Why Your Toenail Became Ingrown

If you are describing something as being a “thorn in your side,” you mean it is a source of constant irritation or difficulty. The notion of something sharp piercing your flesh is certainly unpleasant and can even be downright painful. Such is the case when a toenail has become ingrown.

Toenails aren’t terribly useful nowadays. They are generally considered to be vestigial body parts, which means they are “left over” from our ancient ancestors and do not serve much purpose today. More than a lack of use, toenails can actually be quite a nuisance and the source of various problems. Obviously, one of those problems is when they are ingrown. Understanding the causes of ingrown toenails, though, could be your first step in reducing the risk of developing this condition.

Not all cases of ingrown nails have the same origins. When it comes to causes that are avoidable, we are typically looking at things like nail trimming practices, footwear choices, and physical trauma. Reasons why you have an ingrown toenail include:

  1. You cut your toenails too short. Yes, it’s important to keep your nails trimmed to an appropriate length, but shorter is not always better. As a general rule, aim to trim your toenails roughly even with the edge of their respective toes. This is good advice for everyone, but especially for runners. Repetitive trauma from toes hitting the fronts of running shoes can lead to nails that grow downwards, which increases the risk of an ingrown toenail condition.
  2. You rounded off your toenails. We usually round our fingernails when trimming them, so people think the same should be done with our toenails. There is a key difference between the nails on our fingers and toes, however – fingers are not normally subjected to the same kinds of forces and pressure as we place on our lower limbs. Rounded toenails are more likely to become ingrown than those trimmed straight across. Now, this rule applies to about 90% of the general population and there are cases where rounding is the best course of action. Not sure if this applies to you? Schedule a quick visit and we’ll teach you how to clip your toenails to reduce the risk of them becoming ingrown.
  3. You’ve been wearing tight shoes. Tight footwear can lead to an array of different issues for your lower limbs, including this one. When shoes are tight in the front and squash your toes together, nails may have no choice but to grow into the soft flesh pressing against them. This can be the reason a nail becomes ingrown in the first place, but continuing to wear the tight shoes will exacerbate the condition over time.
  4. Something heavy fell on your feet. If you’ve accidentally dropped something heavy on your foot, either at work or home, there’s a good chance it caused your ingrown toenail. Now, it’s difficult to prevent accidents—and gravity is always going to pull things down—but you can help keep your feet safe by wearing safety shoes or steel-toed work boots if you handle heavy objects at work or asking for help when moving furniture or full boxes at home.

With that being said, there are cases wherein an ingrown toenail and its progression has nothing to do with factors under your control. In these instances, the root cause is simply an inherited nail structure. This is most likely the explanation if you have a nail that continually becomes ingrown.

Understanding the various causes of ingrown toenails is a good starting point for taking preventative measures, but you may need professional treatment if the condition already exists – especially if you are diabetic or have a nail that continually becomes ingrown. If you do, come and see us at our Salt Lake City office and we will provide the care you need.

Contact Anderson Foot & Ankle Clinic for more information or to schedule your appointment with us by calling (801) 269-9939.

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