What You Didn’t Know About Your Toenails


When it comes down to the grind, sometimes we forget about our toenails. Compared to the nails on our fingers, our toenails often take much more of a beating throughout our lifetime. They help carry our weight, they get trapped in sweaty shoes, they can get stubbed and be cut too short… you name it! Our toenails don’t always get the appreciation they deserve and are actually really interesting assets on our bodies. Here are some lesser-known facts about human toenails:

Did you know that our nails, even on our toes, are the equivalent to the claws of other animals? On the evolutionary level, our nails serve a much different purpose than the claws of a tiger. But biologically speaking, they are very similar! Thankfully, our days of hunting and gathering are long over and we don’t need long nails, or claws, any more to grip the ground as we run away from predators or walk long distances to gather food.

Our toenails and fingernails alike are composed of a protein called “alpha-keratin,” which is the same kind of protein that makes up the claws, nails, hooves, and horns of animals different from ourselves. It’s hard to imagine that the horns on a billy goats head are made the same way our toe and fingernails are made -- but it sure is true! Our toenails are protected by our cuticles which serve as a protective seal to keep infection away. This is why cutting your cuticles down too far is a bad idea!

Speaking of protection, toenails serve a function similar to wearing armor as well. Nails are meant to protect the pointier bones beneath them from harm by adding a stronger, harder extra layer to keep them safe. Additionally, this harder surface serves to increase our sensitivity to touch, further protecting the fragile bones underneath from harm. Turns out our toenails do a lot more than just sit there and grow until they need to be cut down again!

Educating yourself about your body is a great way to identify future issues and be more proactive about its care and maintenance! At your next appointment at Grand Central Footcare in New York City, be sure to address any concerns may have about your toenails or overall foot health with podiatrist Dr. Les J. Glubo. You can even conveniently schedule an appointment online today or call us at (212) 697-3293!