Why Do My Toenails Smell Like Poop?

“I cut my toenails recently and for no particular reason, I brought it up to my nose for a whiff. I was shocked at the stench that came up from it. It was almost exactly like the smell of poop!”

If the above statement sounds anything like you, then I know you’re flustered right now. You urgently need answers to your question, Why do toenails smell like poop?

There are several potential reasons why your toenails may have a foul-smelling odour. One possibility is a toenail fungal infection, which can cause the nails to have a musty or rotten smell. Another reason could be a lack of air circulation and too much moisture, which can lead to bacteria and fungus growth.

An infected injury or an infection of the feet, such as athlete’s foot, could also be the cause. Additionally, poor toenail hygiene can lead to the accumulation of bacteria and fungus, resulting in unpleasant odours. It is recommended to seek medical attention if you are concerned about the smell of your toenails.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these reasons.

5 Reasons Why Toenails Smell Like Poops

1. A Toenail Fungal Infection

Nail fungus is the most common cause of smelly toenails. Medically, it is referred to as onychomycosis. It is usually a chronic infection, which means that it can persist for a long time or come back again and again after treatment if careful precaution is not taken.

Furthermore, some people may refer to nail fungus as mould, yeast or even ringworm. They are all related terms for onychomycosis.


It is easy to tell if your toenail is infected by fungi. In appearance, the toenail tends to become very thick and shapeless such that it poses a challenge to trim it. The infected toenail(s) will also darken or take on a greenish/yellowish shade.

In contrast, some infected toenails become soft and take on a powdery colour. These ones would also tend to break off or crumble easily.

In addition, toenails affected by nail fungus could be rough, ragged and might hurt. The offensive smell you perceive is from some whitish or yellowish gunk formed under the toenails due to the infection.

If left for too long, the toenail could begin to separate from the flesh it is attached to. Thus, making it very uncomfortable or even painful to wear shoes on the affected foot. In severe cases, it may become increasingly painful to even walk.


  • Injury to the toenails, such as stubbing it against a hard surface or something hard falling on it
  • Wearing socks or shoes that do not allow the feet, and by extension, the toenails breathe
  • Wearing the same shoes back to back for long periods of time
  • Overly long toenails
  • Poor hygiene of the feet in general and the toenails in particular
  • Going barefoot in a wet environment or weather

Now that you know what toenail fungus is, what it looks like and what causes it, we will discuss how we can treat or prevent it as you read on. Before going into treatments and prevention, let’s look at other reasons why your toenails may smell so badly.

2. Lack of Enough Air and Too Much Moisture

This can happen if you wear socks and shoes or even just shoes for long periods of time. It may not lead to an infection but it still, causes a bad smell for your feet. This smell is also absorbed by the toenails, making it give off a stink.

The worst offenders are socks made of nylon, polyester and the like. This escalates when you wear those socks under leather shoes.

3. An Infected Injury

If for instance, you hit your toenail against the wall and it bends or cuts, wounding or inflaming the flesh underneath. This injury can easily get infected due to the fact that the feet don’t get enough air to keep the injury dry.

Hence, it becomes a rich environment for germs to flourish and this leads to an infection which in turn causes the entire toe to give off an offending odour.

4. An Infection of the Feet

When the feet suffer from an infection, such as athlete’s foot, the toenails suffer with them. This is because the fungi can spread to the toenails as well.

5. Poor Toenail Hygiene

Finally, smelly toenails may just be a result of poor hygiene. The fact that they are at the very bottom part of our body and hardly get noticed by other people is not an excuse to ignore the toenails in our body grooming routines.

Sadly, a lot of people believe that the toenails don’t need special care. Some have suffered terrible smells because of this wrong mindset.

How To Get Rid Of Foul-Smelling Toenails

By now, you have a good idea as to why your toenails smell like poop or some other offensive thing. You will want to know what you can do to remedy the situation.

Well, the remedy for smelly feet depends on the cause. Generally, if an infection is not the root of the problem, it’s easy to improve your toenails’ well-being with some changes to how you treat them.

Once you start to practise good hygiene for them and make better choices in foot accessories, you will notice a gradual improvement. On the other hand, if an infection is to be blamed, further steps have to be taken.

Treatment For Infection Under Toenails

Onychomycosis or toenail fungus will not go away on its own. You must get it treated. If the infection is minor, it can disappear with good care and regular application of anti-fungal cream. This is readily available over the counter.

However, for more severe cases, see a medical professional. Professional treatment may include oral medicine, removal of nails, or in more desperate circumstances: laser therapy.

How To Prevent Toenails From Smelling

Of course, we would all rather avoid anything that could lead to stinky toenails but chances are that you won’t come seeking these preventive measures until you have once experienced the embarrassing condition.

You wouldn’t want to get rid of the smell only for it to return after a while. Below are steps you can take to always keep your toenails nice, attractive and far away from the foul odour.

  • Keep the toenails short. You are less likely to injure them by stubbing them on a hard surface if they are cut to the tip of the toes. It also prevents germs from making a home for themselves underneath your toenails.
  • Keep them dry. Avoid excessive moisture.
  • Maintain proper feet and toenails hygiene. Find tips on how to go about this as you read further down.
  • Wear cotton socks rather than nylon or polyester. Cotton allows your feet to have breathing space and avoids excessive sweating that keeps toes and toenails damp.
  • Also wear shoes that give your toes some wiggle space and do not jam them together in a sweaty mess. Air your shoes regularly!
  • Avoid repeating socks without washing them. Ensure you stop wearing the set of socks you used when/if you had a toenail fungus that caused a bad smell.

General Care Of Toenails

In order to prevent infections, foul odour and unattractive toenails, it is important that proper care is given to the toenails. Read carefully the following guidelines on how to take care of your toenails.

  1. Scrub your feet when taking your bath, cleaning around the toes. You can also have a foot wash. Dry your toes carefully after every wash.
  2. Regularly apply foot lotion to the whole of your feet, including your toenails.
  3. Soak your feet in warm water or take a warm shower before trimming your toenails. This softens the toenails, thereby making them easier to cut without risks or hassles.
  4. To cut toenails, use clippers that are made specifically for toenails as they are wider and stronger than the ones for fingernails.
  5. While trimming, first cut straight through the nails, leaving the corners pointy. Cut at least up to the tip of the toes but don’t cut too deep. Afterwards, you can file the pointy corners and ragged edges down when the nails are dry and hardened.
  6. Leave your cuticles alone! The cuticle is the thin flesh that covers the very bottom of the nails. They protect the roots of the nails. Do not attempt to cut them.
  7. Nail polish remover dries out the nails and as such, you should avoid using it often. At most, once in two weeks is alright.
  8. Vitamins, particularly biotin, help to keep your nails healthy and beautiful. Ensure you get enough of them in your diet.

Why do my feet smell like poop?

Your feet may smell like poop due to a fungal infection or poor hygiene. It is important to practice good foot hygiene and wear shoes that allow your feet to breathe to help prevent foot odour.

Are toenails supposed to smell?

No, toenails are not usually supposed to have an unpleasant odour. If your toenails have a foul smell, it could be a sign of a toenail fungal infection or another underlying issue. It is recommended to seek medical attention if you are concerned about the smell of your toenails.

Why does it stink between my toes?

The skin between the toes is prone to sweating and moisture buildup, which can lead to the growth of bacteria and fungus. This can cause an unpleasant odour. It is important to practice good foot hygiene, including washing and drying your feet thoroughly, and wearing shoes that allow for proper air circulation to help prevent the buildup of moisture and bacteria between the toes.


If your toenails smell so bad, it is likely to be because of an infection. Toenail fungus, athlete’s foot and other infections can cause that to happen.

Poor hygiene and wrong choices in socks and shoes can also be a factor. Whichever it is, rest assured that there is a remedy. Stay healthy.