–You use your feet constantly, so it’s little wonder that there are many issues that can affect them. Your toes are also susceptible to problems like hammer, mallet, and claw toes. All of these conditions involve the toes becoming bent into odd positions.
Now, a hammer toe is a toe that bends downward from the middle toe joint, causing the joint to rise up. A mallet toe, instead, bends down from the top joint of the toe. Both tend to primarily affect the second toe. Then you have what’s known as a claw toe.1
What Are Claw Toes?
A claw toe bends up from the joint where your toes actually join your foot, and down from the middle joint. So your toe, or toes, appear claw-like and curled.
To better picture this, imagine someone asked you to pull your toes into what you think “claws” look like. You’d naturally start curling them up and inward, almost scrunching them. Now, imagine that you can no longer straighten out your toes. That is claw toe.
Claw toes often affect all four small toes at the same time, but the big toe is rarely affected.2
What Causes Claw Toes To Form?
It’s easy to blame the shoes you wear for a condition where your toes have become curled and cramped. And ill-fitting shoes, worn over many years, can certainly be to blame. But claw toe is due to a weakening, or imbalance, in the foot muscles – and it is often caused by other, seemingly unrelated, conditions.
Claw toe can also be caused by conditions like:
- Blood sugar issues
- Certain joint conditions
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Certain neurological issues
- Injuries to the foot or ankle3
There are two types of claw toes – flexible and rigid. If your claw toes are flexible, the joint can still move, and you may be able to straighten it out manually. Splinting the affected toes, for example, could prove helpful.
On the other hand, a rigid claw toe cannot be moved, and this can make it very painful. It can also affect your entire ability to move your foot properly.4
How To Avoid Claw Toes
Not only are claw toes distressing, but they can also cause additional foot problems, like painful corns or calluses, due to the cramped position of your toes. So its best to prevent them from happening in the first place.
If you have any underlying medical conditions that could put you at a higher risk for developing claw toes, it’s very important that you discuss and manage them with your doctor.
When choosing shoes, look for low-heels with a roomy toe-box area. Women are far more likely to get claw toes than men because they often wear heels.
Small, pointy-toed shoes and high heels can affect the muscles and tendons of your foot over time. Your doctor may also recommend certain pads or insoles that can also help to better cushion your feet. But sometimes, the causes claw toes are unknown, and the condition may even be genetic.5
Are Claw Toes Treatable?
Claw toes are treatable but, unfortunately, the treatment is not as simple as a DIY home regimen. You will need to talk to your doctor about the condition (and its causes) and have a foot specialist examine your feet in order to move forward.
Now, when you first notice claw toes curling, it’s critical to seek professional help as soon as possible, while the joints still have some flexibility. That way, your doctor will also have some flexibility in their treatment options.
Ultimately, surgery may be needed to permanently correct severe claw toes.6
Claw Toes: Final Thoughts
If you think you may be experiencing the first signs of curling and cramped toes, it’s essential that you speak to your doctor as soon as possible.
The causes of claw toe can be so varied, and they often seem unrelated, so the best thing you can do is go by visual cues. If it looks like something is not quite right, it’s time to discuss things with a physician. And, if you are suffering from a related medical condition, it’s important to ask your doctor what you can do to avoid claw toes from occurring.
Interesting Ways That Shoe Styles Can Help (and Hurt) Your Feet
5 Reasons Why You Should Always Wear Socks With Shoes
DIY: The Best Foot Massage Techniques