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Can Soccer Cause Ingrown Toenails?

Can Soccer Cause Ingrown Toenails?

Soccer is no doubt one of the most exciting sports gifted to the world. This can be witnessed in the barrage of over 4 billion people that watch the sport globally.

According to a 2022 estimate, about 275 million people in over 200 countries play soccer regularly. It is more popular in the continents of Africa, Europe, and South America. However, it is gradually gaining traction in Asia and North America.

Key Takeaways

  • Some soccer players are more prone to ingrown nails than others
  • Wearing soccer cleats that are too tight has been implicated with ingrown toenails
  • Ingrown nails can become infected and eventually lead to more serious conditions

Like other competitive sports, soccer impacts the players both positively and negatively. The negative impact can be mild or severe including fatigue, mental strain, and injuries to name a few.

Due to the nature of the sport, injuries predominantly occur on the legs of soccer players. How long it will take to heal will depend on the level of care the player receives after sustaining the injury.

A foot condition that often troubles soccer players is the issue of ingrown toenails also known as onychocryptosis. This issue is more prominent among soccer players that often wear the wrong size of soccer cleats to matches.

An ingrown toenail is a situation where the toenail starts growing sideways and downwards into the toepad instead of outwards.

But is there really a link between soccer and ingrown toenails? If there is a link, how exactly does soccer cause ingrown toenails and how can you prevent it? We will discuss all of that below.

Man wear leather cleats and are stepping on the soccer ball

Can soccer cause ingrown toenails?

From our research, we were able to ascertain that there is a link between playing soccer and the ingrown toenails experienced by some players. The downwards force exerted on the toenails by the soccer boot while sprinting or running on the pitch is the most prominent cause of ingrown toenails.

An ingrown toenail might initially seem like a minor thing until you get to experience the enormous pain and discomfort that comes with having it. It remains one of the most painful conditions that you will ever experience as a soccer player.

If you have ever dealt with this problem before, you will understand that it can stop even the best soccer players from playing optimally. Also, some toenail shapes are more susceptible to developing ingrown nails compared to others.

Some visible signs of an ingrown toenail include redness, swelling, and pain around the toe region. If this condition isn’t properly handled, it can get infected and degenerate into a bigger problem.

Male and female soccer players both experience ingrown toenails, although it is more common in players with sweaty feet. The feet are more prone to sliding in the soccer cleat when they are wet.

This constant sliding forward of the feet and hitting the toenails at the front of the shoe can increase the chance of ingrown nails. Older soccer players with thicker toenails are also more vulnerable to this condition.

Some of the harmful practices that can aggravate ingrown toenails include:

  • Repeated kicking of soccer balls with force
  • Untreated toenail injuries
  • Wearing soccer cleats that are too narrow, tight, and not properly cushioned
  • Not promptly attending to a curved toenail
  • Constantly stubbing your toes while playing soccer
  • Incorrectly cutting your toenails (trim your nails straight across)
  • Wearing the wrong socks or a worn-out pair

Although ingrown toenails can be easily ignored when detected early, tackling them promptly will save you a lot of pain and possible surgical procedure. Visit a podiatrist once such a foot condition is detected.

Player are juggling the soccer ball

Symptoms of ingrown toenail

Some signs and symptoms can alert you of the possibility of an ingrown toenail. Don’t hesitate to seek medical attention once you start noticing the following signs;

  • A buildup of fluid around the toe region
  • Sharp pain when the toe is touched or when walking
  • Red, tender, and swollen skin around the toe
  • Slight discoloration of the toenail

Through a thorough examination, your doctor can detect if you are suffering from an ingrown toenail problem or something else. Thankfully, ingrown toenails can be easily managed if they haven’t been infected.

When it gets infected, you will start noticing symptoms like overgrown skin on the toe, mild bleeding, and pus discharge. An untreated infected ingrown toenail can lead to tissue decay, bone infection, and foot ulcer.

This foot condition can quickly become more serious if you have an underlying health issue like diabetes. With such an underlying health issue, you shouldn’t hesitate to see a doctor if you notice any sign of an ingrown toenail.

Soccer players with a genetic disposition to ingrown toenails might tend to experience more episodes of this condition regardless of how much caution they put into their gear and game. In such cases, doctors might recommend a full or partial matrixectomy.

Doctor is checking Ingrown Toenails for customer

How can you treat ingrown toenails?   

Ingrown toenails can be treated in many different ways including the use of home remedies and surgery for severe cases. There are different kinds of surgeries that can be used in treating this condition.

A partial nail removal surgery requires cutting away the sides of the nail; this enables its edges to remain straight. Phenol which is a chemical compound can also be used by your doctor to prevent your nail from growing back after removal.

After a successful surgery on your toe, the foot will be bandaged for proper healing. This means you would have to avoid playing soccer or actively using the foot within the stipulated healing period.

A removed toenail can take as much as 6 to 12 months to completely grow back. Below are some of the ways you can manage an ingrown toenail by yourself if it hasn’t been infected.

  • Always wear dry soccer cleats and make sure they remain dry throughout use by wearing quality moisture-wicking socks
  • Players with sweaty feet can also opt for non-slip insoles or socks which will minimize the sliding of their feet and hitting the front of the soccer cleat
  • In the absence of non-slip insoles, players can use a pair of socks with a padded toe area to serve as a cushion that will prevent the toes from hitting the front of the soccer cleat
  • It is also recommended that soccer players should stretch tight boots to break into them before getting into a high-intensity match
  • To prevent infection, apply topical antibiotics like steroid cream, neomycin, and polymyxin
  • Prepare a bowl of warm water and dip your feet in it for approximately 15 to 20 minutes while massaging it. You should repeat this procedure 3 to 4 times daily
  • You can get a painkiller like acetaminophen to manage the pain
  • Using a ball of cotton wool dipped in olive oil, you can prevent the edge of the toenail from growing into the skin

If your remedies aren’t yielding positive results, you should suspend them and seek professional help. As a soccer player, matters concerning your foot shouldn’t be taken lightly since it is the most frequently used part of your body on the pitch.

Soccer players are practicing with the balls


The issue of ingrown toenails remains recurrent in soccer players mainly because they prefer wearing tight cleats which they believe offer an improved feel and better performance on the pitch.

Such cleats don’t have enough wiggle space for the toes which often results in complications. Although tight cleats may give you a better ball feel, the negative consequences of wearing them eventually wipe out any positives that they offer.

Proper foot care using the right tools and chemicals is also recommended for soccer players mostly before and after matches.

Ingrown toenails can be very painful. Therefore, you must do everything in your power as a soccer player to prevent it from happening.