How to cut your toenails properly

Updated November 21, 2016

Trimming toenails may seem like a no-brainer: However, cutting your nails should be done with care, and a few basic techniques can go a long way to protecting your toes. Proper toenail trimming means taking precautions to ensure you don't cause painful and unsightly ingrown nails or worse, an infection.

Use nail clippers designed to cut larger nails. Usually, this means using large clippers, which make it easier to cut toenails than the smaller variety. Disinfect the toenail clippers with a cotton disc soaked in rubbing alcohol before and after using, to prevent infection.

Hold the pair of large nail clippers steady with your writing hand. Make sure that your toenails are fully dry before cutting. Wet nails are more fragile, so they're much more likely to tear or result in jagged, uneven edges. Make two or three small cuts across each nail, rather than trying to trim all at once. Cut nails straight across rather than creating a curved shape, making sure that the edges are not digging into the side of your toes.

Trim your toenails so that they are somewhat long, yet visibly shorter than the tips of your toes. Test to see if nails are trimmed to the proper length by reaching a fingernail under the end and sides of each toenail. If you are unable to do this, your toenails may be too short and risk becoming ingrown. Meanwhile, use a cuticle stick to gently push back the cuticles on your toes, but do not cut.

Repeat steps 1 through 3 when you notice that your toenails have grown out; before they begin to rub against socks and shoes. If toenails are so long that they cause discomfort, you'll know it's time to trim them again.

Cut your toenails regularly to keep toes and feet in peak shape and avoid foot discomfort or infection.


Try filing your toenails after you trim them for a clean, smooth finish that will be less likely to tear or get caught in fabrics when they grow out. Move a nail file or emery board gently across the nail's edges in one direction until smooth.

Things You'll Need

  • Large nail clippers
  • Cotton disc
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cuticle stick
  • Nail file
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