Claw Toes


Your toes do more than just wiggle or look nice in sandals. They help you push off the ground and actually maintain your balance when you stand and walk. They do this by spreading out and pressing into the ground to help propel you forward and stabilize your foot. If something prevents your toes from doing this, like claw toes, it’s not only uncomfortable for you, it can also affect your balance, mobility, and independence over time.

Why Toes Curl Under

With this abnormality the digits have bent and curled under into a claw-like position. Claw toes are similar to hammertoes, with the joint closer to the end of the toe affected instead of the middle joint. Usually this is the result of an imbalance in the muscles and connective tissues that keep your toes straight. The tendons that pull your toe downward become taut, their opposites on the top of your foot are not able to counteract that effect. This problem can occur for many different reasons. Shoes that are too tight or cramp the toes can encourage the muscles and tendons to tighten. Nerve damage, whether from an injury, diabetes, alcoholism, or some other problem, can also lead to an imbalance. Any of your small toes can develop this condition, and often it occurs in more than one at once.

Having one or more toes curled under your foot can be highly uncomfortable. The digits press painfully into the soles of your shoes when you try to walk. The tops of your toes may also rub against your footwear and result in corns. There are two classifications for this condition—flexible and rigid. Flexible claw toes can still be straightened by hand. Rigid ones have stiffened and become fixed in the bent position. The more the condition has progressed, the more uncomfortable it is, and the more it risks becoming permanent. Often times, a painful corn or callus forms on the top of a claw toe, caused by the rigid bent position of the toe.

Accommodating the Condition

To avoid permanently curled toes, you need to have your feet evaluated and treated by specialists before the problem advances too far. The podiatrists at Country Foot Care will examine your lower limbs thoroughly and look for the underlying problem that led to the condition. You may need diagnostic imaging so that the doctors can have a clearer picture of your lower limbs. Then you can move forward with conservative treatment.

You’ll need to accommodate the issue with shoe changes. Look for models with wide, deep toe boxes that allow your digits to move. You may need orthotics to correct any preexisting conditions that encouraged the toes to curl under. You should also stretch out your toes regularly to try to loosen the tightened tissues. Some physical therapy exercises can help you fight the imbalance as well. More rigid toes may need a special pad or shoes to help limit your discomfort. If conservative measures fail, you may need surgery to correct the condition and relieve your pain.

Claw toes are uncomfortable and will only get worse if you do nothing to help correct them. With a little conservative treatment, however, you can restore your lower limbs and avoid long-term pain. Don’t wait for your digits to become fixed in a curled position to seek help. Contact Robert Einhorn, D.P.M. here at Country Foot Care for more information or an evaluation. Call (516) 741-FEET or fill out the online contact page to reach us.