Ingrown toenails cause incapacitation and pain for the patient and lost time from work. Many different conservative and surgical treatment methods have been described. European chiropodists and podologists have long treated ingrown toenails with orthonyxia, which consists of implantation of a small metal brace or plate onto the dorsum of the nail. To determine whether orthonyxia is an acceptable alternative to surgery, we compared the VHO-Osthold brace (VHO-Osthold-Spange GmbH, Deisenhofen, Germany), a new method of orthonyxia, with Emmert's procedure, a standard surgical method that is virtually identical to the Winograd-type procedure, in a prospective study of 41 patients (21 in the brace group and 20 in the Emmert procedure group). Pain due to treatment was significantly lower in the brace group than in the Emmert procedure group, and patients in the brace group could wear regular shoes again without appreciable pain much earlier than those in the Emmert procedure group. In the brace group, there were four recurrences, and one patient was still receiving treatment at the end of follow-up; in the Emmert procedure group, there were three recurrences. None of the patients in the brace group had to take time off from work, whereas in the Emmert procedure group, working patients were off from work for an average of 14.7 days. Brace treatment proved to be a good conservative alternative to operative procedures.