The claw toe deformities are conditions that are primarily caused by the wearing of footwear that is too tight and fits poorly. In some individuals, these deformities can be congenital or due to other problems.
Claw toes appear exactly as their name would suggest, like a closed fist. Because of the joint variations of the toes (big toes have two bones, the other toes have three), claw toes cannot occur in the big toe. Claw toes are the result of a muscle imbalance that causes some of the tendons and ligaments to become unnaturally tight. The cause of this imbalance includes rheumatoid arthritis, neuromuscular disorders, or other conditions. Because of the deformity, a rigid claw toe has very limited mobility and can be very painful.
Symptoms & Diagnosis
Your toes are bent upward (extension) from the joints at the ball of the foot.
Your toes are bent downward (flexion) at the middle joints toward the sole of your shoe.
Sometimes your toes also bend downward at the top joints, curling under the foot.
Corns may develop over the top of the toe or under the ball of the foot.
If you have symptoms of a claw toe, see your doctor for evaluation. You may need certain tests to rule out neurological disorders that can weaken your foot muscles, creating imbalances that bend your toes. Trauma and inflammation can also cause claw toe deformity.
Claw toe deformities are usually flexible at first, but they harden into place over time. If you have claw toe in early stages, your doctor may recommend a splint or tape to hold your toes in correct position. Additional advice:
Wear shoes with soft, roomy toe boxes and avoid tight shoes and high-heels.
Use your hands to stretch your toes and toe joints toward their normal positions.
Exercise your toes by using them to pick up marbles or crumple a towel laid flat on the floor.
If you have claw toe in later stages and your toes are fixed in position:
A special pad can redistribute your weight and relieve pressure on the ball of your foot.
Try special “in depth” shoes that have an extra 3/8″ depth in the toe box.
Ask a shoe repair shop to stretch a small pocket in the toe box to accommodate the deformity.
If these treatments do not help, you may need surgery to correct the problem.
Toes can be surgically realigned and made straight again. They can even be made shorter. The good news is that toes can be corrected. Hammer toe surgery is often synonymous with “toe shortening”, “toe job” and/or “toe augmentation”.
Depending on the severity and length of the toe, there are several methods to surgically correct a hammer toe. In general, the surgery involves removing a portion of the bone at the contracted joint, to realign the toe.