Curly toenail becoming ingrown toenail

Curly Toenails: What They Indicate and How to Manage Them

When it comes to toenail anatomy, a lot can change the structure and growth pattern of your toenails. Case in point: curly toenails. They don’t look quite right and, the truth is, there are several potential causes behind their development. Sometimes it can be an underlying health condition wreaking havoc on your nails, and other times it may be a more direct toenail condition. It’s also wise to ensure curling toenails don’t co-exist with/turn into ingrown toenails, which may become infected.

Let’s take a look at what might be causing your curling toenails, and what you can do about it!

Causes of Curly Toenails

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This is a fungal toenail infection in the nail unit (the nail plate, surrounding soft tissues and nail folds). It usually results in nail thickening and the formation of pincer nails (curly toenails). Diabetes patients in particular should be on the lookout for diabetes-related onychomycosis, or “ram horn,” and other severe abnormalities caused by toenail thickening and curling. 

Autoimmune Illnesses and Deficiencies 

Lupus, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis and thyroid disorders can all cause thickened toenails that eventually degrade and curl. Severe iron deficiency can also cause curly toenails since iron is so critical for maintaining our nail and foot health. 

Ill-Fitting Footwear

Perhaps the least serious cause of curly toenails is also the most avoidable — simply neglecting foot care and failing to buy shoes that fit well. Wearing shoes that are far too tight for years (perhaps because you’re procrastinating a proper shoe fitting) is a mistake. When you wear shoes with minimal space in the toe box, the shoe will squeeze both sides of the toe, disrupting normal nail growth and bending the nail root or matrix. 

Image Credit: Studio4art From Freepik


Drug-induced nail disease is a very real concern for those taking necessary medicines. Some examples of medications that cause curly toenails and other nail growth disruptions include antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, lithium, and Retinoids.  


Sometimes your gene pool is responsible for your curly toenails. Your mom and dad can pass down hereditary characteristics like the shape and thickness of your toenails, as well as how much skin you have surrounding the toenails. But don’t worry if you feel like you have no control over genetic traits – proper foot care can still help you manage curly toenails.

Image credit: FreePik by kroshka__nastya

Here are some of the best treatments for curly toenails:

  • Medical Pedicures: Chiropodists can properly clean and trim the nails to promote healthy growth. 
  • Antifungal Medicines: These can help with onychomycosis.
  • OnyFix: Modern, non-invasive treatment that involves using a special paste to correct nail growth. 
  • At-home foot care: Remember to keep your feet and nails clean, but don’t try to trim them on your own if they’re severely curled or ingrown. If your toenails become severely curled or ingrown, it’s best to contact a chiropodist.
Image Credit: Istock

Don't Let Your Toenails Hold You Back!

The chiropodists at Feet First Clinic can help you manage abnormal toenail growth with comprehensive nail care treatments! Call us at (416) 769-3338 or book an appointment using the form below or the button at the top of your browser!

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Carolina Charles

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If you’ve been to the clinic before, chances are you had the pleasure of meeting Carolina! Carolina’s daily goal is going above and beyond to make sure patients are always completely satisfied. Having worked in the podiatry industry for 22 years, Carolina brings a wealth of knowledge pertaining to client service, insurance policies, and procedures. She steers the ship to make sure everything runs smoothly on the daily. Carolina is known for spicing up every outfit with her signature costume jewellery.