefooted as much as possible. You wouldn’t wear gloves on your hands all the time, why should your feet be any different?

Toenail trimming

How you trim your toenail is also critically important if you want to prevent ingrown toenails. You must never round the corners of your toenail or cut them too short. Both corners of your toenail must be left long enough that they extend beyond the nail groove (the skin surrounding each side of your toenail). In other words, the corners of your toenail must be exposed and left protruding past the skin, not cut back as many do to eliminate ingrown toenail pain. The toenail is better left too long than too short.

Use correct toenail clippers. Clippers with curved jaws are more suited to cutting fingernails. For toenails use a clipper that cuts in a straight line. You may need to make 2-3 cuts at different angles to get the correct shape.

How is toenail trimming important to preventing ingrown toenails?

There are 3 reasons.

If the corner of the toenail is trimmed too short, the skin surrounding the sides of the toenail will form over the corner. As the toenail grows in length, the corner begins to cut into the skin which has formed in front of it.

By rounding the corner of your toenail you focus its pressure against the skin into a smaller area, increasing irritation.

Repeatedly trimming toenails this way causes the toenail to deform and grow increasingly curved, further adding to the pressure exerted by the side of the toenail.

Trimming hard, brittle and thick toenails.

For a variety of reasons toenails can become hard, brittle, thick and difficult to cut. By soaking your toes in warm water for 3-5 minutes you’ll make them much easier to cut and achieve a more smooth edge. Do not trim the entire width of your toenail in one cut. By doing this you risk splitting your toenail from the force of the clipper. Cut one side to the correct length, then the other side, then the center of the toenail.


Diet may not play a large role in preventing ingrown toenails since the condition is not primarily brought about by nutrient deficiencies, however there are some nutrients that you may want to ensure you are getting enough of to help maintain healthy nails and skin. Also, a proper diet can strengthen immunity and help in the prevention of infection.

Nutrients particularly beneficial to toenail health.

Protein – The building block for nails. It is required for healthy and rapid toenail growth. Toenails require 8 to 12 months to renew themselves (growth from the germinal matrix to the end of the toe). Low protein intake may cause white nail beds and slow toenail growth. Dietary sources of protein include eggs, milk, cheese, meat and beans.

Biotin – Essential for healthy nail structure. Reduces nail brittleness and improves flexibility. Liver, nuts, and fish are great sources of biotin.

Iron – Iron-deficiency anemia can lead to a pale color, a brittle, ridged texture and cause the toenails to become flat or concave, rather than convex. Iron can be found in animal sources, such as meat, fish, and poultry, and can also be found in fruits, vegetables, dried beans, nuts, and grain products.

Vitamin C and folic acid – Lack of vitamin C and folic acid combined with protein deficiencies produce “hangnails”. Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron in the body, as well as aids in various tissue functions.

Vitamin A, D and calcium – Lack of vitamin A, vitamin D, and calcium can cause toenails to become dry and brittle. Sources of these vitamins include milk, cereal, juices, salt-water fish, fish-liver oils, and some vegetables.

Vitamin B12 – Lack of vitamin B12 can lead to excessive dryness, darkened toenails, and rounded or curved toenails. Vitamin B12 can only be found in animal sources such as liver and kidneys, fish, chicken, and dairy products.

Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids – Essential fatty acids play a large role in healthy toenails just as they do for skin. Splitting and flaking of toenails may be due to a lack of omega 6. Essential fatty acids can be obtained through consumption of fish, flax seed, canola oil, seeds, leafy vegetables, and nuts.

Zinc – This mineral has been found to strengthen nails as well as boost the immune system. Zinc-rich foods like oysters, beef, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds are great additions to your diet. You can also opt for a supplement that contains zinc.

Water – When the body is dehydrated, it shows in the skin and nails. Inadequate water consumption can lead to drying up of the cuticles, thus weakening the protective barrier against infections.

Diabetic foot concerns.

If you have diabetes, blood circulation or nerve problems, you will need to set regular appointments with your podiatrist to ensure that problems with your toes or toenails can be detected and treated early.

Treat Your Ingrown Toenails at Home

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Nobody likes ingrown toenails, and when you get one, your instinct may be to clip off the offending bit. But new research shows that might be exactly the wrong thing to do —it won’t necessarily stop the toenail from growing in again, and the reason all comes down to physics.

In a new study, physicists Cyril Rauch and Mohammed Cherkaoui-Rbati, of the University of Nottingham in England, looked closely at the mechanical forces that act on fingernails and toenails, including the outward growth of the nail and the tension of its attachment to the nail bed.

Nails are made of the protein keratin, just as hair is, and are attached to the nail bed with structures that are microscopic yet quite strong. It’s painful to break this attachment, as anyone who has broken a fingernail knows.

The researchers discovered that ingrown toenails result from an imbalance in the forces acting on them. Normally, nail growth imparts a force on the nail — pushing it outward toward the tip of the finger — that works against the adhesive force holding the nail down to the nail bed.

But if a nail grows too quickly, the balance between these forces changes. The additional force from the growth “pulls” on the nail bed, and in response to that pull, the nail edge becomes more curved.

In addition, the shape of the nail plays a role in making it ingrown. Because fingernails are naturally curved, the outer edges are shorter than the center. This means the rates of growth in the different parts of the nail are slightly different — the center grows a bit slower than the edges do.

“The distal part — that’s the separation between the white and pink part — has a curved shape. That’s creating the stresses,” Rauch told Live Science.

Eventually, this stress causes the far edge of the nail to poke down into the skin alongside the nail, leading to an ingrown nail, the researchers found. Themedical name for the condition is onychocryptosis.

These forces are also the reason that the big toe seems especially prone to ingrown nails, Rauch said. “This curvature is very flat. By being flattened, these will generate stress in the transverse direction,” he said. In other words, because the edge of this toenail tends to be straighter, the rate of growth in a big toe needed to push the edge of the nail into the skin doesn’t need to change as much as it does for other nails.

To snip or not to snip?

So, why is it not always helpful to cut the ingrowing edge of the nail? Because cutting doesn’t always rebalance the forces acting on the nail. When you cut off the end of the nail, depending on the shape of the cut, you change the nail’s shape. But the faster- and slower-growing parts of the nail will keep growing at the same rates, so the change in the shape might get the nail to grow correctly — or it might not.

The best option seems to be to cut the nail in a parabolic shape, such as an oval, or to cut the edge so that it is slightly curved, rather than straight across at the end of the nail, the researchers said. That method seems to cause the force on one part of the nail and bed to balance the forces from the other parts, they added.

Rauch noted that pregnant women and children tend to get ingrown toenails more often than other groups of people. That may be because there’s generally more growth happening in the nails for both of those groups, he said.

But the research has an objective besides helping people fix or prevent ingrown toenails, and it has to do with agriculture. Horses’ and cows’ hooves are made of the same material as fingernails, and the forces that act on them are similar.

Learning how to manage those forces is important for farmers, because hoofed farm animals can become lame from abnormal hoof growth. “It causes the animals a lot of pain,” and it’s very costly to agriculture, Rauch said. “Right now, it’s possible to mitigate the problem for the animals, but not to cure it.”

That doesn’t mean that your horse needs a manicurist, but it does suggest that it is possible to trim hooves in ways that help more than current methods do.

A paper outlining the research appeared in the Oct. 17 issue of the journal Physical Biology.

Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on Live Science.

Cutting your toenails correctly can help prevent ingrown toenails.

What is an ingrown toenail?

An ingrown toenail occurs when the side of the nail curls down and grows into the skin around the nail.

Any toe can be affected but it commonly occurs in the big toe.

An ingrown toenail can become painful and inflamed (tender, red and swollen).

Sometimes, it can become infected, which, if left untreated, can spread and infect the underlying bone.

An ingrown toenail occurs when the side of the nail grows into the skin around the nail. It can become painful and sometimes become infected.

What causes ingrown toenails?

You can get an ingrown toenail if you:

  • have tight fitting shoes, socks, or tights that crowd your toes, putting pressure on your toenails
  • don’t cut your toenails properly — for example too short or not straight across
  • injure your toe, for example by stubbing it
  • pick or tear the corners of your toenails
  • have sweaty feet, making your skin soft and easier for toenails to dig in
  • have toenails with naturally curved edges or that are fan-shaped

Ingrown toenail treatments

If you have diabetes, nerve damage in your leg or foot, poor blood circulation to your foot or an infection around the nail, see your doctor or podiatrist (a trained therapist who diagnoses and treats foot conditions) immediately.

Otherwise, try this:

  • Soak your feet in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 or 4 times a day.
  • Then use a cotton bud to gently push away the skin from the nail.
  • Repeat each day for a few weeks, allowing the nail to grow.
  • As the end of the nail grows forward, push a tiny piece of cotton wool or dental floss under it to help the nail grow over the skin and not grow into it. Change the cotton wool or dental floss each time you soak your foot.

If that doesn’t work and your ingrown toenail persists, see your doctor or podiatrist. They may recommend ingrown toenail surgery to remove part or all of the nail.

Preventing ingrown toenails

To help prevent an ingrown toenail:

  • Wear shoes that fit properly.
  • Keep your feet clean and dry.
  • Trim your nails properly — briefly soak your foot in warm water before trimming, and make sure you cut straight across, without tapering or rounding the corners or cutting them too short.

People with diabetes or persistent foot problems should see a podiatrist regularly for routine foot checks and nail care.

Take a look down at your feet. Are your talons growing out of control?

Chances are, you don’t give much thought to when it’s time to get out the clippers. And when you do, well, you probably just start clipping away. But if you don’t cut your nails the right way, you might be setting yourself up for a whole bunch of issues—some of which can be pretty painful. (Here’s how to fix your grossest feet problems.)

Here, what you need to know about clipping your toenails—and the best tools and techniques to make the process a breeze.

What are the best tools to cut your toenails?


It may seem extravagant, but you should have two pairs of clippers in your medicine cabinet: one for hands and one for toes. We like this set from Tweezerman, which contains one kind of clipper for each.

Toenail clippers are larger, both in width and thickness, than your typical fingernail clippers, which allows you to make smoother cuts, says Christopher R. Hood Jr., D.P.M., of Premier Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Pottstown, Penn.

Plus, having specified tools for both body regions can be protective, too.

“Use your toenail clippers just for your toes, and use the smaller clipper for your fingernails to not transmit foot fungus or bacteria to your fingernails, or vice versa,” says Dr. Hood.

And make sure to clean your clippers after each use. “This can be as easy as soaking in dish detergent or anti-bacterial soap with warm/hot water for 10 to 15 minutes, and then drying afterwards so they do not become rusty,” he says.

Related: 9 Nail Problems You Should Never Ignore

How often should you cut your toenails?


Your toenails don’t grow as fast as your fingernails do, so you may not have to clip them as frequently.

“In general, fingernails grow at a rate of 2 to 3 millimeters (mm) a month, while
toenails grow 1 to 2 millimeters a month, says Dr. Hood. “ about every 6 to 8 weeks would be the most appropriate timeframe.”

If you’re super active, you may not want to wait as long between trims, though.

“Athletes, particularly runners, should trim more often. Pressure of a longer nail in a sneaker while training can cause painful subungual hemorrhage, or bleeding beneath the nail, which will ultimately result in the nail falling off,” says Ellie Nasser, D.P.M., a podiatry associate in the department of orthopedics at Geisinger Health System.

Related: 8 Ways Your Running Shoes Are Ruining Your Workout

So how should you cut your toenails?


First, you need to determine when exactly you should start clipping—before or after your shower?

You’ve probably heard never to clip your fingernails after a shower, but there is a little wiggle room with your toenails. And it all depends on how thick your nails are.

Related: 6 Things You Should Never Do In the Shower

But if your toenails are normal thickness, do it before your shower.

“When they are wet or soft, the nail tends to crush, tear, or bend when you cut it versus creating a clean, smooth cut when trimming a dry nail,” says Dr. Hood.

Then, it’s time to get clipping: It may seem pretty basic, but there are a few rules you should remember when getting started.

First, the most basic rule for toenail clipping is to cut them straight across.

“Start with the cutting device 1 to 2 mm off the nail on the side—a corner starting point—so that you create a good straight edge. Then you can remove the other side of the nail with a secondary cut,” says Dr. Hood.

So why the straight cut? That’s because it’s the best way to ward off ingrown toenails, a painful condition where the side of your nail grows into your skin, causing redness, swelling, or even infection. It prevents nail irritation and inflammation, too.

“If you start to cut down the side, a “slant-back” as we would call it, you run the risk of altering future growth of the nail and inciting an ingrown toenail,” he says.

How short should you cut your toenails?


Here’s a rule of thumb: “You should be able to get your fingernail under the sides and ends of the nail,” says Dr. Nasser. “Trimming the nails too short can increase the risk for ingrown toenails.” Shoot for about 1 to 2 mm at the end of the nail.

Keeping your toenails too long can lead to some pretty gruesome injuries, too.

“We see nail injuries that result from the nail being too long and it gets caught on something like a sock and part or all of the nail gets torn off,” says Dr. Lehrman.

6 Grooming Hacks You Need to Know:

But when it comes to your cuticles, leave them alone.

“They act as a barrier against infection getting into your skin,” says Dr. Hood. Messing with them can result in bleeding and infection.

Related: 7 Gross Things That Happen When You Bite Your Nails

Emily Shiffer Emily Shiffer is a former digital web producer for Men’s Health and Prevention, and is currently a freelancer writer specializing in health, weight loss, and fitness.

In the Spotlight

Foot Care: How to cut toenails correctly

Contributed by Dr. Kathleen Cronin and the Martinsburg VA Podiatric Patient Education Team

The Podiatry Clinic at your VA Medical Center provides special foot care for Veterans. Most of the time, the care is for serious problems such as a foot ulcer or infection. Most people do not have to go to a Podiatrist to have their toenails cut; they can do this themselves. Cutting your toenails may seem simple, but it something you should take seriously and do correctly. It is important to know the correct way to cut your toenails. This will help to keep your feet healthy and prevent problems. Here are some helpful tips to assist you:

  • Cut your toenails in a space with good lighting

  • Cut your nails straight across until they no longer extend over your toe

  • Do not cut too close to your skin or cut down the sides of the nails

  • If you have thick toenails:

    • Before clipping your nails, soak your feet for 5 minutes in room temperature water. This will help soften them.

    • Use good clippers

    • Do not cut the nail with one movement of the clippers, use small clips across the nail

  • If you are uncomfortable cutting your toenails then just gently file your toenails daily

Be careful not get too close to your skin when cutting your toenails. If you accidentally cut your skin and it bleeds, apply cotton to the area. Hold the cotton in place and apply light pressure until the bleeding stops, then:

  • Clean the area with soap and water and apply a disinfectant

  • Apply a gauze dressing or adhesive bandage

  • Do not wrap a bandage or tape all the way around your toe. Doing this may decrease the blood flow to your toe and possibly cause harm

  • If the cut has not healed after a week or gets worse, call your Primary Care Provider

If you have diabetes, neuropathy or poor circulation, talk to your healthcare provider about your foot care needs. If you are having foot problems, your provider may want to refer you for an appointment with a Podiatrist.

Diabetes – Foot Care (Medline Plus®)

Foot care (National Institutes of Health)

Updated January 11, 2015

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