Upon hearing the word “claw toe” you may immediately think of a particular instrument in a toolbox, or a characteristic of a certain kind of animal. You may wonder if you are in the right place to find information about your toes. While this condition doesn’t necessarily sound human-like, you have landed in the right place! Read through this information about claw toe—a deformity that can affect your activity level and become quite painful.


Why Your Toes Look Like a Claw

Claw toes may resemble what it looks like when you clench your fist. With this deformity, the toes on your foot are bent and curled. They typically bend upward at the joint near the ball of the foot and at the middle joint, and then curl under at the end joint. This is what gives the toe a claw-like appearance, and it can develop in any of the toes except the big toe.

Heredity can play a role in the development of this deformity. Two dominant factors are tight ligaments and tendons and weakened muscles as a result of nerve damage. Another prevalent reason for the formation of claw toes is wearing shoes that are too tight. The muscles and ligaments in your toes can lose their ability to function properly when your toes are regularly crammed into tight or pointed-toe shoes. The ligaments and tendons in your toes can actually shorten over time when they are consistently forced into a bent position.


When Claw Toes Cause Problems

In addition to this toe problem being unsightly, it can make it difficult to find comfortable footwear. Most importantly, claw toe can lead to severe pain and pressure over time. While the tips that curl down and press on the soles of your shoes can become callused, the tops of toes are vulnerable to developing painful corns. This simply happens from the friction between your toes and the inside of your shoes. The position of the toes also puts the ball of the foot at risk for calluses and corns.

If you have noticed your toes are curling, we urge you to seek immediate treatment, not only to relieve any current symptoms, but also because—without treatment—this deformity can become permanent over time.


What Can be Done For Claw Toe?

At the beginning stages when toes are still flexible, we have several treatment options to help relieve symptoms and prevent a claw toe problem from worsening. These measures won’t necessarily straighten your toes but they will provide some relief. First, we can help you find a style of shoe that has adequate room in the toe box to prevent pressure and friction. The second step is to provide extra cushioning where needed. We can use corn and callus pads, moleskin, and arch supports to protect your feet. Custom orthotic inserts may be very helpful in supporting your feet to alleviate pressure on your toes. Third, physical therapy is effective in many cases to strengthen toe muscles and prevent the deformity from becoming worse.

The best thing you can do is contact Capital District Podiatry at the first sign of a deformity starting. We can evaluate your foot health, determine the cause of the problem and start an effective treatment plan tailored to your needs. Early detection can avoid a painful and possibly disabling deformity. Call Dr. Tejas Pandya at (518) 273-0053 or request an appointment at our office in Troy, NY online