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.)