Cracked Toenails - Remedy, Symptoms, Causes

Cracked Toenails

Your toenails are tough as they need to in order to protect them from all possible traumas. Such trauma can harm the nails during everyday life activities like walking, running or if you put on ill fitting shoes. However, toenails are not indestructible; they can crack, split or break. Toenails can also suffer from fungal infections which make them crack or may thicken developing discolored streaks and appear yellow.

If your toenails appear to be splitting and crumbling, you need to identify the root cause of the problem. Hiding them away from sight by wearing socks is only a temporary measure that does not help eventually.

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Causes Of Cracked Toenails

Common causes of cracked toenails include:

  • Trauma: repeated minor trauma is usually the cause for cracked toenails. Such include banging your toe to the toe box in your running shoes if you run a lot or play sports that exert the feet.
  • Excessive moisture: when toenails are exposed to damp and dry conditions alternatively for long periods, they weaken, break and split.
  • Very little moisture: living in very dry areas dries out your nails causing them to split. Extra care is required to prevent this from happening.
  • Poor diet and illness: the toenails are indicators of nutrients deficiency such as lack of vitamins and anemia. Your nails cracking can also be caused by other conditions that are developing in your body.
  • Infections of the toenails: Fungal infections are the most common cause of unhealthy nails observed in cracked, discolored or thicker than usual nails. The toenails are more affected by fungal infections compared to fingernails. This is because the toes and feet are often more exposed to conditions like moisture and warmth that encourage the spread of infections. Older people are also more likely to suffer from such infections with the risk increasing and more severe in diabetic patients.

You are likely to be infected by fungal infections if you:

  • Are frequently around the swimming pool deck area.
  • Walk around a lot in locker rooms.
  • Repeatedly wear the same pair of damp shoes especially sneakers.
  • Injure your toenail for some reason.


Symptoms Of Infected Nails

  • White spots appear on the surface of the nail.
  • They may discolor or turn yellow, green or brown.
  • The nails can either grow thicker than normal or thinner in some cases.
  • They become brittle with jagged edges or broken.
  • Their shape is distorted and can be observed to be curled up or down.
  • The nail also lifts off the nail bed.
  • Observing an odor coming from the toenail.
  • Pain

CAUTION: Untreated toenail infections can eventually cause a nail to break or split. Diabetic patients must take fungal infections seriously to avoid complications like amputations caused by the spread of the fungus.

You may prevent toenail infection in various ways:

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  • Trim your toenails short by cutting them straight across.
  • Avoid walking barefoot in the locker rooms or at the pool decks.
  • If your feet are sweaty, change into a new pair of shoes and socks.
  • Avoid wearing damp shoes for any length of time and get more than one pair of sneakers if your feet are often sweaty.



Cracked toenails are easily observed with the naked eye. If your doctor suspects your nails have a fungal infection, he/she may carry out some tests just to be sure.

This can be done by taking a sample of your nails clipped from the affected toenail(s). The clippings are then tested for the presence of the fungus.


Treatment For Cracked Nails

Dealing with the cause of the nails cracking is the only way to take care of the problem.

Cracked nails caused by trauma: If the cause of trauma is known, observe your toe for any other damage. Trim off any hanging nail and clean the area surrounding the affected toenail. Apply an antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with a bandage. A bandage should also be used to stop the bleeding.

Repairing a damaged toenail: A split nail can be kept together as another grows. This can be done by:

  • Using a clear tape: Trim a portion of clear tape just small enough to ensure it covers the affected toenail. Align the broken parts of the nail before covering it with the tape so that they cling to each other.
  • Using nail glue: Clean the toe first to enhance the gluing of the nail. Take the broken nail and dip it slightly in the glue and attach it to the rest of your toenail. Wipe off excess glue and ensure your fingers don’t come into contact with the glue.
  • Using nail polish with a tea bag or coffee filter: Clean your toe and cut a tea bag to the shape of the affected nail. Apply clear nail polish on the toenail and place the cut piece of tea bag over the coat. Apply another coat of nail polish over the piece of tea bag pressed flat on your toenail. You can choose to paint your nails like you normally do.
  • Get a nail repair kit: Although expensive, a nail kit has all the tools you need to repair a cracked, split or broken toenail. There are also instructions to guide you in repairing it.

Improving your diet: Cracked toenails can be a sign of bad health. Eating fruits and vegetables are especially important in providing the minerals necessary to keep your nails healthy.

Treating infected toenails: Fungal infections on the toenails can be treated by:

  • Antifungal creams and lotions from your local chemist
  • Mentholated slave such as Vicks Vapor Rub
  • Snakeroot extracts a natural antifungal of the sunflower family
  • Tea tree oil which is a natural antiseptic that should be applied to the infected toenail
  • Medications prescribed by the doctor also work to clear the infection.
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