Why Do My Toenails Grow Sideways?

Many people have experienced the frustration of dealing with toenails that grow sideways. It can be uncomfortable, unsightly, and even painful at times. Understanding why this happens can help you take the necessary steps to prevent or address the issue. In this article, we will explore the possible reasons behind sideways toenail growth and provide you with useful information to tackle this concern.

Tight or Ill-fitting Footwear

Poorly fitting shoes are one of the leading causes of sideways toenail growth. When your shoes are too tight or narrow, they can place pressure on your toes, causing them to develop abnormal growth patterns. Tight footwear may force your toenails to grow into the surrounding skin. This condition, known as ingrown toenails, can cause pain, redness, and even infection.

If you frequently wear high heels, pointy shoes, or shoes that don’t provide adequate space for your toes to move, you are at a higher risk of developing ingrown toenails or sideways nail growth. Opting for comfortable shoes with a wider toe box can help alleviate this problem.


In some cases, the way your toenails grow may be determined by genetics. If your parents or other close relatives have a history of sideways toenail growth, you may be more prone to experiencing the same condition. Understanding your genetic predisposition can help you take preventative measures and manage the issue more effectively.

Improper Nail Trimming

How you trim your toenails can have an impact on their growth patterns. Cutting your nails incorrectly, such as rounding the edges or trimming them too short, can increase the likelihood of sideways growth. When nails are cut too short, the skin surrounding the nail can push against it, causing it to grow in irregular directions.

Proper nail trimming involves cutting straight across without rounding the edges. This allows the nail to grow naturally and helps prevent ingrown toenails or sideways growth. Additionally, avoid cutting your nails too short, as leaving a little length can help protect the surrounding skin.

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections, such as onychomycosis, can also contribute to sideways toenail growth. When a fungal infection affects the nail bed, it can cause changes in the nail’s texture, appearance, and growth pattern. As the infection progresses, the nail may thicken, become discolored, and grow in abnormal directions.

If you suspect a fungal infection, it’s advisable to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment. Antifungal medications or other interventions may be necessary to address the infection and promote healthy nail growth.

Toe Injuries

Injuries to the toes, such as stubbing or jamming them, can impact the growth of your toenails. Trauma to the toe can disrupt the underlying nail matrix, which is responsible for producing new nail cells. This disturbance can alter the way your nails grow, leading to sideways growth or other abnormalities.

While it may be challenging to prevent accidental toe injuries, avoiding repetitive trauma and taking precautions, such as wearing protective footwear during sports or physically demanding activities, can help minimize the risk of nail irregularities.

It’s important to note that sideways toenail growth is a common issue, but it can often be managed or prevented with proper care and attention. If you experience persistent discomfort, pain, infection, or severe nail deformity, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or a podiatrist.

By understanding the reasons behind sideways toenail growth and implementing preventative measures, you can promote healthier nail growth and improve the overall well-being of your feet.