Cut & Dry: Trimming Toenails

Trimming your toenails is a pretty straightforward process, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines and use the right equipment. “Improper clipping is most often the culprit behind ingrown toenails and secondary infections,” explains Roper St. Francis Healthcare affiliated podiatrist Dr. Brian Ralph. So how should toenails be trimmed in order to prevent ingrown nails, cut skin and infections?

Proper Tools

Large toenail clippers should be a personal item and not shared. (Angled clippers are fine as long as you don’t clip toenail corners.) Wash the clippers with soap and warm water after each use and dry them thoroughly before storing.

Use an emery board to smooth any edges and corners that could snag.

Do not use nail scissors. “They’re too aggressive and can lead to bad cuts,” says the podiatrist.

Best Process

• Toenails grow one to two millimeters per month and should be trimmed every 90 days, though they can be clipped more often if you prefer.

• Cut straight across. On the big toes, this can be accomplished in two cuts rather than one. 

• Avoid clipping the corners into a curved shape, as this can lead to ingrown toenails. 

• Follow the contours of the toes and just trim loose nail edges. Don’t push the clippers any deeper.

• Leave the cuticles alone. Breaking the seal between the skin and the nail raises the risk of infection.

• Trim thick toenails after a shower, when the nail is softer and more pliable. Nails too thick to easily cut with traditional clippers may be a sign of an infection that needs medical attention.

Take Care

In general, toenail trimming is an easy at-home task, even for people with diabetes, provided they have good vascular flow and feeling in their feet. “If you have neuropathy or vascular impairments, it’s best to have your toenails trimmed by a podiatrist or medical professional,” advises Dr. Ralph.

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