We hardly ever think about our toes or toenails. And why would we? Besides washing them, cutting them, and perhaps painting them we stuff them into shoes where they're almost always out of sight. Although, we occasionally run into a wall or dresser in the middle of the night, we don't think of our toes as usual culprits of pain unless we're diehard athletes.  

However, you're lucky if you manage to get through life with just a stubbed toe. Here are some painful toe conditions to be on the lookout for so that you know what to do about them.

Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails occur when the nail grows into the skin causing pain, redness, and swelling. Most common in the hallux or big toe, ingrown nails can occur on your other digits as well. For minor pain, you can soak your foot in Epsom's salt using room-temperature water and gently massage the side of the nail fold to help reduce inflammation. If the pain continues or you suspect infection (yellow pus), get yourself to your podiatrist's office pronto for a simple surgery for immediate relief.

Who's at risk/causes?

  • Family members- it's genetic
  • Athletes and others who experience trauma to the nail
  • Those who trim their nails along the sides, instead of straight across

Warning: Never try to perform bathroom surgery on your own nails.


Hammertoes may not be bothersome when they first form, but typically they become painful as they progress. The pain is most noticeable on the top of the toes when they rub against shoes and where the toe contracts. Padding, better shoes, and orthotics can help this condition, but sometimes surgery is warranted.

Who's at risk/causes?

  • Family members- it's genetic
  • Trauma
  • Arthritis
  • Wearing high heels or other tight-fitting shoes

Warning: Don't continue to wear high heels or pointy-toed shoes if you have hammertoes.

Toenail Fungus

Although toenail fungus is most often talked about because it's unsightly, it can also cause pain. Many people avoid getting it treated because it can be expensive.  They simply paint over it or ignore it. Unfortunately, most toenail fungus doesn't just sit there and stop multiplying. In most cases it progresses, gets thicker, painful, and much harder to treat. Options for treatment include topicals, oral medications, and laser.

Who's at risk/causes:

  • People you live with - it spreads
  • Trauma to the nail
  • Some nail salons
  • Going barefoot in public shower rooms

Warning: Fungus can spread through shoes, socks, toenail clippers, and other implements. Don't share any of these items with family members or friends if you have fungus. To sterilize your shoes you might want to purchase the SteriShoe+ Ultraviolet Shoe Sanitizer. If you have teenagers it can also stop stinky shoes in their tracks.

Call us today at 206-368-7000 for an appointment, often same day. You can also request an appointment online.

More information for treating your toes:

Get our free foot book "No More Foot Pain", mailed directly to your home.

Seattle foot and ankle specialist, Dr. Rion Berg offers foot care for patients with bunions, heel pain, diabetes, fungal toenails, ingrown nails, and surgical solutions when needed to residents of Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood and other surrounding suburbs.

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