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Improper Toenail Trimming
Milwaukee Foot & Ankle Specialists

Trimming the toenails seems like a commonplace grooming process, but you’d be surprised how often we tend to do this the wrong way or in a haste and end up damaging our toenails, which can lead to problems. Here are some common mistakes that many people make and why they’re important to note:

• Picking or “peeling” the toenail, especially toward the sides.
This literally rips the edge of your nail off, leaving it without a defined corner and too short to file into a gentler shape. The edge becomes ragged and more likely to “splinter” off into your skin.

• Using scissors to cut the toenails.
Scissors are too thick to evenly cut the toenails and they don’t follow the natural curvature of the nail. This can result in tearing, ragged edges, and uneven re-growth of the nail.

• Cutting toenails too short.
This allows the skin to be higher and “fold” over the toenail, making the toenail grow into the skin instead of over it.

• Rounding the sides of the toenails (not clipping them straight across).
Though you don’t want to cut your nails to jagged points in the corners, they should have a square edge to encourage straight forward growth. If rounded off, they’re more likely to grow outward into the side nail beds of your toe.

• Waiting too long to cut the toenails (letting them grow too long).
Not only do your shoes end up pushing your toenails painfully backwards, but the likelihood of doing damage if you stub your toe when your toenail is too long increases. Remember: cut straight across, but not too short.

• Using tools that haven’t been sterilized or are not clean.
Dirty tools can house bacteria and germs that, if introduced to a warm and often moist area like the foot, can develop into an infection. If you have an ingrown toenail already, this can be even more hazardous.

How to Properly Trim Your Toenails
One way to prevent or avoid ingrown toenails is to properly trim them approximately once a month. Depending on who you ask, the exact technique may change, but here are the basics.

Step 1: Soak your feet in a foot bath. Note that this is optional according to some, but if your toenails are thick or brittle, this step can make the trimming process easier. It can also help your feet to smell a bit better, which I’m sure everyone can appreciate. Before beginning the next step, make sure your feet are thoroughly dried.

Step 2: Clip your toenails with toenail clippers. Remember, these were specifically designed for use on toenails and are your best bet for a nice, clean, and even cut across the nail. While clipping, remember these tips:
• Cut the nails straight across (you can gently file or buff sharp edges after clipping to avoid cutting off too much by accident).
• Don’t cut toenails too short. A properly cut toenail will remain over the skin, never being so short that the skin is higher than the nail.

Step 3: Use an emery board or nail file to smooth out any jagged edges of your nails. This is the best way to ensure a smooth nail without accidentally over-clipping them because you need “just one more” cut to get them straight without filing.

Things to Remember
If for some reason you can’t reach your feet properly due to pregnancy or obesity, can’t see well, or encounter any other hindrance when trying to groom your toenails, please ask for help. This rings especially true for anyone with diabetes as an ingrown toenail or minor foot injury can lead to ulcers and more serious health problems.

If you notice any minor injuries, bunions, toenail fungus, or other abnormalities while trimming your toenails, it might be a good idea to see your Milwaukee WI podiatrist. If you’re unsure whether there is cause for concern, please feel free to give us a call at Milwaukee Foot & Ankle Specialists at 414.257.0676. We are happy to help you!