Skip to Content
Sign in to Manage Your Health Care

In the Spotlight

Foot Care: How to cut toenails correctly

Contributed by Dr. Kathleen Cronin and the Martinsburg VA Podiatric Patient Education Team


The Podiatry Clinic at your VA Medical Center provides special foot care for Veterans. Most of the time, the care is for serious problems such as a foot ulcer or infection. Most people do not have to go to a Podiatrist to have their toenails cut; they can do this themselves. Cutting your toenails may seem simple, but it something you should take seriously and do correctly. It is important to know the correct way to cut your toenails. This will help to keep your feet healthy and prevent problems. Here are some helpful tips to assist you:

  • Cut your toenails in a space with good lighting

  • Cut your nails straight across until they no longer extend over your toe

  • Do not cut too close to your skin or cut down the sides of the nails

  • If you have thick toenails:

    • Before clipping your nails, soak your feet for 5 minutes in room temperature water. This will help soften them.

    • Use good clippers

    • Do not cut the nail with one movement of the clippers, use small clips across the nail

  • If you are uncomfortable cutting your toenails then just gently file your toenails daily

toenails 04

Be careful not get too close to your skin when cutting your toenails. If you accidentally cut your skin and it bleeds, apply cotton to the area. Hold the cotton in place and apply light pressure until the bleeding stops, then:

  • Clean the area with soap and water and apply a disinfectant

  • Apply a gauze dressing or adhesive bandage

  • Do not wrap a bandage or tape all the way around your toe. Doing this may decrease the blood flow to your toe and possibly cause harm

  • If the cut has not healed after a week or gets worse, call your Primary Care Provider

If you have diabetes, neuropathy or poor circulation, talk to your healthcare provider about your foot care needs. If you are having foot problems, your provider may want to refer you for an appointment with a Podiatrist.

Read More

Diabetes - Foot Care (Medline Plus®)

Foot care (National Institutes of Health)

Updated January 11, 2015