Your shoes can say a lot about you. They can give people a clue as to what you do for a living, whether you like spending time more indoors or outdoors, and even how much you like to move around.

What your shoes won’t tell someone on the outside, though, is whether you are suffering from frequent ingrown toenails on the inside. Tender, red, and swollen toes don’t really show unless you’re in sandals, and that’s a good thing!

The occasional ingrown toenail is usually not a big deal; we’re talking like once in a blue moon here. But if you are frequently the victim of ingrown toenails—no matter how mild or severe they may be—that is a clear sign that something is not right.

There are several potential reasons why someone might suffer from frequent ingrown toenails, and one of them is the shoes you are wearing. Taking your footwear into consideration as a potential suspect is an essential part of getting to the root of the problem.

First, though, you should know how shoes can cause your nails such painful problems on a consistent basis.

ingrown toenail

How Shoe Choices Can Cause Ingrown Toenails

It doesn’t necessarily take one specific kind of footwear to cause recurring ingrown toenails. High-heels can be just as likely to be responsible as running shoes. It all depends on how the shoes are affecting your feet.

Here are a few ways your shoes could be misdirecting your toenails.

Your Toe Box is Too Small

The toe box is just another way to say the part of your shoe where your toes live.

Ideally, a toe box should be roomy enough for your toes to be able to freely rest flat and straight within your shoes. You should also be afforded a good amount of space for your toes to wiggle—up, down, and sideways.

If your toe box is too narrow, your toes can cram together like five people in the back of four-passenger sedan. That exerts plenty of force on the sides of the toes—both from the insides of the shoes and from each other. These forces can cause nails to begin growing inward into the surrounding flesh of the toe.

There can also be trouble if the toe box is too short and forces your toes up against the front of your shoe. The forces from this angle can also negatively affect the way that your nails grow.

And if your toe box comes to a point? That can be the worst of both worlds!

Ingrown toenails aren’t the only potential problem that can come with crowded toes. You may also experience corns, calluses, and blisters. And if you have hammertoes or a bunion, such conditions can definitely make those problems worse over time. Give your toes the living space they deserve.

(By the way, it is also possible in some cases for your socks to be too tight. Your shoes might be getting framed!)

Your Shoes are Too Loose

You want to give your toes room to move, but letting the rest of your foot move too freely within your shoe is not recommended.

Do you remember how your toes can end up forced against the front of your shoe with a tight toe box? Having a loose-fitting shoe can lead to a similar fate. However, instead of being consistently up against the front of your shoe, your toes are instead getting repeatedly slammed against it.

This sort of occurrence is most common in runners, who can build up a ton of forceful strikes against their toenails. This often results in “black toenails,” when bruising happens beneath the nail bed.

Such trauma to the nail can cause it to grow incorrectly. Even if the nail falls off—as tends to happen with black toenails—the new nail can still grow improperly.

Your Heels Are Too High

Some just love their high heels. But the more you elevate the back of your foot, the more pressure the front of the foot must endure.

Forcing all that pressure forward can once again create cramped and problematic conditions for your toes, which can lead to ingrown nails.

If you want to wear heels, try to keep them lower—2 inches or less is ideal.


What if it’s Not the Shoes?

If you believe your shoes might be causing your ingrown toenail episodes, there’s a good way to find out: wear different shoes! Roomier shoes that fit well and don’t force pressure against your toes, to be specific.

If your ingrown toenails begin to clear up, you can be relatively assured your shoes were to blame. However, there will be cases where changing shoes will not have an effect. Some people might not be able to change their shoes so easily due to work- or life-related reasons, too.

If your ingrown toenails persist, do not hesitate to give us a call about it. We can get to the root of the problem and recommend the best solutions that fit your needs. Don’t just let the problem continue unabated!

Our Medford office is always happy to hear from you. Schedule an appointment by calling (541) 776-3338. Alternatively, if you prefer contacting us electronically, you can always fill out our online contact form and a member of our staff will reach out during normal office hours.

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