Split Toenail: What Should I Do About It?

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A split toenail is never pleasant to deal with. Aside from being embarrassing or unsightly, they can be painful, as well as a potential sign of more serious health issues.

It is important to listen to your body! Split toenails can also open the door to a slew of other unpleasant things, like fungal infections.

split toenail vertical
By Stefanvana (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 licence)

Caring for split nails depends on the severity of the split and what caused the issue to begin with; a trip to the doctor may be in order.

However, prevention is the first step, and there are always home remedies.

Let’s go over what causes split toenails, and see what you can do about lowering your chances of splitting.

What Can Cause Split Toenails?

Too Much Moisture

Over-exposing your nails to moisture can cause them to weaken and degrade over time.

Those that spend a lot of time in the water, like swimmers or fishermen, have likely had at least one split toenail vertically.

If being in the water is your profession or pastime, then a lifestyle change isn’t really an option.

However, there are nail-strengthening solutions that we will cover in a moment, which could help prevent the issue!

Not Enough Moisture

Just as over-exposure can cause split toenails, under-exposing your nails to water or other moisture (such as creams) can be responsible for the painful incident.

If you live somewhere arid or very cold, investing in a nail moisturizer – yes, they exist – is a simple solution.

Or, if you don’t want to search for and invest in technical options, rub a little olive oil into your nails now and then for similar results.

Lack of Nutrients or Illness

Health problems often show in your nails, including poor diet. A lack of nutrients will often result in your nails turning weak and brittle, eventually causing them to crack.

It’s important to look at your diet and incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and meats in your daily menu.

Supplements are a quick fix, or a good alternative if you are a vegetarian and lacking in iron.

Iron deficiency, anemia, and diabetes can also show in the nails. These are serious health problems!

If you can rule out the other more normal causes of split nails in this article, then consider booking a visit with your doctor as soon as possible.


Infections can cause toenails to split if left unattended. You’ll be able to tell by sight and smell, and no doubt, you’ll be in a fair bit of pain too.

As this can be a fungal or bacterial infection (both of which need unique treatments), you should check with your doctor to see if medication or perhaps an operation is needed.

It will likely be a quick fix, but catching it sooner than later is the key.


Trauma or repeated trauma can cause a toenail to split.

split toenail

This might entail dropping something heavy on your foot, or any injury that causes you to break your toe. In this case, treatment will involve doctors and all that fun stuff.

Preventing injuries like this depends on what you do in your day-to-day life. For example, if you work outdoors, investing in quality steel-toed boots is a great option.

Repeated trauma is an occupational hazard for some careers. Dancers and athletes are highly susceptible to split toenails due to how reliant they are on their feet.

However, improperly fitted shoes can also cause trauma to the foot, so be sure to invest in the right shoes!

Now, let’s talk about treatment.

How To Treat Split Toenails?

Outside of full splits or those created by trauma, most damaged toenails can be treated from the comfort of your home.

No matter what method you use, be sure that the nail and toe are clean and dry.

Nail Repair Kits

Just about every pharmacy out there sells nail repair kits. These mostly involve using a special polish that will hold the nail together and prevent debris from getting into the nail bed.

If the crack is tiny and doesn’t go clean through the nail, you can even use clear nail polish in place of a repair kit.

Super Glue

No, seriously! Gluing the split is a perfectly valid option.

Sure, super glue smells a bit and can create a yellow tinge, but once dry, you can slap a bit of nail polish over it to hide the evidence.

Everything from a split pinky toenail to a split big toenail can be held together with a bit of glue… As strange as the idea is.

Thin Paper or Similar Material

Cutting off a small segment of a tea bag or coffee filter (unused, obviously) is a quick way to add a little extra strength to one of the quick-fix solutions above.

Lay this material over the split, and then apply a layer of glue or polish over it. Once dry, the material acts somewhat like a cast for the nail.

Keep this ‘cast’ in place until the split part of the nail has grown out.


Split nails can be painful, unsightly wounds that herald bigger problems.

Depending on the severity of the split, some can be treated at home, but others will require a visit to your doctor.

split toenail

Be sure to evaluate your case and ask for help if pain, weird coloring, or swelling develop after a few days. Otherwise, you’ll be just fine.

Do you have any tips for dealing with a split toenail?