Occasionally, I'll break toenails on roundhouse kicks (generally, right in the middle of the nail of my big toe), even though I keep them short. This doesn't happen often, just occasionally.

What causes that, and how do you prevent it? Is it evidence of a flaw in your technique on that particular kick when that happens?

  • Do you kick with the Flat of the foot or the ball?
    – Huw Evans
    Sep 13 '17 at 13:28
  • @HuwEvans with the flat/top of the foot for that one. Sep 13 '17 at 13:54
  • Not much you can do about it then. That is why other styles use the ball.
    – Huw Evans
    Sep 13 '17 at 13:57
  • It's less painful (to you) and more powerful to kick with the very lowest 2" / 5 cm of the shin and the very top of your instep where it's about to meet your shin bone. Also, are you turning your hips enough that they're sideways to your target when you strike? That helps keep an occasional sloppy not-extended toe from meeting the target first. Nov 18 '19 at 13:53

Yes, you need to be sure you hit with the foot part and not on the nail of the foot. The top of the foot itself is the main area to strike with and the toes are pointed to avoid the main impact on the toe nail itself, but puts the main impact on the top of the foot. If you keep breaking toe nails it would indicate either you have weak toe nails or you are not hitting with the right part of the foot and are catching the toes with the kick instead of the top part of the foot. Try to curl the toes down like you are gripping a pencil with them when you strike. Then once you get the idea just loosen your toes and let the foot fly with a slight curl to the toes. The part that should hurt is the top of the foot and not the toes on a roundhouse kick with the top of the foot.

The other way is to mimic a front kick position, but kick with the ball of the foot on the roundhouse kick. The danger there would be broken toes or snagging long toe nails. The ball of the foot is the base of each toe on the bottom of the foot for anyone not familiar.


Happens to me all the time. I've been doing tkd since I was 6 and now am 30. Toe nails get cracked, veins get blown, fingers get jammed. It's part of training. If your form or technique was that bad, you would be hurting more then your toe nails.


Unless you're doing a martial art only meant for point fighting, you should be trying to kick with your shin, not the top of your foot. If you're landing with your foot or instep you're going to get injured. (Life will be hell when you spar with guys that know how to check kicks). One of the most common injuries I see in sparring is injured feet and insteps due to sloppy kicks landing with the feet instead of shin. The only time you would be OK with just the foot landing is a head kick. You'll trade an injured foot for a KO.

That being said, breaking your toenails happens even with good technique. In your case you'll want to worry about landing with your shin. See if that fixes the toenail issue. It will certainly up your kick damage, and your own self preservation!

  • You can kick with the instep to the groin ok. Also roundhouse kicks with the ball are ok. But the question is asking about TKD which IS for point fighting.
    – Huw Evans
    Sep 13 '17 at 14:18
  • @HuwEvans I didn't see any mention of TKD in the subject or question, but it was in the tag! My mistake. Still good info to have though. You're describing a kick where you turn your hip, and swing your leg to the side like a baseball bat, right? If so, by ball you mean the top of your foot, the big knuckle? I hope not, because foot bones and ligaments just aren't that strong. Catch a hip bone, elbow, knee, or shin with that kick and you're walking on crutches. Also your shin is essentially a baseball bat. Use it!
    – coinbird
    Sep 13 '17 at 14:57
  • The ball of your foot is the base on the toes on the bottom side of the foot. Shin kicking is not part of TKD roundhouse kick, but more like mui tai or kung fu. Proper foot kicks are still effective in real combat situations and someone who has not deadened the shin nerve endings will be disabled just as easily by making contact with a shin kick. Also you risk breaking your leg should you hit something that is harder than the durability of your bone density and even if not you wear down your tibia. If your goal is to cause the most damage and retire with body damage, then it's right
    – mutt
    Sep 13 '17 at 16:31
  • @mutt That's just not true. You won't find any MMA or kickboxing coach teaching kicking with the foot over shin(aside from head kicks). Your foot is an intricate collaboration of small bones. Your shin is a thick, hard baseball bat. One is OBVIOUSLY better for slamming into your opponent. I don't know what you're basing your claims on, but I've kicked people in fights with my instep and foot (on accident, of course), and took far more damage than they did. I've also kicked opponents with my shin, watched them crumple, and felt no damage to myself.
    – coinbird
    Sep 13 '17 at 16:45
  • @mutt One of the main reasons why the Anderson Silva leg break is so famous is because of how absurdly rare it is. Elite strikers like that just don't break their shins. It has happened once in thousands and thousands of UFC fights, and also one in Pride if I recall correctly. Trust your shin, it's not going to break!
    – coinbird
    Sep 13 '17 at 16:46

I practice TKD, and 17 days ago, doing a roundhouse kick to my sparing opponents ribs, I managed to rip my big toe nail out of the cuticle of my right big toe. Bled like mad, and I also popped two holes in the ball of my big toe, which also bled. After 17 days, the toe is still quite sore on the bottom. My guess is that the bone in there is bruised. Its healing, slowly. My solution is to buy and wear appropriate shoes and not kick or practice barefooted. My leg strength for kicking is quite strong, but as was noted by someone here already, the tops of the feet are not for kicking. So wear shoes. They're cheap and effective protection for you. My left big toe is also black from bleeding under the nail. Its the impact of the kicks, which our nails are not meant to deal with. The guy commenting on the superiority of the shin strike is correct, and fighting for points as in WTF point fighting is a bad idea. Forget points and go for wins in actual fighting. Shin strikes are far superior.

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