Here’s How to Clip Your Toenails to Prevent Problems

Cutting your toenails may seem like a simple task but if you’re not doing it properly, it can lead to more problems than you may realize.


At Alpine Foot & Ankle Clinic in Sandy and Highland, Utah, we offer educational resources to make foot and nail care easier. Scott Shelton, our double board-certified podiatrist and foot and ankle surgeon, can also evaluate and treat complications that can arise from poorly cut nails.


The downside to improper nail trimming


Your toenails are made of keratin, a protein also found in the outer layer of your skin and your hair. Nails protect the nerves, bones, and soft tissues of your toes from injuries.


When you cut your toenails too short or in a crooked manner, it can increase your risk for complications like:




Nails cut too short can cause pain that interferes with walking and wearing shoes. Poorly cut nails may also bleed.




Short nails may be more susceptible to bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. In turn, infections can cause pain and make wearing shoes difficult. Fungal infections can also damage toenails, making them crumbly and discolored.


Ingrown toenail


An ingrown toenail occurs when the sharp side of a nail grows into the nearby skin. Skin becomes inflamed, painful, and prone to infection.


The ideal method for cutting your toenails


The first step in trimming your toenails concerns the clippers you use. Make sure they are in good condition and able to cut through the nail efficiently. You should also make a point to disinfect the clippers before every use.


Healthy nails should be cut when dry to ensure a cleaner cut. If your toenails are hard or thick, consider soaking your feet in warm water for a few minutes. A quick soak softens your nails and can prevent irregular cuts and tears.


When you’re ready to trim, use the clippers to cut your nails straight across. This keeps the sides of your nail above your skin to lower your risk of an ingrown nail. You can later use a file to deal with any sharp edges that remain.


As for length, you should leave about 1 to 2 millimeters of nail, so you’re not cutting them too short. This is also about the same measurement of nail growth over the course of 6-8 weeks.


When to seek medical care for an ingrown or damaged nail


On the occasion that poorly cut nails lead to complications, you can schedule a diagnostic evaluation at Alpine Foot & Ankle. Dr. Shelton suggests that you book a consultation if you experience symptoms that affect your nails or toes, such as:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Pus discharge
  • Nail discoloration or damage

If you have diabetes, it’s important that you seek medical attention as soon as possible to prevent more serious complications. Unmanaged diabetes can lead to problems like open wounds, skin discoloration, and loss of sensation in the feet.


We provide comprehensive foot evaluations to identify the cause of your symptoms. Dr. Shelton can also collect a sample of your nail to get tested for a fungal infection. He customizes a care plan to restore your toenail health and relieve pain and other symptoms.


Call Alpine Foot & Ankle Clinic in Highland or Sandy, Utah, to learn more tips for keeping your toenails healthy, or book a consultation online today.


If you do not see your insurance provider, contact our office.



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