Ingrown Toenails: What Are They and How Can You Avoid Them?

Human feet aren’t exactly the most loved part of the human body. Foot hating is so strong, in fact, that Buzzfeed published an article simply titled “What It’s Like To Strongly Dislike Feet.”

Perhaps one of the reasons behind the aversion is everything that can go wrong with the human foot. You can get foot fungus. Or athlete’s foot. Your feet can have a putrid odor. There’s all that dead skin on your feet. And there’s the possibility of an ingrown toenail.

ingrown toenails

Ingrown toenails are gross, they’re real and they could happen to you.

In simplest terms, an ingrown toenail occurs when the toenail grows into the skin surrounding it. According to the Mayo Clinic, they usually occur on people’s big toes. If you’ve ever had one, you know the result is pain, redness and swelling.

Dr. Patricia Nicholas, a podiatrist and the president of the New York State Podiatric Medical Association, said ingrown toenails stem from a variety of causes, including too-tight shoes, trauma to the toenail and incorrectly cutting toenails. “Some people are born with curved toenails,” Dr. Nichols added. “A bone spur under the nails can also cause an ingrown toenail.”

Unfortunately, ingrown toenails can be a mega problem if you love to work out. Nicholas noted that ingrown toenails can be common among athletes. “Explosive movements like sprinting, jumping, kicking and changing directions – especially as toes are jammed into athletic shoes – can put a lot of pressure on toes, adding to the problem,” she said.

In a blog post, the Advanced Foot and Ankle Centers of Illinois seconded Nicholas’ notion. “Athletes and those with active lifestyles are at risk for ingrown toenails more than the average person,” the post reads.

If you do have an ingrown toenail, Nicholas has some advice. To get rid of it, soak your feet in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes multiple times each day to ease the pain. “It will help to relieve tenderness and reduce swelling,” she said. And if your discomfort continues, consult a podiatrist.

And if you’re in the “all feet are disgusting” camp, there are ways to prevent ingrown toenails so you don’t have to deal with treatment at all. Nicholas suggested wearing shoes that fit properly and even making use of protective shoe wear if your work could cause you to injure your toes. Additionally, clip your toenails by cutting straight across at a moderate length. If you can’t trim your toenails or have a condition that causes poor blood flow to your feet, visit a podiatrist for assistance, Nicholas said.

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About Erin Dietsche

Erin ran track from an early age, but it wasn’t until her parents “forced” her to join her high school cross country team that she fell in love with running. Since then, she’s become an avid runner and learned how to balance her running with her interest in eating chocolate. In recent years, Erin has embraced other forms of fitness like lifting weights. When she’s not working out, she enjoys anything theatre-related, writing plays, reading, listening to rap music, and playing the piano.