How Do You Get An Ingrown Toenail?

By October 4, 2017Blog
cut toenails vs. ingrown toenail animation

According to the 2012 National Foot Health Assessment, 18 percent of adults in the U.S. over the age of 21 have experienced the pain and discomfort of ingrown toenails.

That is about 40  million people!

If you’re lucky enough to still be in the dark about these painful things, an ingrown toenail is when the side of the nail curves and grows into the flesh of the toe. This most often happens with the nail of the big toe, and they result in severe pain, swelling, redness, and sometimes even an infection.

Symptoms of ingrown toenail

You’ll know you have an ingrown toenail if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain in response to pressure applied to the toe
  • Pain when standing or walking
  • Signs of infection (redness, pus, red streaks)


Most often, ingrown toenails occur as a result of improper cutting of the nails. This means that you are either cutting them much too short, or you aren’t cutting them straight across. By cutting them on a curve, you give the nail an opportunity to grow in rather than out.

Another reason might be that you are wearing shoes that are too small. This results in a tremendous amount of pressure on the toenail, causing the nail to grow into the flesh of the toe rather than out. Shoes are often the culprit here, but tights or hosiery that are too small could also result in the same damage.

Perhaps the most unpleasant way of developing an ingrown toenail is sustaining an injury like stubbing or jamming your toe. You might think the pain of that little accident was enough, but your body very well might award you with an ingrown toenail to put the cherry on top.

Prevention and Treatment

The Institute for Preventative Foot Health tells us that the best way to avoid ingrown toenails is to properly groom your toenails. This means cutting them straight across (not too short) and using a nail file (clean, please!) to soften any resulting sharp edges. You should also make sure to wear shoes that are the correct size and do not squeeze the front of your feet.

If you already have developed an ingrown toenail, you have a few options:

  • Soak your feet in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes a few times each day
  • Place a small piece of cotton beneath between the nail and the irritated flesh to foster proper nail growth, but make sure to clean the area with alcohol
  • Go see a podiatrist. In severe cases, they will trim the nail and possibly remove the part of the nail bed that is responsible for the chronic ingrown portion of the nail

If you are experiencing pain and discomfort from an ingrown toenail that might be infected, you should immediately see a physician to help take care of the issue. If you leave the problem to persist, the infection could spread, resulting in an issue much bigger than just a sore toe.