Smelly toenails can be an emotional and upsetting condition to try and heal from. Bad odor coming from the toenails is actually most frequently caused by a toenail fungus infection. The symptoms of toenail fungus can feel embarrassing and stigmatizing, including both the toenail odor it can cause as well as other symptoms. The stigma around the symptoms that toenail fungus can cause can even lead people to avoid public places where their nails would be visible at all. This means avoiding public places that can be a lot of fun and improve quality of life, like going to the beach with friends or going out for a day by the public pool. Often the worst part about toenail fungus is the detriment to quality of life that the embarrassment surrounding the condition can cause. Stinky toenails are a symptom of fungus that can cause the most embarrassment, shame, and discomfort. Visual changes in the nail’s surface may be easier to hide than a bad odor coming from the nails, and people may be more vocal about a bad odor they smell than they are about visual changes like discolored toenails.


After realizing you have developed smelly toenails, discovering the root cause of the smell should be your next step. The best way to do this is to be seen by a licensed podiatrist, who are doctors that have been trained and are experienced at providing diagnoses for issues with the feet. Onychomycosis, which is more commonly called a toenail fungus infection, is the leading cause of toenail smell. The spores that cause these infections live under the toenail inside of the nail bed, which is a difficult area to clean and treat. The fungal spores themselves carry their smell; the spores under the nail are the reason behind the characteristic toenail fungus smell. This condition is spread when healthy toenails come into contact with spores that have been deposited by infected toenails on surfaces. While the spores can initially infect anybody, some conditions and behaviors increase the risk of an actual infection taking hold inside the nail bed. People who wear closed toed shoes frequently, exercise regularly, or are very sweaty in general will develop a fungal infection faster, since these activities and situations increase risk of fungal development. Fungal spores prefer moist, dark environments like sweaty feet, so doing activities that increase sweat on the feet will increase risk of a toenail fungus. 


The root cause of your smelly toenails can be pinned down to fungus by looking for the characteristic symptoms of fungal infections. For one, the characteristic toenail fungus odor has been called cheese-like. If the smell coming from your toenails smells like cheese, it is likely that toenail fungus could be the cause. If you’ve noticed that your toenail smell gets worse when you trim your nails, this is another sign that fungus is the cause. The fungal spores under the nail are released into the air when they are trimmed, making the smell worse. Visual symptoms of toenail fungus can also be telltale signs of an infection, especially combined with a toenail smell. Looking for these symptoms of toenail fungus can help you make an educated guess about the cause of the smell coming from your feet, but a true diagnosis can only be done by a licensed, experienced medical professional. Podiatrists are definitely the best doctors to seek this sort of care from, as they are licensed doctors who specialize in issues with the feet.


Leaving your smelly toenails untreated will allow them to get worse and worse. Medical intervention is necessary so that the fungal colonies underneath your nails aren’t able to continue to grow. An FDA-approved medical treatment from a licensed podiatrist is the only way to do good for the fungal infection under your nails. DIY toenail fungus treatments are bad ideas and won’t cure the fungus at home, as these treatments tend to be very weak or dangerous. Some DIY “treatments” can cause lasting damage to the toenail and surrounding skin, like using bleach on the toenail. Proper medical treatment that is carried out by a trained professional for a smelly toenail or fungus problem is much safer than trying these at home recommendations. A medical professional will be able to diagnose your fungus. From there, they should be able to recommend and perform the best treatment option for you.

Smelly toenails can thankfully be treated in ways that are safer and more effective than topical and oral antifungal medications. The safest treatment for toenail fungus is the PinPointe laser, which has no down time or risk of major side effects like liver toxicity. Additionally, this laser is the most effective laser on the market to treat toenail fungus. The treatment only requires one session to completely eliminate the fungus, so most patients don’t need to come in for multiple treatments. This laser treatment also has great reviews, and patients are generally very satisfied with their results. To read more about the experiences patients have had with the PinPointe laser treatment, visit our website here.