Why Do I Keep Getting Ingrown Toenails?

One ingrown toenail, once in a lifetime? While we’re sure it wasn’t a fun time, it’s also not exactly unusual. Sometimes things just happen.

But if that ingrown toenail is followed by a second, or even a third or fourth, in close succession? Yeah, something strange is going on. And no doubt you want to know what it is so you can put a stop to it!

Recurring ingrown toenails is a problem familiar to millions of Americans, but if you’re one of them we have some good news: you can end the cycle! Sometimes professional care will be required, and sometimes not, depending on the circumstances—but either way, lasting relief is achievable.

But first, we need to figure out what’s causing your ingrown toenail in the first place. And that’s not always a simple answer.

Toes in pain

Possible Culprit: Shoes

It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that a large percentage of Americans, if not an outright majority, frequently wear shoes that don’t fit—whether that’s because the shoe itself is designed badly or just isn’t right for your feet.

Unfortunately, a bad fit for your feet can often result in ingrown toenails. The most common scenario is shoes that are too tight, particularly in the area around the toes. If your toes are cramped with no room to wiggle, and the sides and/or tops of the shoes are pressing down on them, your toenail’s trajectory may be pushed downward into the surrounding skin.

However, you’re not out of the woods with shoes that are too loose, either. Those can slide around on your feet and slam into your toes over and over again, producing the same effect.

The lesson here, as it is for people who suffer from many other kinds of foot or ankle problems, is to always choose shoes that fit your feet and support you comfortably.

Possible Culprit: Nail Trimming Mistakes

You might be thinking to yourself, “How hard is it to cut toenails?” The answer is that it isn’t hard, but many people haven’t been taught how to do it correctly. You might be one of them!

So what’s the proper procedure?

  • Don’t cut too short. You want at least a little sliver of overhang on the end. Cutting nails down too short just gives them more distance to regrow and more chances to “snag” on the way back.
  • Don’t round the corners. For the same reason, you want to avoid “diving in” around the corners of the nails like you might with your fingernails. A relatively shallow curve from corner to corner works best for toenails.
  • Use a dedicated toenail trimmer or scissors. Your fingernail clippers might not have enough oomph to cut cleanly and comfortably through your toenails, which tend to be thicker and stronger. Using toenail trimmers will give you easier, cleaner cuts with less tearing. You can also choose to file them down.

Possible Culprit: Specific Injuries

This is basically the same principle as bad shoes. Environmental pressures on the nail can result in a pattern of them becoming ingrown again and again.

A traumatic accident, like stubbing your toe or dropping a salsa jar on your nail, can damage the toenail and alter its shape and growth trajectory. Repetitive activities, such as kicking a soccer ball over and over again, can produce the same result. (Bad shoes make this worse, but aren’t necessarily mandatory.)

Ingrown Toenails

Possible Culprit: Genetics

Yes, it’s true. It could be that you were just plain born to get ingrown toenails. In fact, for people with recurring ingrown toenails, it’s probably the most common explanation.

Your toenails are as unique as you are. Unfortunately, not every set of toenails is equally good at growing out without incident. If, for example, your nails are a lot more naturally curved than the average set, snagging into the neighboring skin over and over again is pretty much inevitable.

Or is it?

Helping You Break the Cycle

Even one case of ingrown toenails is worth contacting us about for professional care. Even when mild ingrown toenails can be treated at home, most people prefer the faster relief and reduced risk of complications that comes with professional care.

Check out this recent blog to learn about home care for ingrown toenails, and how to tell if your ingrown toenail really needs professional treatment.

However, if your ingrown toenails keep coming back again and again, you really owe it to yourself to seek our help. We can help you break the cycle forever—often in a single appointment!

If we determine the primary cause of your ingrown toenails is not genetic, but related to your activities, shoes, or environment, it may simply be a matter of learning how to avoid those situations. We can recommend better shoes, for example.

But even those who are genetically predisposed to ingrown toenails still have a great option. After the procedure to remove the existing ingrown toenail, we can remove the corresponding part of the nail matrix as well. After this procedure, that part of the toenail can’t grow back, so in most cases it physically can’t become ingrown again.

You don’t have to keep putting up with ingrown toenail after ingrown toenail. We can help you find a solution that actually lasts. To schedule an appointment with Waco Foot & Ankle, give us a call at (254) 776-6995 today.