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How To Trim Your Toenails Properly

HOW TO TRIM YOUR TOENAILS PROPERLY
By Bethesda, MD & Springfield, VA Podiatrist, Dr. Paul Ross of The Podiatry Center

Trimming your toenails seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often people do this the wrong way and end up damaging their toenails.

Here are some common mistakes people make when trimming their toenails and why they’re important to note:

  • Picking or “peeling” the toenail, especially toward the sides.
    This rips the edge of your nail off, leaving it too short to file into a smoother shape. The edge turns ragged and more likely to “splinter” into your skin.
  • Using scissors.
    Scissors are too thick to cut the toenails and don’t follow the natural shape of the nail. This can cause tearing, ragged edges, and uneven re-growth.
  • Cutting toenails too short.
    When the skin is higher than the toenail, the toenail grows into the skin instead of over it.
  • Rounding the sides of the toenails.
    Though you don’t want to cut your nails to sharp points in the corners, they should have a square shape to encourage forward growth. If they’re rounded, they’re more likely to grow into the side nail beds.
  • Waiting too long to cut toenails.
    Your shoes end up pushing your toenails backwards painfully and the risk of doing damage if you stub your toe increases. Remember: straight across, but not too short.
  • Using tools that are not sterile.
    Dirty tools can house bacteria and germs that can develop into an infection in warm, dark, moist environments. If you have an ingrown toenail, this can be dangerous.

How To Trim Your Toenails

One way to prevent ingrown toenails is to trim them the right way about once a month. How? Here are the basics.

Step 1: Soak your feet in a foot bath. This is optional, but it softens the skin and nails, making the process easier. It can also help your feet to smell better, which I’m sure everyone can appreciate. Make sure your feet are dried thoroughly before you move on to the next step.

Step 2: Clip your toenails with toenail clippers. These were designed for use on toenails and are your best bet for a clean and even cut across the nail. While clipping:

  • Cut the nails straight across (you can gently file sharp edges afterward to avoid cutting off too much by accident).
  • Don’t cut nails too short. A properly cut toenail stays above 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 uneven edges. This is the best way to cut your nail smoothly without over-clipping 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 because of pregnancy or obesity or encounter any challenges, ask for help. This rings especially true for anyone with diabetes because an ingrown toenail or minor foot injury can lead to ulcers and serious health problems.

If you notice any foot injuries, bunions, fungus, or other abnormalities, it might be a good idea to see your Bethesda, MD Podiatrist or Springfield, VA Podiatrist. If you’re not sure if there is cause for concern, please give us a call to find out for sure. Dr. Paul Ross of The Podiatry Center is happy to help you!


The Podiatry Centers treat all medical and surgical foot and ankle conditions. Licensed Bethesda, MD Podiatrist, Dr. Paul Ross can help bring you foot pain and ankle pain relief.

Our Bethesda, Maryland (MD) and Springfield, Virginia (VA) Podiatry offices offer the most effective and state-of-the-art, quality podiatry care services with a smile to patients in our local community, including: Woodbridge VA, Fairfax VA, Annandale VA, Arlington VA, Alexandria VA, Burke VA, Gaithersburg MD, Potomac MD, Silver Spring MD, Rockville MD and Chevy Chase MD.

Return to a pain-free life and get back to the things you love!



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  • “Dr. Ross is absolutely excellent. He has treated both myself and my wife for years. We trust him implicitly and intend to continue as his patients for as long as he, or we, are available.”

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The Podiatry Centers located in Bethesda, Maryland (MD) and Springfield, Virginia (VA) treat all medical and surgical foot and ankle conditions. Licensed Podiatrist,
Dr. Paul Ross can help bring you foot and ankle pain relief.

Our Bethesda, Maryland (MD) and Springfield, Virginia (VA) Podiatry offices offer the most effective and state-of-the-art, quality podiatry care services with a smile to patients in our local community, including: Woodbridge VA, Fairfax VA, Annandale VA, Arlington VA, Alexandria VA, Burke VA, Gaithersburg MD, Potomac MD, Silver Spring MD, Rockville MD and Chevy Chase MD.

Return to a pain-free life and get back to the things you love! Call 301.656.6055 today!


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