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How to Cut toenails if you Can’t reach them?

We need to cut our toenails to make it easier to wear shoes. If we have long toenails, they will continually press against our shoes resulting in deformed feet, deformed toenails and eventually the skin around the toe will become infected. 

Why you can’t reach Toenails?

You’ve probably noticed over the years that it’s more difficult to reach down to cut your toenails. You can’t bend as easily as you used to, and if you try to do it, you’ll put a strain on your neck and back muscles. This didn’t happen suddenly, it probably crept up on you gradually as you became older.

Age and joint pain

As we get older, we find that our toenails become thicker and harder to cut. This is partially due to the years of trauma they suffer by being cooped up inside a pair of shoes. And, partially due to fungal infections that love to grow around people’s feet. 

Furthermore, seniors often have bent or deformed toes due to arthritis and other conditions.  This can make it difficult to cut the nails properly.  If your toenails are difficult to cut, you might be tempted to let them grow long. This is the wrong thing to do.


I’ll bet you’re saying that you’ve never had any injury to your feet. But, believe it or not, the slightest knock or pressure will do all kinds of damage to our feet and toenails. They are wrapped up inside a tight or uncomfortable pair of shoes, high heels, cheap trainers and the rest of the fashionable footwear we see in the department store windows.

Over time the toes develop thick nails for protection against the continuous bashing they take.  A common problem with toe injury is for the toenail to grow awkwardly, resulting in an ‘ingrown toenail’. This condition aggravates if you can’t cut them properly.

Likewise, people who have injuries find it very difficult to cut their nails. Hand and arm injuries, especially make it very hard for the seniors to cut their nails. Whereas, injured legs and feet result in loss of mobility as well as possible having feet and legs covered in bandages.

Hip surgery is even worse because there’s no hip mobility while recovering, and reduced movement after the surgery has healed.


Believe it or not, obesity and being overweight can cause problems with toenails and their condition. If we’re overweight then our feet and toes take a lot of punishment. Toenails grow thick for self –protection, as a result. Overweight people also find it more difficult to bend at the waist to look after their feet.

This results in various toe related problems for the obese senior because of poor foot hygiene.


Some people have a genetic condition or have an injury which leaves them disabled. These people find it very hard to do even the simplest self-hygiene tasks, with toenail maintenance being one of those that often gets overlooked.

RELATED: Guide to hygiene aids

Ways to cut toenails if you can’t reach them:

You probably think that there’s no way you’ll be able to cut your toenails. You’re a senior who can’t bend and you have thick deformed nails. What can you do? Well, there are a few ways to manage this necessary task.

Use a nail clipper with a long handle

This is something that almost every senior would find useful. Not everyone can afford to have a pedicure or will have someone to cut their toenails for them. If this sounds familiar, you can buy nail clippers with long handles so you don’t have to bend down. The long handles also make it easier for you to hold and cut if you have arthritis in your hands.

Use an automatic electric nail clipper

An electric nail clipper means that you don’t have to put any effort into the cutting action. Cutting nails is now really easy, especially the thick and brittle ones. Modern cutters don’t make much noise and use rechargeable batteries.

Go to a specialist to have a pedicure

The reasons why someone may require specialist toenail clippers are very varied. The issues specialist toenail clippers look to solve are:

Toenails themselves. Toenails become thicker and harder to cut overtime.

Mobility. People often encounter problems with reaching the toe itself – mobility is reduced with age, because of arthritis, or just general stiffness of the tendons and joints.

RELATED: How to improve mobility in elderly

Arthritis. Arthritis in the hands can stop the comfortable use of clippers because it causes pain to use them. Nearly half of over 65s experience arthritic pain.

Poor vision. Reduced eyesight can lead to being unable to use clippers normally.

RELATED: Vision and reading aids for seniors

Bent toes. Bent toes as a result of arthritis make it very hard to clip toenails without effort.

If you can afford it, go to a salon and have a pedicure. Even if you can’t afford to make it a regular event, it’s nice as a special treat. Some medical practitioners specialize in toenail maintenance and you might be able to get this done via your doctor.

Have someone cut toenails for you

If you can’t afford to visit a professional or if you don’t want to, you might have someone you trust who can do it for you. However, the person who will cut your nails must know how to do it properly. If they make a mistake, it’s very easy to cut the nail so it starts to ‘in-grow’, and they can easily draw blood.

How to Cut thick toenails Properly?

This is something that many people find difficult to master. However, there are some simple steps you can follow to make sure you cut your toenails safely and easily.

  • Soften the nails. Soak your feet, either in a regular bathtub or in a footbath. Add some bath salts to help soften the nails. Afterwards, apply a moisturizing cream or petroleum jelly to the toenails to make them softer and easy to cut. It’s also a good way of practicing foot hygiene.
  • Keep your toenails clean. It’s not very pleasant for anyone who has offered to cut your toenails, to do it on dirty feet. Wash your feet and nails with soap and warm water and dry them with a clean towel.
  • Cut the nails correctly. It’s important to cut toenails correctly to prevent infection and to make sure they grow as they should.
  • Cut the nails straight across. Don’t dig the scissors into the skin and don’t curve the nails so they are cut into the sides.
  • Use the correct nail clippers. Fingernail clippers are different from toenail clippers. They tend to be smaller and you’ll find it difficult to cut toenails with them. Disinfect scissors and nail clippers with a little rubbing alcohol or sterilizing solution before and after use.
  • Leave the nails a little bit long. If you cut the toenails very short, you’ll probably cause an ingrown nail. You will also open yourself up to infection.
  • After washing your feet, make sure your nails are dry before cutting. Wet nails will bend, tear and end up ragged.
  • Make a few small cuts. Don’t attack your toenails with one big cut. Nibble away at them with small cuts until you have them as you would like.
  • File the nails. You can file nails rather than cut them. You can also file off sharp corners and jagged bits after cutting. Move the file or emery board in one direction in short, gentle movements. Continue until the nail is at the correct length and smooth.
  • Don’t cut cuticles. Use a cuticle stick to push the cuticle neatly back. You can buy these from drugstores, beauty supply stores and other similar stores.

What’s next?

For more useful information be sure to read hygiene and grooming checklist,

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