A mild ingrown toenail once in a great while is usually not too much to worry about. If you keep getting ingrown toenails over and over, though, it’s time to suspect foul play.

Recurring ingrown toenails are not normal. Something is likely behind the cause, and finding out what it is can help you find lasting relief.

One of the first suspects you should consider? Your shoes. Those killer heels you have might be killing your toes!

But let’s not get distracted by beauty here either; a humble work boot or a sleek running shoe may also be the culprit.

Let’s take a look at how shoes can cause problems with ingrown toenails.

How Shoes Can Be

Responsible for Ingrown Toenails?

Toenails have a straightforward job: grow straight. However, outside forces can begin to affect growth in negative ways, causing toenails to curve inward and into sensitive skin.

Shoes can exert troublesome forces upon the toes in various ways:

  • Too small of a toe box. If there isn’t enough room for your toes to wiggle freely, and they’re instead crammed together like a tin of sardines, that can exert pressure on your toenails from the sides.
  • A pointy toe box. See above.
  • Not enough room between the front edges of the toes and the front of the shoe. You should always have about a half-inch of space between the end of your longest toe and the front edge of your shoe.
  • Too loose. Shoes that don’t properly hold your foot can leave it consistently sliding up and colliding with the inside front of your shoe. The problem can be especially severe for runners, as their collisions tend to be much more frequent and forceful.
  • High heels. High-heeled shoes can also place excess pressure on the toes at the front of your shoes, creating similarly unpleasant conditions for your toenails.


If you suspect that your choice of footwear might be the cause of your frequent ingrown toenails, the best way to find out is clear: change your shoes!

Switch from your current footwear to shoes with more toe room, a perfect fit that doesn’t leave your foot sliding within it, and relatively flat heels that don’t place excess pressure toward the front of the foot. A light athletic shoe tends to be a good choice to try.

We understand that some jobs and other factors can restrict the type of footwear you use, but it’s worth making as many accommodating changes as you can. Barring that, try to increase the amount of time you can safely be barefoot.

If you see a change in the frequency of your ingrown toenails over time, it’s evidence that your shoes may have been playing a role.

What if My Ingrown Toenails Don’t Stop?

Shoes are not the only potential cause of recurring ingrown toenails. If a change does not stop this repeat offense, other causes should be considered.

They include trimming your toenails in an improper manner or some form of non-shoe-related trauma that has caused your nails to grow awry.

If these have been ruled out as well, there is the possibility that your nails grow in a curved manner due to heredity. In other words, you were born with a penchant for ingrown toenails.

We’re on the Case

Whatever may be causing your ingrown toenails, Capital District Podiatry can help you get to the root of the problem and find the proper treatment. This might include a change of footwear, a change in habits, or sometimes a simple surgical procedure to provide a permanent solution.

The last thing you should do is just let the problem go unabated! Give us a call at (518) 273-0053 to schedule an appointment at either of our offices in Troy or Clifton Park. You can also request an appointment with us online.

8101 Hinson Farm Rd Ste 301, Alexandria, VA 22306

(FAX) 703-799-0050

Mon-Fri: 8a - 4p