The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Comprehensive Tips To Prevent Ingrown Toenails

Posted by on Monday, June 10th, 2013


Ingrown toenails are an impossible situation to tackle on your own. You will need to see a licensed and trained podiatrist to help you get your feet to a healthy state again. “Ingrown nails are not only painful, but they can also cause an infection in the toe,” says Dr. Katherine M. Lai of The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in New York City. “Often, we will treat nails that repeatedly become ingrown with an in-office procedure that can remove the ingrown nail permanently.”

Dr. Lai explains that there are several procedures a patient might have, depending on the severity of the condition and the way the nail is growing. “Some of the ingrown nail procedures are: P&A (phenol and alcohol) procedure, where the ingrown nail is removed back to the nail root and phenol is applied to the root to stop the ingrown nail from growing back in; or Winograd procedure, where the ingrown nail, adjacent swollen skin, and the nail root are surgically cut out. The skin and rest of the nail are then stitched together.”

These procedures, done in a clinical setting, are the best way to prevent ingrown toenails from occurring. In addition to ingrown toenail surgery, there are several other steps you can take to keep your toenails growing properly and protect your toes from infection…

Soak the toes.

If you have trouble clipping your toenails because they are too hard and brittle, Bold Sky magazine recommends soaking your toes for 15 minutes in a tub of warm water mixed with Epsom salt or vinegar. “Your nails will soften and you can pull back the ingrown part and clip it off with ease,” they explain. “Make sure the cut is clean, and there are no jagged ends left behind. Apply a topical ointment to prevent infection.”

Leave nails a little long.

Everyday Health recommends leaving the nails a little longer. Toenails that are cropped too short are a cause of ingrown toenails, and also increases the chance of infection. Filing can be a good way to get the nail to a presentable state, without going too short.

Choose a roomy shoe.

Web MD cautions that the wrong shoe choice can put pressure on the toes and cause the nail to grow inward, rather than outward. “Women especially need to be aware that tight, pointed, high-heeled shoes and tight stockings can cause ingrown nails,” according to health experts. Look for shoes with a roomy or square-shaped toe-box.

Grab a Band-Aid at the first sign of trouble.

Do you feel like your injured toenail is digging in? Prevention magazine recommends grabbing a Band-Aid and placing it on the toe, just beneath the piece of nail that’s trying to press into the skin. This will encourage the nail to grow straight out, rather than push in. It’s much better than the “bathroom surgery” people sometimes try.

Trim toenails straight across.

Improper nail cutting is one of the most common causes for ingrown toenail development. “Don’t curve your nails to match the shape of the front of your toe,” advises the Mayo Clinic. “If you have circulation problems in your feet from disorders such as diabetes or peripheral vascular disease, see a podiatrist regularly to have your nails professionally trimmed if you can’t trim them yourself.”

Use an antiseptic.

Applying an antiseptic like iodine or hydrogen peroxide once a day after a bath or shower is a good way to head off infection, says Discovery Health.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.