By Dr. Roman Burk, Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle
“Dr. Burk, is there really a right and a wrong way to trim your toenails?” you might ask. The short answer is, yes.
In order to maintain healthy feet, a good foot care routine is a must. It’s especially important to wash your feet with soap and water daily. You can also use a pumice stone for heels that are cracked. It’s also important to wear shoes that fit properly. But one of the most important things you can do is to keep your toenails properly trimmed.
It’s important to pay attention to how you are trimming your toenails. Properly trimmed toenails will help you to avoid developing ingrown toenails which can be painful and can lead to infection.
The Proper Way to Trim Your Toenails
Before you start, determine the length you will cut your nails. In general, you will want to make sure that you don’t cut them too short. As you probably have learned from experience, cutting the nail too low hurts. Cutting your nail too short is also a way to develop ingrown toenails and nail infections.
If you are an athlete, keep your toenails short enough that they don’t poke into your skin or the end of your shoes. If you frequently wear flip-flops or sandals, you will want to keep your nails slightly longer to help protect your toes from micro-organisms and bacteria that can enter your skin under the nails and lead to toenail fungus.
- Wash your feet before you cut
After you wash and dry your feet is the perfect time to cut your toenails. This makes the nail less brittle and easier to cut cleanly. You don’t want your nails to be soggy wet still so they don’t bend while cutting. But, you don’t want them to be bone dry either. Waiting about an hour after you wash should do the trick.
- Use the proper tools
Use clippers that are made to cut toenails. These clippers are larger and are meant for larger nails, making them easier to cut. Make sure they are sharp, clean and sanitized- cleaning them with rubbing alcohol before and after use should do the trick nicely.
- Cut your nail per your anatomy
Often you will hear that you are supposed to cut your nail straight across, and for many people this is the case, however, in my experience, it depends upon the shape of your anatomy. In some instances-cutting or rounding the corners of the toenails is exactly the right thing to do. In other cases-depending upon the anatomy it is correct to cut them straight across. If a person has a toenail that curves significantly and embeds -they need to round these toenails off so they do not cut into the skin and create an ingrown toenail. If you are unsure how you should be cutting your toenails, feel free to ask at your next visit.
- Don’t cut your nail in one shot
Cutting your nail is easier to accomplish if you cut your nail making a few small cuts rather than attempting to get the whole nail in one shot.
- Use a nail file
Eliminate any jagged edges with a nail file to avoid snags and tears as your nail grow. Don’t simply drag the file back and forth. You should gently move the file in one direction over the top of the nail until it is the right length and smooth.
- Do not cut your cuticles
If your cuticles are overgrown, moisturize them with cuticle oil and use a cuticle stick to push them back. Do not cut your cuticles! This could lead to bleeding and/or infection. Pushing them back helps keep your toes looking nice without the causing any unnecessary damage.
Toenails are there to protect your toes from the everyday wear and tear you put on your feet. Proper toenail trimming will protect you from foot problems like toenail fungus and ingrown toenails. So, well cared for and neatly trimmed toenails mean healthy feet.
Feet shouldn’t hurt, and neither should their treatment. If you are experiencing foot pain or problems, then give us a call. Our foot doctors will help you find a solution for your problem that will fit your needs.
Our foot and ankle care doctors and surgeons are board-certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery and are members of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons and the American Podiatric Medical Association. Call (208) 855-5955 or request an appointment online.