Claw Toes

Robert G. Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

Uncurling your toesUncurling Your Forefoot

Toes are not like fingers. They are shorter, less dexterous, and generally weaker. Being different doesn’t make them less valuable, though. Those digits on the ends of your feet may not be as good at picking things up or performing delicate tasks, but they are designed to help you balance and push off the ground. Sometimes, however, problems with the muscles in your feet can make your toes clench and curl, becoming almost like a fist. This is called claw toe, and it can severely limit your mobility if allowed to progress.

What’s the Problem?

This condition is the painful curling under of one or more small toes. The muscles and connective tissues that pull the toe down and inward contract, while the tissues that control the opposite direction are weakened and unable to hold the digit straight. This can be caused by neurological problems, trauma to the foot, or preexisting issues. As a result, your toe presses uncomfortably into the ground or the sole of your shoe. Often the bent joints rub painfully against your footwear and may even develop corns. The contracted digits can make wearing shoes and walking around deeply uncomfortable.

There are two variations of this condition: flexible and rigid. Flexible claw toe means your digit can still be straightened out by hand. This variation is treatable using conservative measures. Rigid claw toe, however, is stuck in one position. The tendons holding the affected toe in place are super tight. This variation may need surgery to correct. If it’s left for too long, the problem can become permanent.

How Can You Treat It?

The sooner your address this problem, the easier it is to correct it and eliminate the pain. Dr. Robert Parker will evaluate your foot to determine the severity of your condition and the best course of action to remedy it. He may also perform several tests to look for a specific cause for the problem. If a neurological issue or preexisting condition caused the muscle imbalance, those will need to be addressed to help correct the issue.

In many cases, conservative treatments have been very successful. Stretches and exercises to work the toe muscles help during early stages of the condition. They loosen the contracted tissues and build up strength and balance in the weakened ones. In some cases, pads or splints can help relieve pressure on the ball of the foot and the toes. Shoes with wide, deep toe boxes help as well. You should avoid footwear that puts unnecessary pressure on the ball of the foot or squeezes the toes together. If conservative treatment isn’t successful in relieving the symptoms and preventing the problem from progressing, you may need surgery to straighten out the affected digits.

Claw toe is a problem that won’t get better on its own. In fact, the pain and stiffness may get a lot worse if you do nothing. Conservative measures have been very successful when applied early, so don’t wait until surgery is your only option for pain relief. Contact Parker Foot & Ankle for an appointment or more information to take care of your curled, uncomfortable toes. Call our Houston office at (281) 497-2850 or visit the online contact page to reach us.