Are Your Shoes Causing You Ingrown Toenail Pain?

by | Mar 18, 2021

Most people will experience an ingrown toenail at least once or twice in a lifetime. That’s fairly normal, given how many miles we all put on our feet over the years.

However, some people get ingrown toenails more often. A lot more often, in fact. And that is definitely a sign of a larger problem. 

If you’ve been struggling with frequent ingrown toenails for a while, it’s time to start figuring out what’s causing the problem. And although shoes aren’t always to blame, they are one of the first potential culprits you should consider. 

Here are a few ways your shoes may be causing you grief with ingrown toenails.

The Toe Box is Too Small, Cramped, and/or Misshapen

In any shoe, your toes should be able to lie flat and straight ahead, as well as have room to wiggle—up and down and side to side.

If the toe box is too small or narrow, your toes will likely end up crammed together and relatively immobile, like sardines in a can. This exerts extra forces against the toes—both from the sides of the shoe pushing against the toes, and the toes pushing against each other. As these forces are continually exerted, they can cause the nails to start growing improperly—often into the skin.

Of course, if the shoe is just plain too short, you’ll have a similar problem with your toes jamming up against the front of your shoe. This can be just as problematic, especially if you tend to cut your toenails very short to begin with.

Your Shoes Are Too Loose

On the other hand, when your shoes are too loose, they can start to slide around on your feet, especially if you’re playing sports or going for a run. Now, instead of being constantly pinched in a tight space, your nails are slamming into the front of the shoe over and over again.

Still not a great situation, right?

This abuse not only directly increases your risk of ingrown toenails, but can cause actual trauma to your nails as well. Black toenails are a common condition in runners whose toes are continually sliding up against the insides of their shoes, leading to bruising and bleeding beneath the nail. This type of injury can cause nails to fall off, and they can end up re-growing improperly.

Your Shoes Have High Heels

The higher your heels are, the more your weight is tipped forward and the more pressure is placed against the front of your foot. If your high heels are forcing your toes against the front of your shoe, they can easily contribute to ingrown nails.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you can never wear high heels—although we can’t say we ever specifically recommend them, either. In order to minimize the risk of ingrown toenails (not to mention a whole host of other foot problems), follow these guidelines:

  • Save them for special occasions only.
  • If you’re going to be out for a while, bring along a comfy pair of “regular” shoes you can switch into as needed.
  • Make sure the heel height does not exceed 2 inches.
  • The “chunkier” the heel, the better.

A Summary of What to Look For in Toenail-Friendly Shoes

If you suspect your shoes might be causing your ingrown toenails, the best way to find out is to switch to another pair and see if the situation improves! If your ingrown nails do clear up, odds are good the shoes were to blame.

Remember, anything from high heels to work boots to running shoes can be responsible for repeated ingrown toenails if they don’t fit properly. When you’re trying on shoes, check for the following:

  • At least a half inch between the end of your toes and the inside of your shoes.
  • A toe box that leaves your toes flat, comfortable, and easy to wiggle.
  • A supportive heel and midsection that prevents your foot from slipping and sliding inside the shoe.

What If I Still Keep Getting Ingrown Toenails Anyway?

As we said at the top of the post, while poor footwear choices are often responsible for recurring ingrown toenails, they aren’t always at fault.

If new shoes don’t fix the problem, there are a few other prime suspects to consider:

  • Toenail trimming. You might be cutting your toenails too short, leaving them too long, or curving the corners too excessively. Cut straight across, corner to corner, with just a slight bit of “overhang.”
  • Genetics. Here’s the unfortunate reality: a lot of people are simply naturally predisposed to ingrown toenails, due to being born with unusually curvy nails.

However, don’t let this cause you to lose hope! If your ingrown toenails don’t go away, let us know about it. We can help you get to the bottom of the matter and find you a permanent solution. In some situations, this might mean a simple surgical procedure to partially or completely remove the nail.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us at (719) 266-5000 whenever an ingrown toenail is causing you concern. And if you prefer to reach us electronically instead, fill out our online contact form and a member of our staff will respond during our standard office hours.

8580 Scarborough Dr., Ste 120
Colorado Springs, CO 80920

Mon - Fri: 8am - 5pm

*Office is closed from 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM for lunch

P: 719-266-5000
F: 719-266-6596

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