How to shape toenails

How to Cut a V-Shape in a Toenail

Ingrown toenails can be extremely painful. As your nail grows sideways into the tender flesh of your toe — usually the big toe — redness and swelling can occur. To reverse an ingrown toenail, you can try cutting a v-shape into the middle of your toenail. If the problem becomes so severe that it is painful to walk and the corners of your toenail are excreting puss, you may have an infection and must seek medical attention. To help avoid this, here is our best advice.

Turning the nail clippers to a 45 degree angle, clip the first side of the v-shape notch into the middle of your toe nail. This should be a small cut. Do not cut into your nail bed.

Turning the nail clippers to a 45 degree angle in the opposite direction, clip the same sized notch into your toenail. Make sure that the cuts meet at a point in the middle.

Now that you have a v-shape cut, do not trim or touch your toenail for a few days.

You must allow the toenail to grow towards the middle v-shape. Soak your foot in warm, soapy water to relieve any pain.

After the toenail has grown out and the v-shape is no longer there, you can resume normal trimming.


To prevent ingrown toenails, never trim your toenails too short. Also, avoiding trimming in a curved shape, which will promote the growth of ingrown toenails.


If you are a diabetic or have problems with your circulation, do not use this v-shape technique. Only a doctor can safely treat an ingrown toenail and prevent problematic infections.

how to shape toenails
How to Cut Your Fingernails and Toenails

How to Cut Your Fingernails and Toenails

Author Info | Reader-Approved

Updated: June 20, 2019

Explore this Article Preparing to Cut Cutting Nails Filing Nails Article Summary Questions & Answers Related Articles References

wikiHow is a “wiki,” similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. To create this article, 51 people, some anonymous, worked to edit and improve it over time. Together, they cited 8 references.

wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has over 1,053,535 views, and 88% of readers who voted found it helpful. It also received 14 testimonials from readers, earning it our reader-approved status. Learn more...

It's important to keep your fingernails and toenails trimmed. If they grow too long and too wild, they may become sharp, jagged, and dangerous. You don't need to trim too much – you'll just want to tidy up your nails every few weeks to ensure that they are growing healthily. Read on for tips and techniques that you can use to keep your nails in check.


Part 1 Preparing to Cut

1 Wash your hands and feet. Soak your nails for a few minutes before you cut them – this softens the calcified growths and makes them easier to trim. If your nails are less brittle, you may be less likely to split them. Dry your hands and feet after washing. You can cut your nails while they are wet, but you may have more control over the cut if you are working in a dry environment.
  • This step is especially important for toenails. Toenails tend to be thicker and tougher than fingernails, especially on your big toe.
Image titled Cut Your Fingernails and Toenails Step 2 2 Choose your cutting tool. You can use nail clippers or manicure scissors. The choice is largely a matter of preference. Consider the pros and cons of each option:
  • Nail clippers are cheap, simple, and widely available. They cut your nails along a set concave edge – which can be very convenient if the clippers fit your nails, but frustrating if the crescent is too large or too small.[1] Toenail clippers usually feature a heavier bite and a straighter edge to contend with thicker nails and the risk of ingrown toenails.
  • Manicure scissors are less common than nail clippers, but some people greatly prefer them. You may need somewhat more finesse to trim your nails with manicure scissors. However, you also have more control over the arc of the cut. As their name suggests, manicure scissors are usually best-suited to hand care. You'll want to use a heavier-duty set of clippers on your feet.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration says that it is too dangerous to use other sharp cutting tools—such as knives, razor blades, or regular scissors—to trim your nails. The tool may slip and injure the skin surrounding the nail.
Image titled Cut Your Fingernails and Toenails Step 3 3 Make sure that your clippers are clean. If possible, buy your own set of nail-cutting tools, and keep separate sets for your fingernails and toenails. Wash the implements regularly with a disinfectant for the sake of sanitation. Dish detergent or antibacterial soap will do: just soak the cutting tools for 10 minutes in a bowl of hot, soapy water.[2] Image titled Cut Your Fingernails and Toenails Step 4 4 Be mindful of where you cut your nails. Make sure that you set up a place for the clippings to go; you may offend other people if you leave chunks of your nails strewn all over the floor. Consider clipping your nails into a trashcan or a compost bin. Hold your fingers and toes directly over the receptacle, and try to track down the clippings that fly astray. Try not to clip your nails in public spaces, and avoid clipping near people that are talking.
  • You can, indeed, compost fingernails and toenails. They won't add much bulk to the pile, but they are organic matter and they will decompose. Don't try to compost fake nails (acrylics) or excessively-polished nails, as these artificial materials will not degrade.[3]

Part 2 Cutting Nails

Image titled Cut Your Fingernails and Toenails Step 5 1 Trim your nails often, but do not be overzealous. Nails grow about 1/10 of an inch (2.5 mm) every month, meaning that it takes 3-6 to grow a full nail.[4] If you cut your nails frequently—say, once each week or two—you won't need to worry about them growing too long or too wild. If your nails begin to hurt at the edges, you might be developing an ingrown nail; try to trim away the painful growth before it goes too deep, but it would be wiser to seek a health care professional. Image titled Cut Your Fingernails and Toenails Step 6 2 Cut your fingernails. The goal here is to remove the "free edges" of your nails: the opaque, off-white crescents that grow at the tips of your nails. Cut the nails almost completely straight across, and round them a little at the corners to keep the nails strong. Cutting the nail straight will reduce your chance of developing ingrown nails.[5]
  • If you are a finger-style guitarist, consider leaving the nails long on your picking hand. Keep at least 1/16th inch (1.5 to 2 mm) of nail on each finger of your picking hand.
3 Make small cuts. Cut your nails using a lot of small cuts; do not try to snip away the entire "free edge" with a single cut. Toenails are naturally oval-shaped, and a single cut tends to flatten out the oval.[6] 4 Cut your toenails. Use the same strategy that you used on your fingernails. Toenails are typically thicker than fingernails, so make sure that you don't use too small a set of clippers. Cut them straight across; cutting back inwards at the edges will increase the likelihood of problems and for diabetics can lead to medical intervention. If you can avoid it, do not use the same set of clippers on your toenails that you used on your fingernails – this way, you'll avoid transmitting bacteria between your feet and your hands. Image titled Trim your toenails Step 6 5 Be careful not to cut too much. It can be tempting to keep on trimming your nails (for the sake of convenience, aesthetic, or compulsion) even after you've removed the "free edge". If you trim too deeply, however, you will expose the sensitive skin beneath the nail, and you may increase your risk of infection. Try to keep the ends of your nails even with the top of your finger – or remove all but a tiny sliver of the opaque "free edge".[7]

Part 3 Filing Nails

Image titled Cut Your Fingernails and Toenails Step 10 1 Consider filing your nails after you cut them. You don't need to file your nails, but the process may help you shape your nails exactly as you want them. Cutting your nails can leave jagged edges – but it is easy to file them uniform. Use a nail file, a pumice stone, or any other hard, textured surface.
  • Jagged nails can catch on clothes, socks, and pantyhose. If your nails catch on something, they may tear or break.
Image titled Cut Your Fingernails and Toenails Step 11 2 Wait for your nails to dry. Wait for a while until your nails are dry and are no longer soft. Filing wet nails will leave you with jagged, rough nails when they dry, and may also cause your nails to split and crack. 3 File your nails. Use a nail file to shape your nails, and to make sure the edges of the nail are smooth. Always file gently, in one long stroke, from the side to the center of the nail. Use the coarse, shaping side first if you need to remove more nail. Then, use the finer-grade shaping side to smooth your nails out.
  • Your nails should be slightly triangular or ovular, but not pointed. This will keep them from breaking. Nails can weaken if you file too deeply into the corners and sides.
Image titled Cut Your Fingernails and Toenails Step 13 4 Inspect your work. As you cut or file, periodically check your nails to ensure that they're all the same length and shape. Make sure that they're smooth – jagged or pointy nails may prove painful and inconvenient in everyday life. Keep clipping and filing until your nails are even.

Community Q&A

Search Add New Question
  • Question How can I grow my nails faster? Riley Savasta Community Answer The real solution to growing nails is time + not breaking your nails. That means no biting or picking your nails. Always keep nail polish on your nails to create an extra layer of protection, especially when your nails are in water because they will get softened. You could apply jojoba oil to your nails to make them sturdy, just apply it around and under your nails three times a day. You could also watch and subscribe to Simply Nailogical. She has very long nails and has a video on growing your nails as long as hers. Thanks! Yes No Not Helpful 0 Helpful 15
  • Question What if I made a mistake and I'm bleeding? Community Answer Quickly clean the wound and cover with a band aid. If the bleeding doesn't stop after a few minutes, contact a doctor. Thanks! Yes No Not Helpful 0 Helpful 10
  • Question Where is the proper place in the house to cut my nails? Community Answer It's best to trim your nails in a place that's private and not near food-related areas. This could be a bathroom or a bedroom. Be sure to dispose of any clippings. Thanks! Yes No Not Helpful 9 Helpful 30
  • Question If I cut my nails once a week, how fast will they grow back? Community Answer Fingernails and toenails grow at a steady rate whether you cut them or not. If you want longer nails, cut them less often. Short nails prevent too much dirt from sticking under long fingernails. Thanks! Yes No Not Helpful 15 Helpful 43
  • Question How do I file my nails? Community Answer Take a nail file, and hold it against the tip of your nail. Gently move it to the side, then bring it back to the tip of your nail. Do not sweep your file back and forth across your nail, as this can damage it. Start with a coarser file to get the shape, and finish off with a finer grit to smooth the nail. Thanks! Yes No Not Helpful 23 Helpful 57
  • Question How do I cut my fingernails without them looking really bad? Community Answer Look up pictures of nice, healthy cut nails and try to work from them! It takes practice, but putting time into your appearance makes a big difference. You could go to a spa and get a manicure and pedicure. They'll be able to fix your nails and get them looking healthy; then you'll be able to have something to work off of. Ask whoever's doing your nails for tips too. Thanks! Yes No Not Helpful 7 Helpful 23
  • Question How can I trim my nails into a square, box shape? Community Answer Use nail scissors to snip them into shape, or file them into shape (cutting and clipping nails weakens them, so try filing them first). Thanks! Yes No Not Helpful 18 Helpful 44
  • Question How do I find a specific nail cutter for toenails? Community Answer Usually the pharmacy can offer good advice on what tool would be appropriate. Thanks! Yes No Not Helpful 12 Helpful 32
  • Question How can I prevent ingrown toenails? Community Answer Try to only cut straight, and do not cut along the rose part. It is normal that you have your "white nail" in the edges of your toe/finger. Thanks! Yes No Not Helpful 11 Helpful 28
  • Question How often do you recommend regular toenail cutting? Cecilia Flores Top Answerer It really depends on the person. I have to cut my toenails every 1-2 weeks because I dance on pointe, so I don't want to stand on my toenails instead of my toes. My friend cuts her toe nails once a month or so because she doesn't do any sports. Thanks! Yes No Not Helpful 0 Helpful 3
Show more answers Ask a Question 200 characters left Include your email address to get a message when this question is answered. Submit
  • Already answered
  • Not a question
  • Bad question
  • Other

Video .By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.


  • Every evening, smooth your nails with a nourishing oil or conditioning cream. This may help to seal moisture into your nails and prevent them from flaking and splitting. A great, cheap alternative to nourishing oil is a tiny drop of olive oil.
  • Buff nails to make them shiny smooth. Massage in a cuticle cream to keep cuticles healthy and moisturized.
  • There are special nail cutters made just for toenails. While a normal nail cutter is slightly curved, a toenail cutter goes straight across so as to reduce the likelihood of ingrown toenails.
  • Wear rubber gloves when doing the dishes. The main cause of soft nails is exposure to water. If your nails are wet and soft, be careful with them until they dry out.
  • If you have very weak nails, try painting your base coat and nail polish under the tip of your nails to give them extra strength.
  • To keep mud and dirt from getting into nails during gardening or messy work, drag your nails over a bar of soap. The undersides of your nails will fill up with soap, which means dirt won't be able to get in.
  • Clean under your nails sing a cotton swab with a pointed end. A cotton swab is gentler than scrubbing with a nail brush – this reduces the risk of irritating the sensitive skin beneath your nails.
  • Apply hand cream every time you wash your hands. The oils in the cream will seal moisture into your nails.
  • If you paint your nails right after you cut them you can spray cooking spray on them for extra shine, which dries the polish instantly.
  • Make sure you clean under the nail, otherwise bacteria could form there.
  • The ideal fingernail length that suits most hands is just over the fingertip.


  • When cutting nails, do not cut too quickly. Check to make sure that you don't cut off any skin, or too much nail.
  • Don't trim "free edges" too much or they will bleed. They are there for a reason: to prevent infection of the nail bed from germs.
  • Don't bite your nails; it will create ingrown fingernails and toenails.
  • Before starting any of these steps, clean all your nail equipment. Just let them soak for 10 minutes in a bowl of hot soapy water.

Things You'll Need

  • Sharp, clean fingernail and toenail clippers
  • A wastebasket or compost bin for the clippings
  • A bowl of water to soak your fingers and toes
  • Cuticle remover and conditioner
  • A nail file


^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ Videos provided by Beauty Mantra

Article SummaryX

To cut your fingernails and toenails, start by soaking them in water for a few minutes, which will make them softer so they're easier to trim. Then, use nail clippers to cut your nails straight across at the beginning of the opaque, overgrown tips. You may need to make multiple cuts on the same nail to get the whole tip off. Try not to cut past the opaque tips of your nails or you could expose the sensitive skin underneath. To learn how to file your nails after you cut them, scroll down!

Did this summary help you?YesNo

Top Tips and Hints On How To File Toenails - The Right Way

You wouldn’t cut your hair with a dull pair of scissors, right? Of course not. Similar to that, you shouldn’t file your toenails back and forth. (We’ve all been guilty of this one…) And, yes, there is a right and wrong way to file toenails…

Filing toenails should never be done aggressively. If you have neglected your toes for some time or you can’t remember your last pedicure, then you may be tempted to take a jackhammer to your feet rather than a toenail file. Regardless of the condition of your feet, toe nail filing does require a few steps to leave feet looking and feeling healthy and smooth.

This video shows you how to file toenails—the RIGHT way. So here’s how to get started off on the right foot (See what we did there?)

You only need a few things for proper toenail filing:

A toenail fileA toenail clipperA wood stickA towel

Once you are armed with the right tools, now you can begin filing and shaping toenails.

Start by trimming the toenails with a toenail clipper. This will make getting the desired toenail shape easier. Avoid trimming toenails TOO short as this can lead to ingrown toenails and possible infections.

Second, file toenails in ONE direction, focusing on corner to center. This will avoid fraying the nail, causing damage to your nail bed, toe nail breakage and making a clean shape. Filing toenails carefully will help you to easily achieve your desired shape.

Continue filing straight across—in one direction—until you like the shape.

Apply a little Vitamin E or Aloe to your toenail beds to help moisturize them, if needed. 

That’s all there is to it! If you have been filing your toenails the wrong way for years, don’t fret. You can still nurse them back to health. Simply trim your toenails again, and file them the right way for a smoother result. No jack hammer needed.

Did you like the video? Like or tell your friends!
Add a comment
Related videos:
To prevent recurrence, chronic ingrown nail conditions require continuous treatment for a complete nail growth cycle (8-14 months avg
To prevent recurrence, chronic ingrown nail conditions require continuous treatment for a complete nail growth cycle (8-14 months avg
I'm not sure what's worse your curly toe nails or your curly fries.
Indicationsingrown and ingrowing toenails, involuted toenails, incurvated toenails, pincer or pincher toenails, curved and curving toenails, curled and curling toenails
How to Tell if an Ingrown Toenail Is Infected Co-authored by Jennifer Boidy, RN Updated: March 29, 2019 Explore
Cutting your toenails properly is an important step in preventing painful ingrown toenails — a condition when nails curve and grow
Baby toenails grow incredibly fast and you have to give them special attention. You also need to be mindful of
How to cut nails?The main function of nails is to protect the tipsfingers from mechanical damage, in addition nails
Your toenail should grow straight but sometimes there is a problem. An ingrown toenail occurs when your toenail grows
Healthline and our partners may receive a portion of revenues if you make a purchase using a link on this
Healthline and our partners may receive a portion of revenues if you make a purchase using a link on this
Cutting your toenails properly is an important step in preventing painful ingrown toenails — a condition when nails curve and grow
Cutting your toenails properly is an important step in preventing painful ingrown toenails — a condition when nails curve and grow
Nail clippers is the best way to shorten a toenail. Nail files work as well. If you mean to remove
Cutting your toenails properly is an important step in preventing painful ingrown toenails — a condition when nails curve and grow
Cutting your toenails properly is an important step in preventing painful ingrown toenails — a condition when nails curve and grow
In order to grow out your ingrown toenail, identify and remedy the ingrown toenail's cause. Most ingrown toenails grow
If you have an ingrown toenail, you may be experiencing a good deal of pain, redness, tenderness, and swelling. If
What is an ingrown toenail like for a baby?An ingrown toenail is exactly what it sounds like — a toenail
select background