What are the Causes of Sore Skin around the Toenails?

We may not often think about the health of our feet and toes as much as we should. That is, until there’s a problem. One of the most common complaints people share is sore skin around the toenails.

There are a few possible causes of this problem. So, as uncomfortable as it may be (and even painful), there are also some highly-effective solutions. Thankfully, none of the most common causes of tender skin are all that damaging, when they’re properly treated.

The most common issues that cause sensitive skin near the nails include toenail fungus, paronychia, and ingrown toenails.

What Are the Causes of Sore Skin Around the Toenails?

Strangely enough, these issues can end up being interrelated if not treated properly. While they all have different causes, they can create tender skin, and result in a painful experience. When something as common as wearing your shoes begins to hurt, you know you have an issue that needs to be treated, before it gets any worse.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these causes, so you can treat the problem.

Reasons for Sore Skin around the Toenails

Toenail Fungus

Toenail fungus is caused by moisture that gets trapped underneath the nail. A fungus tends to thrive on moist, enclosed areas. What fits that bill more than a toenail – especially one that spends most of its time in a hot and stuffy sock or shoe?

A toenail fungus may start out as nothing more than yellowing or a black dot underneath the nail. But, it can quickly grow and spread. Some of the common symptoms include things like a foul odor, discoloration of the nail, and even hard, brittle nails that can break and crumble.

As you might expect, letting these symptoms go on for too long without treatment can cause discomfort. A toenail fungus can even grow so much underneath the nail, it can separate the nail itself from the nail bed. When it gets that bad, sometimes the nail itself has to be removed.

The surrounding skin of the toenail can also experience tenderness due to a fungal infection. When the skin becomes inflamed, red, and irritated, it’s known as athlete’s foot. This condition can cause cracking skin as well, which can lead to a fungal nail infection.


Paronychia is often associated with toenail fungus. But, it is actually a fungal infection of the soft tissue around the toenail. The common symptoms are pain associated with swelling, hardened nail plates, and separation from the nail bed.

Chronic paronychia may even have pus that forms underneath the nail, causing even more irritation and discomfort. Thankfully, it can usually be treated with a foot soak three or four times a day. If you feel as though you have paronychia that has become a more serious issue, and is causing a lot of pain, your doctor may prescribe a dose of antibiotics to get rid of it.

Ingrown Toenail

Ingrown toenails, or onychocryptosis, are very common. Unfortunately, they’re also really painful for a lot of people. This issue is caused when the toenail itself actually begins growing into the side of the skin of the toe.

Sometimes, it can be nothing more than a deformity in the way the nail grows, or it can be hereditary. More often than not, however, it’s due to a continual pressure on the nail. Athletes tend to get them more than most people, since they’re more prone to wearing tighter-fitting shoes that can repeatedly pound the toes.

Having an ingrown toenail can cause a lot of sensitivity for the skin around the toenails, especially when it goes untreated. More often than not, an ingrown toenail will keep coming back if not treated. To prevent ingrown toenails from causing discomfort in the first place, it’s important to practice proper hygiene care for your feet, and keep your toenails trimmed fairly short.

Other Health Issues

Sometimes, problems with feet, and dealing with sensitive skin around the toenails can be linked to other underlying health issues. Some of the more common health issues that can cause sore skin around the toes are:

Because these health concerns are so often linked to foot problems, it’s important to not only take care of your feet, but consult your doctor if you’ve been diagnosed with any of them. Some symptoms (such as foot pain), may be easily remedied, depending on the health issue you have.

Sensitibe skin around the nailsPrevention Methods

The causes of sore skin around the toenails can usually be prevented. With the exception of previous health issues, things like toenail fungus, ingrown toenails, and paronychia are not only treatable, but (usually) preventable. Be cautious of how you take care of your toes, and the situations you may put yourself in.

Simply being aware of how you treat your feet can make all the difference in the world. From wearing shoes that fit properly, to avoiding things like public showers, etc., taking precautionary measures to fight back against sensitive skin can help to ensure you don’t have to deal with any lasting foot/toe pain.

Even better, however, is the knowledge that the causes can be treated fairly easily. If you believe you have a fungus or infection of some kind, research the treatment options. From prescriptions, to over-the-counter treatment options, there are dozens of solutions available.

If you believe you have an ingrown toenail, talk with your doctor about more permanent options for getting rid of discomfort. The skin around our toenails can be very sensitive. Don’t wait for a problem to occur to practice proper foot care.