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Proper toenail care

Proper toenail care is critical to foot health and comfort.  Our feet take a lot of abuse, and even a slight injury can cause discomfort that can spread to other areas of the body.  That is why keeping your toenails properly trimmed and shaped is so important.  Having the proper tool for the job makes life much easier, but regardless of which tool you choose, you’ll need to know the following.

Length:  The best length for a toenail is even with the tip of the toe.  Leaving them longer can result in the toenails tapping against the front of your shoes.  Sometimes the contact is so light that you don’t even feel it happening.  However, when it is repeated throughout the course of a day, it can produce soreness.  In extreme cases, it can cause swelling or can even cause the toenail to become detached.  On the other end of the spectrum, cutting your toenails too short can also cause problems.  Because you risk cutting the living tissue under your toenail when you trim them too short, there is a real risk of pain.  In extreme cases, the cut can even become infected or your toenail can become ingrown.

Shape: Simply put, your toenails should be cut straight across.  Many people are accustomed to following the curve of their fingers when cutting and filing their fingernails.  Therefore, it is no surprise that people would do the same with their toenails.  However, by rounding the corners of your toenails, particularly your big toes, you can set yourself up for problems.  When toenails grow, the corners can cut into the soft, living tissue surrounding the edge of the nail.  This can be painful and can lead to ingrown toenails, infection or a vicious cycle of “bathroom surgery” to try to relieve the pressure.

Edge Care:  This may seem like an unnecessary step for time-crunched people, but smoothing the free edge of your toenails with a file after trimming them is a step that should not be overlooked.  Aside from looking nicer, smooth nail edges help to prevent snags on fabric (mainly socks or pantyhose) that can injure the toenail.  As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!  

Healthy Cuticles:  The cuticle helps to keep your toenail stable and to prevent bacteria from getting into the nail matrix.  It is important to be gentle when removing overgrown cuticles from the nail so you don’t accidentally cut or irritate the cuticle area.  Most cuticles, after being soaked to soften, can be gently pushed back and wiped off with a dry towel or washcloth.  However, if you have some stubborn cuticles clinging to your nail plate, you may want to gently push them back with a cuticle pusher.  You can also trim the excess with a cuticle nipper.  Rubbing some lotion or cuticle oil into the cuticles will also keep them healthy and hydrated.