A claw toe is a toe deformity, where your toes bend into a “claw” like position, and dig into the soles of your shoes, creating painful calluses. Without treatment, claw toes may become a permanent deformity over time.
Some common symptoms of a claw toe include:
- Your toes are bent upward from the joints at the ball of the foot
- Your toes are bent downward at the middle joints toward the sole of your shoe
- Your toes may also bend downward at the top joints sometimes, curling under the foot
- Corns may develop over the top of the toe or under the ball of the foot
Although the development of claw toes has been attributed to wearing high heels, or narrow shoes that squeeze your toes, it can also occur following nerve damage caused by diseases like diabetes or alcoholism that result in weakened muscles in your foot, and resulting in muscle imbalance across the toe joints.
Other factors that put you at a higher risk include:
- Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
- Polio and cerebral palsy
Your orthopaedic specialist will start off with a physical examination to check your toes for the deformity and if the joints are still able to move well. You will most probably need to undergo specialised tests to rule out any neurological disorders.
It is recommended to seek treatment early as claw toe deformities are usually flexible at first and respond to non-surgical treatments well. Your doctor may advise using a splint to hold the toe in a corrected position and recommend changing your shoe wear to avoid high heels and using shoes with a wide or deep toe box. You can also do physical therapy, involving exercises to stretch the toes, and strengthen the foot muscles such as toe curls. If there are calluses, using shoe inserts, with special padding on the ball of your foot may help to offload pressure points.
If conservative treatments prove to be ineffective, your doctor may recommend surgery. For flexible deformities, this may involve lengthening or transferring the tendons to the toe to treat the muscle imbalance and straighten the toe deformity. If the deformity is fixed, usually a fusion is required, where your orthopaedic surgeon will remove the cartilage and bone around the toe joint and fix the bones together.
Every case is different; hence it is best to consult an orthopaedic specialist for an accurate diagnosis so that you can obtain the best treatment option that is most suitable for you. Reach out to us today if you suspect you are suffering from claw toes and let us help you enjoy a better quality of life.