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What Causes Ingrown Toenails? Tips for Prevention and Treatment

By Softstar @Soft_Star_Shoes
What Causes Ingrown Toenails? Tips for Prevention and Treatment

Chances are you don't spend all day thinking about your toenails. However, if one of them becomes ingrown, you will likely be paying a lot more attention! Because ingrown nails can cause pain with any movement of the affected toe, they can make even light activities like walking and yoga highly uncomfortable. Not to mention the potential for infection. It's safe to say that this condition isn't something anyone wants to deal with, which is why it's important to learn about the causes of ingrown toenails and how to prevent them.

What Is an Ingrown Toenail?

Nails normally grow on top of the skin, but if they start to grow into the skin instead of on top, you've got a recipe for a painful ingrown nail. This condition most often develops on the sides and corners of the big toenail, but can occur on other toes and fingers as well. Ingrown nails may start out only slightly bothersome, but can worsen over time as the nail grows deeper into the skin.

Potential Symptoms

Any number of issues can cause a sore toe from time to time. How do you identify whether it's an ingrown nail that's causing the trouble? Symptoms to watch out for include pain, swelling, and redness around one or multiple nails. The condition can worsen over time, which can lead to infection if not treated properly.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and they do not resolve within a few days, consider asking your doctor to take a look.

Causes + What to Avoid

What Causes Ingrown Toenails? Tips for Prevention and Treatment

There are numerous factors that can contribute to an ingrown toenail, but one of the main causes is ill-fitting footwear. Shoes that feature tight and narrow toe boxes may look stylish to some, but wearing them could come at a cost. These types of shoes can put a great deal of pressure on your nails from multiple sides. According to Correct Toes, consistent pressure is usually the number one reason ingrown toenails develop over a period of time. Shoes that are too short, tight constricting socks, sports cleats and other footwear for specific activities can also cause undue pressure on the nails.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, some other potential causes of ingrown toenails include:

  • Genetics
  • Pedicures
  • Injury or trauma, such as stubbing the toe
  • Trimming nails at an angle or trimming too short
  • Poor circulation in the feet and toes, which can occur in people with diabetes and similar conditions

Prevention Tips

While this condition is not uncommon, there are many effective ways to prevent ingrown toenails:

  • Trimming your toenails straight across instead of on a curve can prevent the nail from growing into your skin. Look for straight edge nail clippers if yours do not allow you to trim straight across. In addition, take care not to trim the nails too short.
  • If socks are constricting on your toes, toe socks from brands like Injinji are a great option to consider. Toe socks create an individual space for each toe without compressing them together, which helps to relieve pressure.
  • Shoes in the right size with roomy toe boxes are excellent for creating a healthy, happy environment for your feet as you go about your day. If you must wear tight-fitting shoes (for work or certain activities, for example), consider only wearing them when absolutely necessary. Opt for more foot-friendly options whenever possible.

Roomy Footwear Options

What Causes Ingrown Toenails? Tips for Prevention and Treatment

Here at Softstar, we believe in foot-shaped shoes that allow toes to spread and feet to flex naturally. Our shoes feature spacious toe boxes and soft, breathable leathers that mold to the shape of your feet, instead of conforming them into cramped and confined positions. In addition, the soles on our shoes are "zero-drop", meaning the soles have no change in thickness between the heel and the toe. This helps prevent toes being pressed into the ends of the toe box, which could also cause uncomfortable pressure on the nails.

If you're looking for the widest toe box shoes on the market, we recommend our Primal line. The Primal RunAmoc and Primal Sawyer are two of our most popular styles for those looking for extra wiggle room in the toes. We also offer the Primal Merry Jane as a versatile option that can be dressed up or down. Our Primal sole shape is widest at the toes, and accommodates Correct Toes and other spacers with ease.

Treatment for Ingrown Nails

The course of treatment for an ingrown toenail will depend on the severity of your condition, ranging from simple home remedies to intervention from a podiatrist and/or surgeon.

As you consider which course of action is right for you, there are a few things you can try right away that could bring some relief:

  • Let your feet breathe by going barefoot when possible.
  • Wear open toed shoes and/or shoes with roomy toe boxes to give your toes space.
  • Soak your feet in warm water to help relieve pain and swelling. You can also try adding Epsom salt if desired.
  • Apply a soft bandage over the affected toe if it is painful when wearing shoes.

If you are concerned that you may have an ingrown nail, we recommend seeking a doctor's advice on how to best treat your specific case.

Disclaimer: While we're shoemakers who are passionate about foot health, we're not doctors. Consult your health care practitioner about any foot conditions and symptoms. Any treatment you undertake is done at your own risk.

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