Ingrowing Toenail

What is an Ingrowing Toenail?

An ingrowing toenail occurs when the edge of the toenail starts to cut or embed itself into the surrounding soft tissue, leading to a painful condition that can become infected and potentially chronic if not addressed. This issue is especially common and can cause significant discomfort, making activities like walking or wearing shoes challenging.

While ingrown toenails typically affect younger individuals, with the nail cutting into the side of the toe, older adults may experience thick and painful nails due to nail damage. Fortunately, treatments are readily available for this condition.

Closeup of painful inflammed with bacterial infection of the big toe due to ingrown toenail
What is an Ingrowing Toenail?

Ingrowing toenails can emerge from a variety of factors, emphasizing the importance of proper foot care. Key causes include:

  • Improper toenail trimming: Nails trimmed too short or with the edges cut can lead the skin to overlap the nail, encouraging the nail to grow into the skin.
  • Tight footwear and clothing: Shoes, socks, or tights that fit too snugly can compress the skin around your toenails. This pressure may cause the skin to pierce if pressed against the nail.
  • Moisture from sweaty feet: The softness of skin around the toenails, exacerbated by sweat, can facilitate the nail’s penetration and embedding into the skin.
  • Physical injuries: Incidents like stubbing your toe might lead to the development of an ingrown toenail.
  • Natural nail shape: Toenails that are naturally curved tend to have edges that press more aggressively into the surrounding skin.

Understanding these causes can help in taking preventive measures to avoid the discomfort associated with ingrown toenails.

What Causes Ingrowing Toenails?

Ingrown toenails can develop due to a variety of factors, including:

  1. Poorly cut toenails: Trimming toenails improperly, such as cutting them too short or not straight across, can encourage the skin to fold over the nail, leading to ingrowth.
  2. Wearing tight-fitting footwear: Shoes, socks, or tights that are too snug can exert pressure on the skin around the toenail, potentially causing it to pierce and become ingrown.
  3. Sweaty feet: Excessive moisture, often resulting from sweaty feet, can soften the skin around the toenail, making it easier for the nail to penetrate and embed itself.
  4. Injury: Even minor traumas like stubbing your toe can sometimes trigger the development of an ingrown toenail.
  5. Natural shape of the nail: Toenails that are naturally curved or have particularly sharp edges are more likely to press into the surrounding skin, increasing the risk of ingrowth.
What are the Treatment Options for Ingrowing Toenails?

Treatment options for ingrown toenails:


  • Conservative care: Soaking, antibiotic ointment, and lifting the nail edge.


  • Nail avulsion: Removal of the ingrown nail portion.
  • Phenolization: Cauterizing the nail bed to prevent regrowth.

Risks and side-effects include pain, infection, and rare complications. Post-surgery care involves avoiding driving and attending follow-up appointments.

Your podiatric surgeon can provide tailored treatment plans.