Toenail Fungus Prevention

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on March 10, 2024
3 min read

Have you ever had a toenail fungus? It probably wasn't very pretty. It can make your nails look yellow, thick, and cracked. They might hurt when you try to wear shoes.

Toenail fungus can be hard to treat. And if you don't take care of it, there's a chance it can lead to a more serious infection.

The best thing you can do is learn how to avoid catching a new case of it. It’s not that hard to keep fungus away from your toenails. Here’s what to do.

Keep your feet clean and dry. Wash them with soap and water every day. Dry them off very well afterward. Get in-between your toes, too. Clean and dry feet and nails are less likely to pick up a fungus.

Don't go barefoot in public. Fungus loves to grow in warm, wet places. It also spreads easily from person to person. That's why it's key to wear shower shoes or flip flops around public pools, locker rooms, and showers.

Change your socks and shoes often. Put on a clean pair of socks every day. Give your shoes a rest and wear different pairs often, too. If your feet get sweaty when you walk or work out, change your socks and shoes as soon as you get a chance.

Use the right footwear. Fungus thrives when your feet are cooped up inside tight, hot shoes and socks. Make sure yours aren't too snug and that they give your feet room to breathe. Choose materials like leather for shoes. Look for socks made of a synthetic fiber that pulls moisture away from your feet better than cotton or wool. You’ll see this called wicking.

Trim your toenails. Clip them short and straight across. Make sure you don't cut them so they dig into the sides of your toe. Don't pick at your nails or the skin next to them.

Use foot powder. Sprinkle some on after you shower and dry your feet. Some people like cornstarch. But medicated powder is a better choice. It will help protect you against fungus, including athlete's foot.

Keep tools clean. Clean and sterilize your nail clippers, files, and scissors every time after you use them. Rubbing alcohol should work. Don't share them with anyone else.

Skip the nail polish if you can. Wearing that or fake nails can sometimes trap moisture, creating a perfect place for fungus to grow. You’re more likely to dodge toenail fungus if you can live without polish.

Choose a clean nail salon. Want a pedicure? Look for a salon that’s licensed by your state and looks well-kept. Make sure they sterilize all their tools after each use and before each new customer. Or you can bring your own sterilized tools.

Use an anti-fungal cream. If you've had a toenail fungus before, this may help it from coming back. Rub an over-the-counter or prescription product on and in between your toenails and the bottoms of your feet once or twice a week.

Throw away old shoes and slippers. Fungus can live in them. Use an anti-fungal spray in your newer shoes every morning before you slip them on. Never share shoes or socks with other people.

Check your feet and toes regularly. If you see a change in nail color or texture, head to the doctor. This is your chance to catch a fungus in its early stages. If you think you have another infection or fungus, like athlete's foot, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what to do. It can turn into a toenail fungus, too, if you don’t treat it.