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Mayo Clinic Health Library

Slide show: How to trim thickened toenails

Updated: 07-11-2020

Thickened toenails: What causes them?

Image of thickened toenails

Your toenails can thicken for many reasons. These include:

  • A common skin condition that causes cells to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin (psoriasis)
  • Injury
  • Tight-fitting shoes
  • Fungal infections — as shown in this picture

Among these, a fungal nail infection — onychomycosis (on-ih-koh-my-KOH-sis) — is a common cause of thickened toenails.

Get ready

Image of nail nipper

Soften your toenails by soaking your feet for 10 minutes in warm water. Dry your feet and toenails with a towel. Now you're ready to trim your toenails.

Nail nippers work best. They're lightweight, easy to grip and control, and can be purchased at most drugstores. Nail nippers can be very sharp.

Be careful when using them, especially if you have:

  • Diabetes
  • Poor circulation
  • Reduced sensation in your feet

If you have any of these conditions and have questions about trimming your toenails, talk to your doctor.

Take small clips

Image of a nail nipper cutting a thickened toenail

Starting at the corner of your toenail, take small cuts to prevent splintering. Don't round your toenail at the corner. Instead, cut straight across. This reduces your chance of developing an ingrown toenail.

Make a straight cut

Image of a nail nipper cutting a thickened toenail

Take small, straight clips all the way across your toenail.

Be careful

Image of a thickened toenail trimmed correctly

This thickened toenail has been trimmed correctly. The toes next to it need a similar straight cut. After the toenails have been trimmed, gently file the edges with an emery board or nail file. This removes sharp edges or corners that could catch on your socks.

See your doctor if:

  • Your thickened toenail embarrasses you
  • Your thickened toenail is very painful
  • You don't think you can trim your toenails safely on your own
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