Learn About Toe Deformities

In a society that values perfection, most of our toes don’t have a chance. Many people don’t like their toes because they are too short or too long, have odd-looking nails, or curve and bend in abnormal ways, but this latter reason involves more than just appearances. Toe deformities can cause pain and affect your ability to enjoy daily activities. Let’s look at some of them more closely.

Hammertoes, Mallet Toes, and Claw Toes

Toes that curl under are quite common abnormalities, especially among women. Each of your smaller toes has three phalanges (toe bones) and three joints. The deformity is named based on which toe joints are involved:

  • If you have a mallet toe, all the toe bones lie straight except the last one, which is bent down at the last joint to resemble a mallet.
  • With a hammertoe, the joint where the toe meets the foot is bent up, and the middle joint is bent down, which results in an upside down V shape.
  • Claw toes have a similar upward bend where they meet the foot, but both remaining joints bend down, so the toe rounds under like a claw.

Problems Caused by Toe Deformities

You can see how these abnormally bent toes could lead to issues with shoes. A pair with a narrow, pointed, or flat profile in the front can cause particular problems. Most normal ones don’t leave enough room for the bent joints to fit inside comfortably.

In addition, the curved toes rub against the shoe uppers, causing irritation, a callus, or a painful corn at the spot of friction. The curling down at the end of your toe causes friction and pressure on the tip, which can also lead to calluses on the bottom or tips of the toes.

Curled under toes can be very painful to walk on. In extreme cases of claw toe, the end can dig right into the sole of the foot. In addition, while the toes may remain flexible at first, this is a progressive condition. Eventually the bent joints may become stiff and rigid, causing a lot of pain when you try to walk on them.

Why Your Toes Get Bent

These toe deformities can come from a variety of causes. Some are present at birth and some develop over time due to a tendon imbalance. The tendon on the bottom of the toe is pulling more than the one on top, causing the toe to bend.

Others can be caused by an injury or stroke that impairs nerve and muscle function. Arthritis, diabetes, strokes and alcoholism can all contribute to their formation as well.

Even injuries like jamming the toe hard or breaking a bone in it can lead the tendons to pull unevenly on the bones and cause them to curl.

How to Treat Curled Up Toes

You may be able to stop your bent toe from getting worse, and deal with any swelling or pain they cause, by using one or more conservative (non-surgical) treatments. These include better shoes, splints or buddy taping, cushions or pads, and toe exercises to reach a better balance in the toe muscles and tendons. However, the toe may not go back to the way it was before.

When these measures don’t increase function and handle your pain, or the toe becomes rigid and can’t straighten, surgery will likely be needed. This may involve realigning the tendons and ligaments and holding the bones in place with pins until the toe heals. It may also mean removal of certain pieces of bone to realign them and promote normal function.

Straighten Your Toes with Help from our Spring Valley Podiatrist

It is important to come to our office for an evaluation in the early stages of deformity, when conservative treatments have the best chance of being effective. If it is too late and your toe is already stiff and sore, don’t despair. Dr. Stuart Birnbaum is excellently qualified to perform the surgery you need to get rid of pain and restore full function to your toe.

Call Brook Valley Podiatry in Spring Valley, NY at (845) 352-0757 and schedule a time to come in. You can also schedule using our online contact form. Don’t delay—the sooner you come in, the sooner you will find relief.

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