Don't suffer in silence with toe pain

While deformities of the lesser toes (all toes other than the big toe) can be very painful, there are numerous surgical and nonsurgical treatments for these conditions that are usually quite effective. A literature review published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS) shows that because lesser toe deformities are often treatable, and can be symptoms of other conditions, early assessment and treatment by an orthopaedic surgeon is important.

"Toe pain can limit a person's quality of life," says Khalid Shirzad, MD, an at Northwest Orthopaedic Specialists, P.S., Spokane, Wash., and lead author of the review. "When it hurts to walk, that person will start decreasing time spent on activities they enjoy. If the initial problem is not treated, it may lead to further issues such as skin infections, deformities, and muscular problems."

Lesser toes are important in walking, especially when pushing off with the foot towards the next step, bearing the majority of the weighted pressure in support of the big toe and the ball of the foot. A variety of causes can lead to lesser toe deformities, such as:

The most common lesser toe deformities include: hammer toes, claw toes, mallet toes, curly toes, crossover toes, and bunions. In all of these conditions, the toe is bent, curled, or misaligned in a way that makes normal walking painful. Symptoms, in addition to pain, also include redness, swelling, and sores or calluses where the bent toe rubs against the inside of a shoe.

Dr. Shirzad also notes that while diabetes isn't a direct cause of lesser toe deformities, diabetic patients with neuropathy may not notice when a toe has become painful. They, and others with reduced sensation in their extremities, should be especially aware of any injury or changes in their toes.

Lesser toe deformities can often be treated nonsurgically, but if the patient doesn't respond well to those treatments, surgery is also an effective option. Nonsurgical treatments can include pads or gel sleeves to reduce pressure on the toe joint; or wraps, tape, or shoe inserts designed to guide the toes into a proper alignment. Surgery may involve reconstruction of the soft tissues, bones, or a combination of both.

While some causes of lesser toe deformities are not preventable, one of the most common causes is footwear. Shoes that don't fit well are responsible for many toe deformities as well as other foot problems.

"The most important thing the public should take from this is to be conscious of your footwear," Dr. Shirzad says. "Well-fitted shoes that do not pinch the foot or constrict the can prevent many toe deformities."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mummies' false toes helped ancient Egyptians walk

Feb 14, 2011

Two artificial big toes – one found attached to the foot of an ancient Egyptian mummy – may have been the world's earliest functional prosthetic body parts, says the scientist who tested replicas ...

Supportive shoes date to 40,000 years

Aug 24, 2005

Modern-type supportive shoes came into existence between 26,000 and 40,000 years ago, a Washington University professor has determined.

Foot pain: Custom-made insoles offer relief

Jul 16, 2008

Custom-made insoles known as foot orthoses can reduce foot pain caused by arthritis, overly prominent big toe joints and highly arched feet, a new systematic review shows.

New family of gecko discovered

May 22, 2008

Researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum of Natural History and Pennsylvania’s Villanova University have discovered a new family of gecko, the charismatic large-eyed lizard popularized by car insurance ...

Recommended for you

Obama addresses West Africans on facts about Ebola

7 hours ago

President Barack Obama urged West Africans on Tuesday to wear gloves and masks when caring for Ebola patients or burying anyone who died of the disease. He also discouraged the traditional burial practice ...

Gluten-free diet benefits asymptomatic EmA+ adults

7 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Asymptomatic individuals with endomysial antibodies (EmA) benefit from a gluten-free diet (GFD), according to a study published in the September issue of Gastroenterology.

Another US health worker infected with Ebola

7 hours ago

A third American health worker has tested positive for the Ebola virus while working with patients in West Africa, the Christian missionary group SIM said Tuesday.

UN implores all countries to help on Ebola

9 hours ago

The international group Doctor Without Borders warned Tuesday that the world is 'losing the battle' against Ebola, while U.N. officials implored all countries to quickly step up their response by contributing health experts ...

Travel restrictions could worsen Ebola crisis: experts

14 hours ago

Travel restrictions could worsen West Africa's Ebola epidemic, limiting medical and food supplies and keeping out much-needed doctors, virologists said Tuesday as the disease continued its deadly spread.

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Isaacsname
not rated yet Aug 01, 2011
I've worn Birkenstocks for almost 35 years, feet feel great. Don't pick your footwear out with your eyes, use your feet.
Yogaman
not rated yet Aug 02, 2011
The authors miss two important causes of toe deformity and pain:
Never going barefoot (that is, any shoes, not just "bad footwear") atrophies foot, ankle, and leg muscles. This causes pain by collapsing pressure onto nerves. Natural pain-avoidance behavior reshapes the foot.
Bad posture can do the same things.

Before choosing surgery, talk to someone who is not in the business of doing surgery.
Isaacsname
not rated yet Aug 02, 2011
I have to admit the title made me giggle, I envisioned some poor sap wimpering in the corner late at night.