toenail clipper for thick toenails

How to Cut Thick Toenails

Cutting your toenails properly is an important personal grooming task that can help to prevent the development of painful ingrown toenails. But trimming thick toenails can be a challenging task, especially for elderly or senior citizens who may have reduced mobility, vision, or dexterity. It’s therefore important to approach the task with care and to use the right tools and techniques to ensure a safe and comfortable experience.

Why do people get Thick Toenails?

There are many reasons why someone may develop thick toenails. It can happen through natural aging or from damage to the nails such as with trauma of fungal infections.

elder person with thick nails


As a person ages, their toenails may naturally become thicker due to changes in the body’s production of keratin, the protein that makes up the nails.

Fungal infection

One of the most common causes of thick toenails is nail fungus. Fungi can invade the nails and cause them to become thick, discolored, and brittle.


Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that can also affect the nails. It can cause the nails to become thickened and discolored.


If a person experiences trauma to their toenail, such as from dropping a heavy object on their foot or stubbing their toe, it can cause the nail to become thickened.

Other medical conditions

Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and thyroid disorders, can also cause thickened toenails. It is important to see a healthcare provider if you are experiencing thickened toenails and are unsure of the cause.

What to Consider Before Cutting Thick Toenails

Toenails can become thicker and more brittle with age. This can make them more difficult to trim safely and comfortably, especially if you are only equipped with small nail clippers. 

Choose the right toenail clipper for thick toenails 

It’s important to choose a toenail clipper that is specifically designed for thick nails as regular nail clippers aren’t strong enough and can cause damage or pain.

The Swissklip Heavy Duty Nail Clippers are ideal as they boast a number of features that make nail clipping easy and safe.


Sharp blades:

It is important to use a toenail clipper with sharp blades to make clean, precise cuts. Dull blades can cause the nail to split or tear, which can be painful and may lead to further problems.

Long handles:

Toenail clippers with long handles can provide better leverage and make it easier to reach and trim thickened toenails.

Wide opening:

A toenail clipper with a wide opening can accommodate thicker nails and help prevent the nail from getting stuck or pinched in the blades.

Sturdy construction:

Clippers with sturdy construction can provide better grip and control when trimming the nails, reducing splits or tears.

Non-slip handles:

Non-slip handles help prevent slipping and accidental cuts, which can be especially important when working with wet or sweaty hands.

How to Cut Thick Toenails at Home

Although getting a pedicure every few weeks can be pleasant, you can easily trim your own nails at home with the following tips.

Step 1: Soak your toes to soften toenails before cutting

Soaking your feet helps to clean and soften your nails, making them easier to cut. You can either soak them with a foot bath or trim them after a shower or bath.

feet soaked in basin

1. Fill a basin or tub with warm water

2. Add Epsom salt or vinegar

3. Soak your toes for 10-15 minutes

4. Pat your toes dry with a soft, clean towel

Step 2: Cut your Toenails Properly

Ensuring you’re cutting your nails correctly will make sure they stay healthy and do not cause complications like ingrown toenails which are painful and can cause infection. 

How to cut thick toenails - dont cut too short
  • Cut straight across rather than rounding the corners
  • Make a few small cuts rather than one big cut
  • Don’t cut the nails too short
  • Use caution when trimming, particularly around sensitive areas
  • Trim in a well-lit area
  • Avoid forceful trimming or cutting

Step 3: File and Buff the Toenails

Filing and buffing your nails helps to smooth out their texture, make them less thick where needed, and will smooth out any jagged edges leftover from cutting which can save your skin from being irritated or damaged.

file and buff toenails

1. Use a nail buffer with a medium to fine grit

2. File or Buff in one direction to prevent splits and cracks

3. Be gentle

4. Start at the edges

5. Round the corners to prevent sharp edges

6. Finish with a buffing file to smooth everything out

How to Cut Thick Toenails with Fungus

Cutting toenails with fungus isn’t much different to the process for cutting any other thick toenails. There are just a couple of extra steps to ensure the fungus doesn’t spread to your other nails or members of your family.

What causes thick toenails
  • Heavy duty toenail clippers
  • Longer foot soak – about 20-30 minutes
  • A way to disinfect your clippers like alcohol or diluted bleach
  • Fungal nail treatment such as the Swissklip Medicare Anti-Fungal Stick

Tips for Trimming Thick Toenails for Elderly and Senior Citizens

Toenails can become thicker and more brittle with age. Combine that with increased mobility issues and the simple task of clipping your nails can become a more difficult task.

How to cut thick toenails - seniors
  • Use an accessible nail clipper like the Swissklip 360 Nail clipper
  • Ask for assistance
  • Opt for pedicures
  • Treat fungal infections swiftly

Why is it important to keep your Thick Toenails Trimmed?

How to cut thick toenails - trimmed toenails

Keeping on top of your nail care is an important part of your personal grooming routine. Trimming your nails keeps them not only looking good but can also help you avoid other conditions such as ingrown nails, split nails which can be painful. Additionally, walking with nails that are too long can also be more difficult or painful.

Precautions and Safety Tips When Trimming Thick Nails

There are some things you’ll want to keep in mind when trimming thick toenails to keep them looking and feeling their best. 

Keep the nails clean and moisturized

This helps to minimize brittleness, make sure they don’t split or crack, and keeps them strong and healthy. 

Sanitizing tools and hands

Sanitizing your tools and hands after clipping your nails helps to prevent the spread of bacteria and fungal infections. 

Seeking professional help when necessary

Any discolouration or unusual growth without a known cause should be seen by your healthcare provider. 

Monitoring for signs of infection

If you notice redness, swelling, pus-like discharge, or a foul smell around your toenails, make sure you get it checked by your healthcare provider.

Addressing underlying health issues

Sometimes, thick nails can be caused by other underlying health conditions so you should make sure those conditions are treated as best as possible.

Additional Tools and Techniques for Managing Thick Nails

There are a range of tools you can use to keep your nails in the best condition possible. 

Nail files and buffers

Smooth out jagged edges and file down the bulk of the nail. 

Cuticle pushers and nippers

Cuticle care is important to healthy nails.

Nail brushes

Brushes allow you to clean underneath your nails where dirt and bacteria can gather. 

Foot files and pumice stones

Remove thick, dead skin and calluses and leave your feet feeling soft and supple. 

Topical treatments for fungal infections

Fungal infections should be treated as soon as possible with a topical fungal treatment. 

Nail strengthening and growth treatments

These treatments help your nails feel less brittle and less prone to breakage.

Professional nail care services

Pampering yourself with a pedicure can help boost your self confidence as well as keep your nails feeling healthy. Many nail salons also treat those with fungal infections. 

What Tools To Buy To Cut Thick Toenails

If you have thick toenails, or know someone who does, there are many tools you can buy to help cut them. Focus on tools that have sharp blades and a sturdy construction – this is to minimize the risk of the tool slipping which can potentially cut you and to ensure a clean cut through the thick nail.

Image of a pair of heavy duty nipper style clippers. Used for detailed trimming of nails.
Best Nail Buffer for thick toenails