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About Me

San Francisco, CA, United States
I have been a podiatrist for 34 years now and I am excited about sharing what I have learned on this blog. I love to exercise, especially basketball and hiking. I love to travel. I am very happily married to Patty, and have 2 wonderful sons Steve and Chris, a great daughter in law Clare, my new grandson Henry, and a grand dog Felix.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Why do toenails become more curved as we Age?

I have both observed and been asked the question: Why do toenails become more curved as we age? The answer mainly lies in these 3 photos. It insures that we will have more problems with our toenails as we mature? I wonder what podiatrist I will see when I can not cut my own nails??

Here is a typical toenail that gets ingrown even with loose shoes and socks.

As you can see from the front view, the nail itself is not flat, but tremendously curved.

As we age our skin is more fragile and soft. When we walk, the  pressure on the bottom of the toe pushes the skin towards the growing nail. The added skin pressure on the side of the nail pushes in on the toenail and forces it downward. The nail physically can not grow flat due to the skin pressure, it is forced to grow downward or curved. Can you see how easy it is to get inflamed?


  1. I am having this same problem, but I am only 24 years old. Both the nails on my big toe are very curved. I have had problems not only with ingrown toenails, but the base of my toenail lost the cuticle, became inflamed and the whole nail had to be removed.
    How do you stop the toenail from growing curved like this?

    1. Sorry, but I do not know the answer to this one. Most podiatrists will conservatively treat the nail border several times, and if the problem keep coming back, remove the border (around 3-4 mm) permanently with a procedure called a chemical matrixectomy. The nail is permanently narrowed, but will never ingrown again. I hope this helps. Rich
      I do have patients pushing cotton under the nail borders, but I am unsure if this works.

  2. This is exactly what Iam going through, But what is the answer? What do you do to fix or prevent it???

    1. Sorry, it is an observation, but I have no answers. Rich

  3. I had the same problem since I was a teen. At one point in college, I would wake up and cry from the throbbing pain caused by the weight of my sheets. Finally when I was about 19 or 20, I got my two big toenails permanently narrowed. That involved cutting and pulling out (I think) the parts of may nail that were curving into my skin. The doctor cauterized the wound with chemicals and...maybe a torch if I remember correctly. Then I had to soak and rewrap my toe every 4 hours or so for about a week.

    The doctor told me theres only a 2% chance of regrowth but the cut portion of nail on one of my nails here back about a year later haha! That sucked. But I eventually got it redone and now it's been 5 years of painfree toes. The procedure itself is mostly painless (thank you local anaesthesia). The after care is annoying, but that, and the cost, were totally worth it.

  4. I started having curved toenails when I began cutting my toenails straight rather than rounded. Then I saw an article that said curved toenails should be cut short and rounded. I did that and my nails immediately became flatter. I also filed down the hard skin on the sides of the nails. Definitely worked for me!

  5. My toenail on my big toe is very curved, but really causes no pain or discomfort. The only problem is that it is curved so much that I can't get it into regular toenail clippers. Do they make toenail clippers for curved toenails?


  6. I am 67 years old. I have this problem on my right foot, but not on the left. Do you have any explanation for that?

    1. Typically it is because one foot is longer, or one foot moves around in the shoe more, or the shape of the toes (like bunions) are more on one side and influences toe position in the shoe. Rich


Thank you very much for leaving a comment. Due to my time restraints, some comments may not be answered.I will answer questions that I feel will help the community as a whole.. I can only answer medical questions in a general form. No specific answers can be given. Please consult a podiatrist, therapist, orthopedist, or sports medicine physician in your area for specific questions.