Ingrown toenails - How they occur and what we can do to prevent them

What is an ingrown toenail?

An ingrown toenail, or onychocryptosis, is a common problem amongst both the young and the adult population. Ingrown toenails can be a debilitating condition as they can interfere with a person’s sporting activities, school or work, thus impacting their quality of life.

Ingrown toenails occur when the nail begins to pierce the skin causing localised inflammation. Mild symptoms of ingrown toenails can present with just minor pain during walking or other forms of activities. In moderate or severe cases, the toe may also become red, hot, swollen and start oozing pus if not managed properly.

Some of the common causes of ingrown toenails include:

- Improper nail cutting

- Tight fitting footwear

- Abnormal nail shape (excessive curvature of nails)

- Sweaty feet

What can we do to prevent them?

Ingrown toenails are a painful condition and we need to do all we can to prevent ourselves from getting them. Nails should be cut straight across and be filed around the edges to avoid sharp edges growing into the skin. Footwear should not feel too tight around the toes and should always allow a thumb’s width room from your toes to the tip of the shoe. People can also consider open-toe shoes/breathable shoes to help with sweaty feet.

How can a podiatrist help?

Podiatrists use special and sterile tools to remove the ingrown nail that is piercing into the skin. This will often produce immediate relief. In severe or long-standing cases of ingrown toenails, podiatrists are trained to perform partial nail avulsions (a form of ingrown toenail surgery) that will remove the ingrown nail permanently.


R, K. (2019). Ingrown toenails. - PubMed - NCBI. Retrieved 5 September 2019, from