Home Nails Why Are My Toenails Growing Sideways?

Why Are My Toenails Growing Sideways?

by Gabbi
Toenails and Fingernails

How often do you care for your feet and toenails? The feet can often be neglected unless you get pedicures regularly. Your toenails can indicate your overall health. However, your toenails can quickly become untamed if they’re ignored.

Ingrown toenails can be extremely uncomfortable to deal with, leading to more severe problems down the road. Also, it can be intimidating to care for your feet, especially if it’s not a part of your hygiene regimen.

If you don’t trim your toenails regularly, it can cause them to become ingrown or move sideways. This can be highly uncomfortable for your toes, and you may even feel slight pain when you are walking.

So, why are your toenails growing sideways? Unfortunately, multiple reasons cause toenails to grow in various directions. For example, shoes that are too tight or irregular/incorrect trimming can lead to sideways nails.

Your toenails growing sideways can indicate that there may be a more serious issue. If your toenails aren’t tended to immediately or with care, it can lead to infection or a severe ingrown nail that needs medical attention. 

What Causes Toenails To Grow Sideways?

Surprisingly enough, multiple factors can cause toenails to grow sideways. It can be anything like wearing the wrong shoes or having another serious medical condition. First, however, it’s crucial to look after your toes.

Even something as simple as cutting your toenails can produce an ingrown or sideways nail. Some toenail issues are unavoidable because they are determined by genetics, or an unexpected injury took place.

So what are some popular causes of sideways toenails? 

Improper Trimming 

One of the most common mistakes is not clipping or trimming your toenails correctly. But, surprisingly enough, there is a right and wrong way to clip toenails. One bad cut can cause problems for your toenails down the road, like growing sideways.

So, you’ll want to learn the correct way to clip your nails at home. Even some salons don’t have experienced nail techs that know how to trim nails correctly. So, to avoid any toenail irregularities or infections, learn how to trim toenails! 


It’s essential to give yourself a pedicure at least every two weeks. This includes soaking your feet, clipping your nails, and cleaning underneath the free edge. If you don’t clean your feet and toes, it may lead to bacteria build-up, or fungus can arise.

Fungus is not fun to deal with, but it can appear around your toes. They can have a substantial impact on your toes and even affect the direction in which way they grow. This is another reason why you want to keep your feet dry and clean!


Did you know your genetics can also impact how your toenails grow? Some people are born with a more curved toenail that makes it more susceptible to growing sideways. In most cases, it’s nothing that a regular pedicure can’t fix. 

Tight Shoes 

Most modern-day footwear doesn’t accommodate our feet. For example, you may notice that most shoes like sneakers, sandals, or heels have a very narrow sole. This narrow sole can make it uncomfortable for our feet to sit in them for long periods of time.

If your feet are constantly squished in shoes, your toenails won’t have adequate space to grow correctly. So, tight footwear can also cause your toenails to sprawl out sideways.


Sometimes life can get in the way, and you may accidentally injure your toes. For example, if you drop something heavy on your foot, it can cause trauma to the toenails. Toenail trauma can affect which direction the nail plate grows.

Of course, accidents happen, and sometimes it’s not possible to avoid an injury. Think about all the times you’ve stubbed your toe on a coffee table.

Foot & Toe Shape

Did you know your toenail can be larger than your toe? Your foot and toe shape can also indicate where and how your toenails grow. For example, if you have more nail than you do toe, it can be challenging for the nail to find space to grow.

If that’s the case, your toenail may be more prone to grow sideways instead of straight. It can lead to ingrown nails or discomfort, but they should be tended to often.

Other Medical Issues 

According to the Cleveland Clinic, “people at higher risk include adolescents, athletes and those who have Diabetes, severe nerve damage, and poor blood circulation.”

These are examples of other medical issues that could cause toenails to grow sideways. The most extreme cases are toenails with Onychogryphosis. This nail condition causes the sides of the nail to grow the fastest.

How You Know Your Toenails Are Ingrown Or Infected

Unfortunately, if toenails that grow sideways aren’t tended to quickly, they could lead to more uncomfortable problems. For example, it can cause a severe ingrown toenail or even an infection. Multiple signs indicate infection.

If you feel or see any of these symptoms, it may bring awareness that your toenails need attention. In most cases, these are minor problems, but they can get worse if neglected. 

Tenderness Or Pain

If you feel tenderness or pain around your nail, it can be a sign that something is wrong. For example, it can be either ingrown or infected. It can be hard to notice these symptoms until you walk or try to wear shoes that are too tight. 

Tenderness and pain can be the beginning signs of toenail issues. Thankfully, the toenails can be trimmed or tended to before worse symptoms occur quickly.


Another indicator is redness. Redness often occurs when irritation or pressure is located in a specific area.

So, if you tend to wear tight shoes and the feet are squeezed, the toes can appear red. It’s common for the redness to appear around the toes.

If the toenails have little room to grow, it can lead to redness if the nail is pushing to grow in a direction that isn’t natural.


One sign of infection can be swelling. As mentioned earlier, swelling can be caused by a toenail growing sideways. Swelling can also be due to other medical conditions, not cleaning the feet properly, or if an injury has taken place. 

Swelling may go down in a few days, or a doctor can examine it. It can also occur if an ingrown nail has gone off the track of the nail wall.


It can be a definite sign of infection if you’re dealing with pus around the toenails. It should be examined by a podiatrist immediately. It’s best to avoid treating an issue like pus at home because there is a risk of spreading it to other areas.

Overall, it’s best to immediately seek medical help if a toenail grows sideways or pus develops. 

How To Stop Toenails From Growing Sideways

Thankfully, most cases are treatable at home. You may need to take care of your toenails more frequently and carry out a consistent routine. However, it’s always the best idea to seek help from a doctor or podiatrist for severe cases.

Some things you can do at home are learning how to trim your toenails correctly, keeping your feet dry, and wearing wide or comfortable shoes. 

Trim Toenails Frequently And Correctly

The best way to cut your toenails is by trimming them in a straight line. This will ensure your nail grows in the direction of the nail wall instead of sideways. It may take some time to grow out of the affected area. 

However, it’s a good rule of thumb to trim your toenails at least every two weeks. Filing the nails can also help them grow correctly.

Switch Your Shoes

If your shoes are the main issue for your toenails, try to find ones that have a wide sole. A wider sole will ensure you can still wear shoes without squeezing your toes into them. It can also help to free your feet every once in a while.

As long as your shoes aren’t constricting, your toes will be happy, and your nails will grow straight.

Keep Feet And Toes Dry

Moisture provides a breeding ground for bacteria, especially around the feet. If you wear socks frequently or shoes while you have damp feet, it can cause bacteria or fungus to grow. So, it’s crucial to keep your feet dry.

A dry environment will ensure bacteria won’t disrupt the growth pattern of your nails. 

Use Cotton Or Gauze

If you have a moderately ingrown toenail, you may be able to fix it with cotton or gauze. These items are commonly placed under the ingrown section of your nail to help it grow out. It can be helpful to get your nails straight again. 

Cotton and gauze are relatively soft and comfortable. However, seek help from a doctor if you’re not comfortable applying these items yourself. 

Invest In Toe Separators 

This is another hack for people who wear tight shoes often. Invest in toe separators like these ones from O.P.I! Toe separators are commonly used in salons during a pedicure, but there are more durable options to spread the toes. 

You can wear these separators at home to create space. Toes can often be squished, and a separator can help solve this issue. 

Ergonomic Footwear

We mentioned earlier that the shape of your toes and feet could also impact how your nails grow. So, one way to combat this issue is by investing in ergonomic footwear. This is footwear designed to keep your feet in a healthy position.

Your toes will feel less cramped, and your feet will be aligned comfortably. You can wear ergonomic footwear at home or even outside.

Anti-Fungal Creams 

If you have a problem with fungus or a mild infection, your doctor may prescribe you an antifungal cream. 

These creams will eliminate fungi and keep the area around your toes clean. They will be able to grow properly when bacteria disappear. You may be also able to find an antifungal cream at your local pharmacy. 

See A Podiatrist 

Finally, if you’ve exasperated all options or at-home treatments, it’s time to seek help from a medical professional. A podiatrist is a doctor that provides care for the feet. So, you can get specialized attention for your toenails by seeing a podiatrist. 

A podiatrist can prescribe antifungal creams, recommend footwear, or provide an aftercare routine post-operation in severe cases. They may be able to address any other foot, toe, or toenail-related concerns.

How To Trim Your Toenails So They Don’t Grow Sideways 

The most important thing you can do for your toes is to trim your toenails correctly. As long as you can cut the nails right, you will decrease the chance of any issues arising, like sideways nails.

Thankfully, clipping toenails it’s not as difficult as it may seem. It would help if you had a good pair of toenail clippers and an emery board.

Trim In A Straight Line

Always trim your toenails in a straight line. This will ensure they grow out even and straight. You won’t have any issues with ingrown or sideways nails. Finally, you can take your time and have a steady hand while clipping.

File In One Direction 

You’ll also want to file your nails in one direction and a straight, square shape. Filing back and forth can weaken the nails and cause them to break. The nail can break down the middle or chip on the sides, leading to sideways toenails.

Avoid Rounded Edges

Always create a square shape and straight lines. If your toenails are rounded on the sides, it can cause toenails to grow sideways. It may lead to other toenail complications later. So, always avoid rounded toenails. 

Free Your Feet 

Once the clipping or trimming is done, let your feet free. Your toes need space, and you’ll want to ensure they have plenty of room to grow. You can use this time to walk around and see if there is still pain or tenderness around your nails. 

When To See A Doctor 

If your symptoms worsen or aren’t subsiding, it may be time to see a doctor. In severe cases, you may need surgery or an operation to fix a sideways toenail. A doctor will be able to solve toenail concerns and provide an aftercare routine.

Final Thoughts

Our toes and feet are very vulnerable and need to be handled with care. Toenails need to be trimmed in a straight line every few weeks to ensure they don’t grow sideways. However, there are multiple reasons why a toenail can grow weirdly.

For example, wearing tight footwear, genetics, injuries, fungal infections, and more can cause issues with your toenails. Thankfully, most cases can be treated at home with regular clipping, keeping the feet dry, and wearing good shoes. 

You’ll want to trim and file your toes in a straight line and square shape. This will help you to avoid rounded edges that can grow sideways. In severe cases, you’ll need to see a doctor. A podiatrist will examine the toes and see if surgery is required. 

Overall, you’ll want to treat your feet with care to avoid further issues down the road. So, a nice relaxing pedicure now and then won’t hurt anyone! It’s time to show your feet some love! 

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