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Toe Abnormalities

What are Toe Abnormalities?

Abnormalities of the toes can have negative impact on one’s quality of life, especially if left untreated.

Types of Toe Abnormalities

  • Mallet Toes
    This abnormality is very similar to a hammer toe except the joint involved is the upper joint instead of the middle joint, giving the toe a mallet-like appearance at the end of the toe.
  • Hammer Toes
    The toe is bent at the middle joint causing a curling of the toe. It is most common in the second toe, but can occur in any toe. Hammer toes are often present along with a bunion.
  • Claw Toes
    This type of abnormality involves an upward bending of the toe joint at the ball of the foot. At the middle joint and sometimes the end joint as well, the toes bend downward in a claw-like fashion, often digging into the sole of the foot. This can occur in any toe except the big toe.


Causes of Toe Abnormalities

  • Genetics
    Some features are passed down through inherited characteristics.

  • Biomechanics
    Both flat feet and higly-arched feet can have lesser toe deformities. The abnormalities cause instability in the forefoot causing the toe to retract in order to restabilise the foot.

  • Muscle Imbalance
    The muscles that control the toes may become unbalanced, so that one set pulls harder than others and causes the toe to bend.

  • Poorly Fitted Footwear
    Shoes that are too tight resulting in the toes being squashed.

  • Injury or Trauma
    An injury to a lesser toe can result in a fracture, or damage to the soft tissues which can cause abnormality.

Symptoms of Toe Abnormalities

One or more of these symptoms may be present.

  • Pain and irritation when wearing shoes.
  • Difficulty finding footwear to fit and be comfortable.
  • Painful corns and calluses – these occur as a result of pressure and rubbing.
  • Blistering.
  • Areas of redness, which may indicate other conditions such as bursitis.

Conservative Treatment for Toe Abnormalities

It is important to consider the time and symptoms present. Treatment may vary according to the stage of progression.

  • General Footcare
    This should be carried out by a podiatrist on a regular basis. Never attempt to do this yourself, because you run the risk of cuts, infection and scarring.

  • Orthotics
    An orthotic device inside the shoe can help control the muscle imbalance.

  • Changes to Footwear
    Avoid shoes with pointed toes and shoes that are too short as these crowd the toes. High-heeled shoes should be avoided as these can force the toe against the end of the shoes.

  • Splints / Taping
    Splints or strapping may be applied to help realign the bent toe and support a better position.

  • Padding
    Padding can be manufactured or off the shelf, and is designed to reduce irritation on painful corns and calluses.

  • Medication
    NSAID’s (Ibuprofen, Diclofenac) may help reduce the swelling and inflammation. *please check with your doctor if you are suitable for these*

Surgical Treatment for Toe Abnormalities

Surgery is indicated when the abnormality is fixed and rigid, to relieve pain and discomfort. When conservative measures fail, surgery may be indicated. Surgery is usually done as an outpatient and procedures differ.  Our podiatrists will be able to refer you to a surgeon if this is indicated.