Ingrown Toenail on the Outer Side of the Little Toe? 

If you think you suffer from an ingrown toenail on the outer side of your little toe, you may be wrong about what is actually causing your symptoms.  Some people experience pain along the side of the little toenail where the tissue feels hard like a nail and growing into the skin.  Pressure from shoes makes the discomfort worse, and sometimes even in barefoot walking can pain be present.  If this is you, it seems to be easy to think the nail is the culprit, because it looks ingrown along the side.  Unfortunately, this is not why you have pain.  The truth of the matter is that the little toenail is small, and rarely grows inward on the outer side of the nail, let alone become the source of physical pain.  The real cause is far more complex.  Most of the time, the common finding that links these cases together is either a contraction (crooked position) of the little toe, a rotation of the little toe away from the toe next to it, or a combination of both.  When the toe is misshaped, the skin on the outer side of the toe becomes more prominent against shoes, as well as the ground.  This skin, unlike the skin on the bottom of the toe, is not well suited to withstand pressure, and as a result of increased pressure from shoes or the ground, the skin thickens its top layer to protect itself.  This essentially forms a corn or callus, which is often nestled directly against the outer side of the nail.  Because nail and callus tissue is essentially the same thing, the callus looks like it is part of the outer aspect of the nail, and gives the impression the nail is ‘ingrown’ into the skin.  Treatment to address the side of the nail, as in treatment for an ingrown toenail, will offer little long term relief as the callus will return and still be present after the side of the nail is gone.  Fixing this condition properly involves wider, deeper shoes and possibly padding on the side of the toe to simply relieve discomfort, versus surgery to correct the toe abnormality and put it back into proper position.  If you suffer from this condition, be sure to give us a call to have a full assessment and discussion on what your options could be to relieve the pain, as treating the side of the nail won’t be good enough.

Hello, Sorry about your toe. It is hard to say what is wrong without seeing it. When the toe curls in or you have a wide foot like you say, there is sometimes shoe pressure on the outside of your small toe. That CAN cause the toenail to curve in and become an ingrown toenail. It can also cause thickened skin ( A corn) on the outside. Applying antibiotic ointment and a band aid and keeping the pressure off of it for a bit might help, but if consistently painful, it will need to be checked by a Podiatrist. Scott L. Schulman, DPM
by Scott Schulman April 14, 2021 at 06:12 AM
I have wide feet and one of my pinky toes are hurting on pressure on the outer side but I do not know if it is an ingrown toenail. Pls help.
by Lucas Lee April 8, 2021 at 07:29 AM
by Lucas Lee April 8, 2021 at 07:27 AM
Thank you doctor! very informative. God bless you.
by Luaay Elamir August 17, 2019 at 05:06 AM
Many conditions can cause symptoms in this area. We recommend you make an appointment with us if you are local to central Indiana, or if not to your local foot and ankle specialist.
by Dr. Kilberg May 31, 2018 at 06:10 AM
I have had this problem with my pinky toe since I was a kid. I'm 35 now and have always thought it was a ingrown nail. I have wide feet which may be the real reason behind this. So should I still see a foot doctor to confirm exactly what the root is here with my toes?
by Alicia May 30, 2018 at 10:54 PM
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