Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Cutting your toenails correctly can help prevent ingrown toenails.

Cutting your toenails correctly can help prevent ingrown toenails.
beginning of content

Ingrown toenails

2 min read

An ingrown toenail is a common condition that usually affects your big toe. It can cause pain and discomfort, and become infected. You can often take care of an ingrown toenail yourself but you may need to see a doctor or podiatrist – especially if you have diabetes or other foot problems.

What is an ingrown toenail?

An ingrown toenail occurs when the side of the nail curls down and grows into the skin around the nail.

Any toe can be affected but it commonly occurs in the big toe.

An ingrown toenail can become painful and inflamed (tender, red and swollen).

Sometimes, it can become infected, which, if left untreated, can spread and infect the underlying bone.

What causes ingrown toenails?

You can get an ingrown toenail if you:

  • have tight fitting shoes, socks, or tights that crowd your toes, putting pressure on your toenails
  • don't cut your toenails properly - for example too short or not straight across
  • injure your toe, for example by stubbing it
  • pick or tear the corners of your toenails
  • have sweaty feet, making your skin soft and easier for toenails to dig in
  • have toenails with naturally curved edges or that are fan-shaped.

Ingrown toenail treatments

If you have diabetes, nerve damage in your leg or foot, poor blood circulation to your foot or an infection around the nail, see your doctor or podiatrist (a trained therapist who diagnoses and treats foot conditions) immediately.

 Otherwise, try this:

  • soak your feet in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes, three or four times a day
  • then use a cotton bud to gently push away the skin from the nail
  • repeat each day for a few weeks, allowing the nail to grow
  • as the end of the nail grows forward, push a tiny piece of cotton wool or dental floss under it to help the nail grow over the skin and not grow into it. Change the cotton wool or dental floss each time you soak your foot.

If that doesn’t work and your ingrown toenail persists, see your doctor or podiatrist. They may recommend ingrown toenail surgery to remove part or all of the nail.

Preventing ingrown toenails

To help prevent an ingrown toenail:

  • wear shoes that fit properly
  • keep your feet clean and dry
  • trim your nails properly ­– briefly soak your foot in warm water before trimming, and make sure you cut straight across, without tapering or rounding the corners or cutting them too short.

People with diabetes or persistent foot problems should see a podiatrist regularly for routine foot checks and nail care.

Last reviewed: August 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 13 results

Ingrown toenail (nail pain) experience | myVMC

Lydia shares her story of having an ingrown toenail, and how her toenail pain was relieved with a little treatment from her doctor.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Surgery for ingrowing toenail (adult)

An ingrowing toenail happens when your toenail grows into the skin around it.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Ingrowing toenails

Ingrowing toenails occur when the nail grows into the skin at thecorners of the nail.Ingrowing toenails can cause a lot of toe pain and soreness so it is worth finding out what causes them and what you can do to prevent them.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Nails - fingernail and toenail problems

Nails support and protect the sensitive tips of our fingers and toes. Fingernails also help us to pick up objects, scratch an itch or untie a knot. Fingernails grow about three times faster than toenails.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Toenail problems - myDr.com.au

Because they are so far away from our heart, our feet are often the first part of the body to show something is wrong with the way blood circulates in our body.

Read more on myDr website

Feet: checklist for foot health - myDr.com.au

Foot problems such as smelly feet, athlete's foot, plantar warts, corns and infected toenails can all be alleviated through good foot care. Use this checklist of quick questions to check the health of your feet. 

Read more on myDr website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Club foot

Asmall number of children have what is commonly known as 'club foot' at birth. The correct name is congenital talipes equino varus (CTEV). Congenital means occurring from birth. Talipes means foot deformity. Equino varus describes the position of the foot - toes pointing downwards and the whole foot turned inwards.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Your feet & diabetes

Good foot care can help prevent the onset of major foot problems. Every person with diabetes needs to be careful about their feet.

Read more on Diabetes NSW website

Feet - problems and treatments - Better Health Channel

Correctly fitted shoes help you avoid foot and leg pain or injury.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Children's feet and shoes - Better Health Channel

A child learning to walk receives important sensory information from the soles of their feet, and shoes can make walking more difficult.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback