How to Trim a Toenail Correctly

Cutting toenails can prevent them from growing too long, becoming ingrown or causing discomfort as you walk 5. The MedlinePlus website of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health notes that ingrown nails curve and grow into the skin, resulting in pain and possible infection 2. Using the correct trimming process may help you avoid the uncomfortable foot condition.

Wash your feet and dry them thoroughly before trimming your toenail. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that the cleansing will make your nail less brittle, easier and safer to cut 1.

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Use the proper tool to cut your nail, such as nail clippers or manicure scissors. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration says that it is too dangerous to use other sharp cutting tools -- such as razor blades, knives or regular scissors -- to trim your toenail because the tool may slip and injure the skin surrounding the nail 34.

Trim the nail straight across. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons cautions against rounding the nail’s corners or cutting the sides at an angle because this can lead the corners to grow toward your skin and become ingrown 6.

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Cut the toenail to the proper length. recommends cutting the nail so the edge reaches the tip of your toe 5. When you walk around wearing shoes, toenails that you’ve cut too short may curl down and grow into the skin.

Eliminate any jagged edges that might snag and tear the nail as it grows. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration recommend filing your cut nails with an emery board to smooth them 3.


Ask your physician, nurse or a podiatrist to help you trim your nails if you can’t see well, particularly if you have a health condition, such as diabetes. The CDC notes that diabetics must avoid ingrown nails and minor foot injuries that can develop into ulcers and turn into more serious health problems.

Prevent nail and fungal infections by keeping your tools sanitary. Princeton University Health Care Services stresses that you should not share pedicure tools with other people.


Avoid picking your nails instead of trimming them with the proper cutting tools. MedlinePlus points out that tearing nails can create irregular edges and lead nails to become ingrown.

Consult your doctor or podiatrist if you notice any minor injuries or abnormalities with your feet as you trim your nails, particularly if you’re a diabetic. The CDC suggests looking for changes to the temperature and skin color on your feet, the condition of the skin on your feet, the color and thickness of your toenails, the presence of fungal infections and any blisters, corns, sores or ulcers that appear infected.