Toenail Care - Self Help Advice
Toenail care

Caring for your nails properly can help prevent common problems such as, ingrowing toenails. Most people can manage safe and effective nail care if they use the correct technique.

Safety Considerations:

  • Trim your nails using nail scissors or nail clippers or use a nail file. It’s best to choose the tool that you feel most confident using.
  • Make sure you are sitting comfortably before you start. One way to cut your toenails is by using two chairs or stools of a similar height. Sit on one and face the other towards you. Bring your leg towards your chest and place one foot on the edge of the other chair or stool and keep your other foot on the floor.
  • Nail clippers and scissors can be very sharp. If you have poor eyesight, poor circulation or reduced sensation in your feet, it may be safer to file your nails regularly, which will avoid the need to cut your nails.


  • Picking at and tearing bits off your nails.
  • Wearing shoes that are too narrow or shallow that can cause pressure on the toenails.

When is the best time to cut or file toenails?

  • Dry toenails are less likely to bend or tear when you cut them, so you will get a cleaner cut.
  • Some people, especially those with thick toenails may find it easier to cut nails after bathing the feet when the nails are a bit softer.
  • Filing is best carried out when the feet are dry so do this before bathing.

Cutting toenails

  • Starting at the corner of your toenail, take small cuts or clips with the tip of the nail clippers or scissors to prevent splintering.
  • Cut the toenails on one foot and then swap over and do the other foot when you are ready.
  • The general advice is to cut your nails straight across, following their natural shape.
  • Do not be tempted to cut the nails too short; you should still be able to see some white ‘free nail’ after cutting.
  • Do not round your toenail at the corner or cut down the sides of nails, as this can cause problems and increase your chance of developing an ingrown toenail.
  • After the toenails have been trimmed, gently file the edges with an emery board or nail file to remove any sharp edges that could catch on your socks.
  • You do not need to cut all 10 toenails at one go, spread this out over a number of days if this is more suitable for you.

Filing toenails

Filing your nails regularly means you can keep them at a comfortable length. Not allowing nails to become too long means that they will be easier to manage.

  • File the nails in the direction away from the ankle or in a sideways motion from the sides to the centre of each nail.
  • File thickened nails both in the length and the thickness.
  • It is easier to file nails when they are dry and filing nails once a week will keep them at a reasonable length.
  • You do not need to file all 10 toenails at one go, spread this out over a number of days if this is more suitable for you.

Accidental injury

If you accidentally cut the surrounding skin, clean the area with lukewarm water and apply light pressure with a piece of cotton wool or tissue. Cover the cut with a clean sterile dressing and leave in place for 48 hours.  Seek further advice if you are worried that the area is not healing properly.

In need of nail nippers or files but can’t get out to shop?

If you are able to shop online, supplies of foot care products are available from a number of online retailers, such as:

  • https://www.footcaresupplies