How to Care for a Broken Toenail

Expert advice for dealing with a traumatized toenail. 

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Photo by Laura Doss

This article originally appeared on MIMI

After months of upping my running game, I noticed my large toenail on my left foot had started to slowly (but surely) detach itself. It didn't hurt or look too weird, so naturally I ignored it, hoped the problem would eventually go away on its own, and one day I would look down to see a new, beautiful toenail in its place. Spoiler alert: I definitely should have been more proactive and less wishful.

A pedicure a month into my curious toenail served as my rude awakening. My favorite girl at the nail salon ruined my relaxing ritual by telling me I needed to see or a doctor or else —worst case scenario—a toenail might never grow in its place. At that moment, every single pair of my favorite summer wedges, strappy sandals, and peep-toed booties flashed before my eyes. Cue hysterical girl in the nail salon. What would I do without my big toe nail? Needless to say, I immediately sought medical attention.

Thankfully, my toenail is in fact growing back. And while it may take up to 6 months for it to be where it once was, I'm happy just to have it at all. In the spirit of using my toe trauma for good, I decided to consult a doctor for proper care and anything that could possibly prevent this from happening again.

I spoke with New York Podiatrist Dr. Hal Abrahamson of Aadvanced Foot Care Associates who told me toenails fall off from getting traumatized in the toe box of an ill-fitting pair of sneakers. In order to avoid this, it is important to find, well, the right sneakers!

Dr. Abrahamson dropped some major sneaker knowledge, saying, "I prefer my runners to look for a sneaker that is flexible just behind the toes. The sneaker should be sturdy and not too flexible in the middle of the foot. It should also be made of materials that allow the foot to breathe. The rear of the sneaker should be stiff, especially in the area that surrounds the back of the heel. There should be plenty of shock absorption in the heel as well."

Aside from finding sneakers that fit the above description, here's what else you need to know:

1. Keep toenails trimmed and round off the edges. Never pick or cut into the sides of the nails and smooth any rough surfaces with an emery board.

2. If a toenail starts to become damaged, consult your podiatrist right away to rule out the development of a fungal nail.

3. Pedicures help! "A good maintenance schedule will help keep your nails looking great," Dr. Abrahamson said. An excuse to get more pedicures? Now, that's what we're talking about.

And with that, cheers to a month left of summer sandals, a fall filled with open toed booties, and a lifetime of pedicures.