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Often overlooked, trimming toenails can be a tough task

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Dear Savvy Senior: Can you recommend some good toenail clipping solutions for seniors? My toenails have gotten increasingly thick since I’ve gotten older and have become very difficult for me to reach down and cut. — Almost 80

Dear Almost 80: Trimming your toenails is a task that most people don’t think much about, but as we get older it can become challenging. For many older adults, like yourself, toenails can become thicker and harder to cut, and reduced flexibility can make it more difficult to even get into the right position to cut them. Fortunately, there are solutions available that can make this job a little easier.

One of the simplest tricks for cutting thick toenails is to simply take a bath or shower or soak your feet in warm water prior to cutting them. The water helps soften them for easier cutting.

There are also toenail softening creams you can buy, like Miracle of Aloe Toenail Soft and Barielle Toenail Softening Cream, that temporarily softens thick, hard nails. Just rub it into your toenails at bedtime, and in the morning they’ll be easier to cut and file.

Most people’s toenails grow about one-sixteenth of an inch per month, so it’s appropriate to cut them every six to eight weeks.

When cutting nails, take care not to cut too far down. Overaggressive trimming can lead to ingrown toenails. Podiatrists typically recommend leaving a small bit (about one-thirty-second of an inch) of nail past the nail bed when trimming.

You might also want to avoid a rounded cut. It’s best to cut the nails fairly straight across, ensuring that the corners of the nail do not cut into the skin folds of the toe. And use an emery board to smooth the jagged edges and corners that can snag and potentially tear the nail as it grows.

Top toenail clippers

There are a number of medical-grade or specialty toenail clippers recommended by professionals for older adults.

For thick nails the New Huing Podiatrist Toenail Clippers are a top option. This clipper has a sharp, curved blade that easily cuts through any toenail, no matter how hard or thick it has gotten, and a nonslip, cushion grip that allows for comfortable clipping.

For those with limited mobility, check out the Clipperpro Omega Select Toenail Clipper, which has a long plastic grip that’s much larger than that of a standard set of nail clippers and a blade head that swivels 180 degrees. Both of those features make this clipper much easier to use for anyone with arthritis or mobility issues, since they have more control and an added range they can reach.

And for people who have a hard time bending over, there are long-handled toenail clippers like the DriFeez Long Handle Toenail Clippers, which come in four sizes: 20, 24, 28 and 32 inches long. It also has a heavy-duty clipper with a one-eighth-inch-wide jaw opening designed to cut thick toenails.

All of these clippers are available online at sites like or at prices ranging between $10 and $40.

Trimming services

If you get to the point that you can’t or would rather not cut your own toenails, a podiatrist can provide both foot and toenail care. But be aware that routine foot care is not covered by Medicare unless you have an underlying condition or injury that requires a professional to tend to your feet.

If you are generally in good health, regular pedicures at a nail salon are a good option for getting your toenails cut and are much cheaper than visiting a podiatrist.

Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit

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