If you’re prone to getting ingrown toenails or have fragile toenails that constantly break, simply trimming them to a specific shape can help. According to Dr. Miguel Cunha, a board-certified podiatric surgeon and founder of Gotham Footcare, and Marcela Correa, a medical pedicurist and owner of Medi Pedi NYC, the best shape for toenails is flat across.
“It’s important to avoid cutting your toenails round or angled to prevent the formation of ingrown nails,” says Cunha. “Once the nails are cut flat and straight across, the edges on either side can be filed down so that the corners are less pointy and slightly beveled to follow the shape of the toe.”
“This shape will allow the nails to grow out straight, which will prevent them from digging into your skin or causing an ingrown nail,” adds Correa.
On that note, length is also important. Though you don’t want to cut your toenails too short, it’s important to cut them regularly. “When your nails are too long, they can become damaged due to micro trauma of the nail, which is caused by the repetitive stress of your nails hitting your shoes with every step,” says Cunha. “It’s one of the main reasons why runners develop bruised toenails,” he adds.
What are the best tools for cutting my toenails?
Generally, Dr. Cunha recommends using a large pair of flat-edge clippers to get the job done. However, if you have thicker toenails, opt for a nail nipper instead.
Correa agrees, explaining that “a toenail nipper has a wider opening, which allows more space for the nail to fit.” She also recommends trimming your toenails after a shower, as opposed to when they’re dry, so “they’re softer, which can prevent unwanted cracks in your nails.”
Is there anything else I should do if I have thick toenails?
“Proper care goes beyond careful nail cutting. Someone with thick nails due to an underlying medical condition like diabetes or nail fungus should also soak their feet once a week and use a medium grit nail file to file down any excess thickness,” advises Correa. “You should also apply anti-fungal oils that promote elasticity to restore the nail back to its normal state.”
What should I do if I have thin toenails?
If you have thin toenails that are prone to breaking or peeling, Dr. Cunha recommends taking supplements such as prenatal vitamins, biotin, or hair, skin, and nails vitamins, which are all over-the-counter.
Correa adds that a “treatment polish with protein and nail strengthening oil” can help bolster weak or fragile toenails.
When should I see a specialist?
“Toenails should all have roughly the same shape, color, and thickness. If something is abnormal in the appearance of the nails it is important to determine the reason why by going to a foot specialist,” says Cunha.
“It could be micro trauma to the nails, which commonly occurs among athletes, a fungal infection or an underlying systemic condition, such as psoriasis, which can lead to the formation of psoriatic nails. Any of these things can alter the normal appearance of your nails,” he adds.
“Luckily, once we identify the root of the problem, it can be properly addressed, usually with a combination of at-home management (i.e., a topical medication) and an in-office treatment, which may include some form of mechanical debridement of the nails depending on the cause and diagnosis of your nail issues.”