Claw Toe – Abnormal Bending In Your Toes

There are various foot and ankle ailments we treat for our Austin, TX patients that are similar in certain ways. A clear example of this are the similar toe deformities we know as hammertoe, mallet toe, and claw toe. These might not be life-threatening conditions, but they cause discomfort, pain, and even embarrassment. Plus, they become worse with time when left untreated, so it is important to know when to seek help.


Toe Deformities


There are a couple of different ways that toes can become deformed over time. A bunion is a toe deformity that happens when the big toe comes out of alignment and turns inwards. Hammertoes are toes that have an abnormal downwards bend in the second joint. Mallet toe is a similar, except that the bend is in the joint furthest from the foot.


Claw toe is another form of toe deformity that stems from abnormal bends. Instead of affecting only one joint, though, this condition typically affects all of the joints in the toes. It is marked by an upwards bend at the metatarsophalangeal joint—where the toe meets the foot—and then downward bends in the other two joints.


Earning its name, toes that are deformed into this position “claw” into the bottom of shoes and can be rather uncomfortable. This positioning increases the risk of calluses. There are actually two variations—flexible and rigid—and this deformity can occur in any of the toes except the big one.


Causes of Claw Toe


The fact that women are more likely to develop this particular toe deformity than men provides a clue as to one of the most common causes – choices in footwear. Shoes with narrow toes and high heels, like stilettos and pumps, cause toe muscles to become imbalanced and stay in bent positions for prolonged periods of time. This results in tendons shortening and muscles becoming tight, both of which make it difficult to straighten an affected toe.


In addition to shoes, other causes include diabetes, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, and alcoholism. Each of these sources provide either inflammation or nerve damage that can weaken muscles and lead to imbalance.


Claw Toe Symptoms


The easiest symptom to note is simply the abnormal bending in the toe joints. Sometimes you cannot straighten your toes at all. To distinguish between this condition and the other, similar toe deformities, make sure that the upward bend at the base of your foot and a downwards bend in the middle (and possible last) joint is evident.


In severe case, the tops of your toes will have curled under the front of your foot. Due to the abnormal positioning, calluses or corns might develop under the ball of foot or on the topside of affected toes from friction with your footwear.


This condition is progressive (worsens in time if left untreated), so seek treatment as soon as you discover it.


Treating Claw Toe


Our expert podiatrists—Dr. Craig H. Thomajan DPM, FACFAS and Dr. Shine John, DPM, FACFAS—will evaluate your situation and prepare a custom treatment plan. This might include changes in footwear, stretches or exercises, special pads for redistributing bodyweight, orthotics, or splints.


In some cases, surgery is necessary for correcting rigid claw toes that cause pain or impair the ability to perform normal activities. If such a procedure is used, expect six to eight weeks of recovery for your toe to heal completely. Of course, we will discuss the procedure with you in advance so you know what is entailed.


Find Expert Treatment in Austin, TX


We hope you are able to catch your deformity in its early stages, so make your appointment with Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists whenever you first notice an issue. If you allow the condition to progress, it will only become worse with time. Don’t let this happen to you. Contact our Austin, TX office by calling (512) 328-8900 or schedule your appointment online today.


Most people who have searched this content have also found Hammertoes helpful. 

Dr. Craig H. Thomajan, DPM, FACFAS, FAENS
Founder and Managing Partner of Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists