How To Cut Toenails Properly

By Marisa Ramiccio. May 7th 2016

Cutting your toenails correctly may seem like a simple task, but it’s very easy to do it incorrectly. Unfortunately, one wrong snip can lead to an ingrown toenail or an infection, so it’s important to exercise caution when trimming your toenails. If you’ve encountered a problem in the past or just want to make sure you’re cutting correctly, read on to find out how to cut toenails properly, including the do’s and don’ts of toenail clipping.

Importance Of Cutting Toenails Properly

If you cut your toenails incorrectly, is it really a big deal? What can actually happen if you don’t clip them properly? For starters, if you clip too much of the nail off, you’ll be exposing the soft nail bed, which will be vulnerable to injury. It will also make your toe feel painful while walking or putting socks and shoes on.

The biggest issue associated with improperly clipped toenails is ingrown toenails, which are nails that have grown back into the skin. If the nail is cut too short or if the corners are too sharp, they can easily pierce the skin. Ingrown toenails can also be very painful and lead to redness, inflammation and even infection if not taken care of.

What You Will Need

The first step to cutting your toenails properly is to choose the right tools for the job. But which tool gets the job done better: nail clippers or nail scissors? When it comes to toenails, nail clippers are the better tool to use. Since toenails are thicker than fingernails, nail scissors are more likely to twist during the cut, resulting in the ripping or tearing of the nail. Nail clippers, on the other hand, can stand up to the job and are less likely to hurt the nail.

When choosing nail clippers, make sure that you pick a pair that is large and that will apply an equal amount of pressure from both sides. This will ensure a clean cut. If you tend to share your clippers with other family members, be sure to sterilize them before using them, especially if those family members have had a fungal infection. That infection can be passed on to your foot through those clippers if they aren’t cleaned before you use them.

But nail clippers aren’t the only tool you’ll need. Here are the other items you should gather before clipping your nails:

  • Nail file – There are different types of nail files, but the one you should choose is an emery board. Avoid using a metal nail file because it can tear or rip your nails.
  • Towel – If you don’t want to end up picking toenails off the floor all night, place a towel under your feet to catch the clippings. If you don’t want to use a towel, you can use a piece of newspaper and just throw the whole thing away when you’re done.

How To Cut Toenails Properly

After you’ve assembled your tools, it’s time to start cutting your toenails. Here are the steps for a proper cut:

  1. Grab the nail clippers. Starting with the big toe, cut the nail straight across. If the nail is really uneven or jagged, it can easily pierce the skin, causing an ingrown toenail.
  1. Make sure that the end of the nail is flush with the end of your toe. You don’t want to cut too much of the nail off, because this can also lead to an ingrown toenail or possibly an injury to the nail bed. Use the white part of your nail as a guide: if you cut past it, you’ve cut too much.
  1. Do not cut the sides or the corners of the nail with nail clippers. Instead, grab your emery board and begin to file the nail. Use the coarser side of the emery board for shaping and leveling the nail, and be sure to file in one direction. Then, flip the board over and use the finer side for smoothing. Once the nail is even and the corners have been softly rounded, it’s time to move on to the second toe.

Some people choose to soak their feet before clipping their toenails, but this should be avoided since it can make the nails more susceptible to tearing.

What To Do For Thickened Toenails

Some people have thickened toenails, which can be caused by a variety of issues, including:

  • An injury
  • Tight-fitting shoes
  • Skin condition such as psoriasis
  • Fungal infections

Since thickened toenails can to be tougher to cut, in this instance, it is recommended that you soak your feet before cutting your nails. Soak them in warm water for about 10 minutes and then dry them completely. You’ll need to assemble the same tools – nail clippers, an emery board and a towel – and follow these steps:

  1. Take the clippers and start clipping the first toenail from the corner. Cut straight across and make small snips so the nail doesn’t splinter.
  1. Next, file the nail with an emery board. Make sure that the corners are smooth, not sharp, and the nail is even.

If you have diabetes or another foot condition, be careful when clipping your toenails. If you aren’t comfortable clipping them yourself, you may want to see your doctor and have your doctor clip them for you. But once you get the hang of clipping them properly, you won’t have to worry about making a mistake again.


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