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Toenail Anatomy

Toenail Anatomy: Understanding the Structure Beneath Your Toes

At first glance, our toenails look like a single nail, and that’s about it. However, beneath the surface is a more complex structure that makes up the nail and the bed below it. This is our toenail anatomy.

Toenails and fingernails are made of Keratin. Keratin is a type of protein that gives the nail strength and protection. (There are many types of Keratin. It also comprises hair and your epidermis.) Toenails differ from fingernails in a few ways, namely their thickness and growth rate, as the external forces on your toenails are greater than those on your hands.

Today, we explore toenail anatomy and how each component affects foot health.

Layers of the toenail

Nail plate

Toenail Anatomy

The nail plate is the easiest part of the toenail anatomy to recognize. It’s the nail itself. The colour and texture of the nail plate can vary based on factors like health, genetics, and lifestyle habits.

Nail bed

Toenail Anatomy

Next, we go a bit deeper. The nail bed is beneath the nail plate. Just like sheets and blankets are the nail plate, imagine the nail bed is the mattress or bed frame below. The nail bed is a layer of skin that nourishes the nail as it contains blood vessels and nerves. It is also the growth engine behind the nail plate.

If you damage the nail bed, you’ll notice nail plate abnormalities or reduced growth rates. Sometimes, a damaged nail bed will cause you to lose a toenail or experience a discoloured toenail. A subungual hematoma occurs within the nail bed and can cause a black toenail.


Toenail Anatomy

The lunula, or “half-moon,” is the pale, crescent-shaped area visible at the base of the nail. It represents the edge of the nail matrix, where new nail cells are generated. Eventually, nail growth from the lunula extends out to the outer edges of the nail, at which point you’d trim them.

Nail matrix

Toenail Anatomy

The nail matrix is the tissue beneath the cuticle at the base of the nail. It produces new nail cells, pushing older cells forward and resulting in nail growth. Damage to the nail matrix can affect the quality and growth rate of the toenail. Each nail matrix produces 196 layers of cells that combine to make your toenails.

Trust Toronto's toenail experts at Feet First Clinic

Do you have a toenail issue? Look no further. Our dedicated licensed chiropodists in Toronto are ready to help with your foot and nail concerns. Call us at 416-769-3338 or book an appointment online.

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Carolina Charles

Patient Relation Coordinator (She/Her)

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.