How to Trim Even the Thickest Toenails

One of the questions we get asked a lot in our Seattle podiatry clinic is how to trim thick nails. The very best way to clip thick toenails to help the nails look normal and thin is explained below.

By following the instructions in our podiatrist’s guide to cutting thick and / or fungal nails you can have a nearly normal thickness toenail. Please read this important disclosure about the products recommended in this article.

If you have diabetes, poor circulation or are prone to not healing or bleeding see a medical professional to have your nails debrided.

If you have nail problems not relieved by the suggestions below, call 206.344.3808 or use our Patient Portal to schedule an appointment to get conservative treatment options that will relieve your pain.

Instructions to Trim Thick Toenails: 6-Step Plan

First, get the right tools. This is critical – the right tools make for an easy job clipping even the thickest nails

  • Cut Nails Pedinova Nail SmootherNail Grinding Tool: The most effective one we have found is the PediNova Electric Nail and Foot Care Kit – a podiatry-grade electric nail grinder and thinning tool. It comes with bits specifically made to work on thick toenails. The large cone, small cone, and disc bits are made from long lasting sapphire and diamond chips. We have tried many of these units over the years and this is best one we have found and the one we recommend to our patients. The video below shows how to use the Pedinova Nail Grinder.
  • Heavy duty podiatry-grade toenail clippers: We recommend ClipPro nail clippers for our patients.
    nail nipper for fungal nails

    Figure 2

    The ClipPro Toenail Clipper  is the best consumer nail clipper we have found for extra thick and irregular nails. Its jaw opens up to over 1″ wide and the top of blades is slightly curved to contour around your nails. It is very easy to maneuver and provides a clean and smooth cut. Only use professional grade toenail clippers like these for thick nails – don’t try to thin thick toenails with fingernail clippers. It’s usually more painful as they just don’t cut these thick nails very well and you end up kind of gnawing at the nail with the nippers.

Follow these instructions for the best outcome in thinning and shortening thick nails

  • Soak your toes in warm water for five to 10 minutes. This will help soften the nail and allow you to more easily cut the thick nail.nail clipper for thick nails
  • Shorten the nail: Use the ClipPro nail clipper to shorten the nail if it is excessively long. The ClipPro opens wider then most clippers making much easier to trim thick toenails. If the nail is particularly thick you can also use the ClipPro to trim the nail from the top.

cut nails pedinova large cone bit

  • To Thin the Top of the Big Toe Nail: While the nails are still a bit damp, use the Large Sapphire Cone Bit (Figure 7) included with PediNova Electric Nail Grinder, to grind the thickened nail from the top. Use gentle pressure and grind it thinner until it is normal thickness or starts to get warm. If it gets warm, stop and then do a little more later or the following day. Continue grinding a little each day until the nail is normal thickness.
  • To Thin the Sides of the Big Toe Nail: Use the Long Sapphire Bit (Figure 5) that comes with the PediNova Grinder.
    cut nails pedinova long sapphire bit

    Figure 5

    Use gentle pressure going up and down the side of the nail. This will thin the sides and help prevent ingrown toenails since the shoe will no longer press into the thickened nail border.

  • To Thin the Smaller Toenails: Use the Long Sapphire Bit or Small Sapphire Bit (Figure 8). As above, use gentle pressure and grind the nail until it is normal thickness. To prevent injury, stop grinding if it gets warm then do a little more later that day or after your next bath or shower.
  • To Shorten the Nail: Start with the ClipPro Nail Clipper (Figure 2) to remove any loose pieces that extend beyond your toes. Then sand it smooth with the  Sapphire Sanding Disk Bit (Figure 9). Hold the disk to the end of the nail. Clip and sand cut nails Sapphire sanding disk bitshorter and shorter until you have reach your desired length. Clip your toenails straight across. Rounded corners tend to lead to ingrown nails.
cut nails large sapphire cone bit

Figure 7 – Large Sapphire Cone Bit

small sapphire bit

Figure 8 – Small Sapphire Bit

cut nails sapphire sanding disk bit

Figure 9 – Sapphire Sanding Disk Bit

Get your Pedinova Nail Grinder Here

Video: How to Thin Nails with a Nail Grinder
(Nail treatment starts at around 1:10 on the video)

Nail Polish for Thick and Fungal Toenails

Curt Nails Safe nail polish, Dr Remedy Nail PolishFor women, toenail polish can help disguise the nail roughness and thickness and is a nice finishing touch for thick nails. For our patients we recommend Dr.’s Remedy Natural Nail Polish anti-fungal nail polish, It contains Tea Tree Oil and Garlic Bulb Extract (found to have anti-fungal properties).

Unlike most nail polishes, it does not contain Formaldehyde (a chemical which has been proven to cause cancer) DBP (a potential developmental and reproductive toxin) and Toluene (a chemical that the EPA restricts in our drinking water because it can cause nervous system disorders as well as damage to the liver and kidneys)

Healthy feet allow for regular exercise and a happy healthy feet.

If you have nail problems not relieved by the suggestions above, call 206.344.3808 or use our Patient Portal to schedule an appointment to get conservative treatment options that will relieve your pain.