Ingrown Toenails and what Dancers can do about them

Ingrown toenails distract dancers from their much-needed focus. In severe cases, the sharp pain from the swollen or bruised nail corners can be a nightmare. With the right information, you can reduce your risk of developing ingrown toenails and if they appear, you will know how to stop the condition from getting worse.

I asked Dr. Ernest L. Isaacson, a New York City based, board-certified podiatrist, a few questions about in-grown toenails in dancers and here are his answers:


Q. Dancers are particularly at risk for in-grown toenails because of the constant trimming of toe nails to keep them short enough to not interfere when dancing on pointe. I’m just wondering if there are any other steps that dancers can take to avoid in-grown toe nails?

A. Keeping the nails short is a good idea to prevent ingrown toenails, and it’s important to trim the nail straight across. Many ingrown nail is caused by overzealous trimming of the corners of the nail, and rather than actually trimming the corner of the nail a small piece is left that becomes a spike of nail digging into the corner. The learning point is to cut straight all the way across, and don’t go after the corner of the nail.


Q. Are there initial “at home” relief options that a dancer can try first if she develops an in-grown toe nail? I’m guessing for all the “do’s” there are also some “don’ts”. Can you give examples of things a person should not do (for example, I’m thinking they shouldn’t continue to try to trim it themselves)?

A.  Do try to gently separate the nail from the skin if possible. The infection occurs as the nail digs into the skin thus creating a portal for bacteria to enter. By separating the nail from the skin, the pressure will be relieved and any infection can naturally drain. This is often best done after a shower when the area is soft and more pliable. Antibacterial ointments can also be somewhat beneficial; however, they are not effective at treating a full-blown infection. And don’t freak out- nail infections, while quite remarkable in appearance, usually remain confined to the area of the nail and are self-limiting, meaning many will resolve on their own. But do have it seen by your favorite local neighborhood podiatrist who is able to offer definitive treatments.

“I am passionate about helping my patients live their happiest lives and healthy feet are an essential part of that equation.“  Dr. Ernest L. Isaacson

Key Takeaways

  1. Nails should be kept short and trimmed straight across to prevent ingrown toenails.

  2. Nail corners should be uniformly trimmed with care.

  3. If you get an in-grown toenail, gently separating your nail from your skin and applying antibacterial ointment can help prevent infection before you can reach an expert.


Very tight shoes, stress on toes and untreated nail bruise can trigger or make ingrown toe nails worse. Young healthy dancers need not worry about losing their toes to in-grown nails but if you are experiencing pain or inconvenience, you should not wait it out and suffer in silence. Book an appointment with your podiatrist to get proper treatment. Even if you can perform with the in-grown nail, getting it treated as soon as possible is key to preventing serious infections.



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