Claw Toe

Claw toe is a common condition in which one or more toes bend into an inflexible claw shape. Claw toe often results from genetic nerve damage and can also be caused by conditions that weaken your foot muscles, such as diabetes and alcoholism.

The bent joints cause the toe to dig into your shoe's sole, creating sores and calluses and making it painful to walk or run. Without treatment, will worsen and may become a permanent deformity.

What You Need To Know About Claw Toe

What is Claw Toe?

Your foot has nerves that allow the muscles to work properly on the top and bottom of your toes. When the nerves work normally, your toes stay straight and flat. If the nerve is damaged, the muscles contract and tighten, causing the joints to bend. The condition typically affects the middle and end joints of the four smaller toes.

Claw toe is often linked with neurological conditions, muscular issues, and cavus foot (high-arched foot).

In the early stage of claw toe, your toes may be stiff but can still flex at the joints. As the condition progresses, your toes may stick and become rigid.

Start your treatment with a visit to the Resurgens Foot & Ankle Center. Schedule an appointment at one of our Metro Atlanta locations now!

What Causes Claw Toe?

Claw toe develops due to a muscle imbalance caused by nerve damage in the foot. This can result from many conditions or issues, including:

  • Poorly fitting shoes

  • Nerve damage caused by diabetes or alcoholism

  • Cerebral palsy

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Cavus foot (high-arched feet)

  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease

It is essential to determine the cause of claw toe and treat the condition as early as possible to prevent permanent deformity.

Claw Toe Symptoms

Claw toe typically affects the four smaller toes. Often your toe will bend up (in extension) at its base, while the middle joints bend downward (in flexion). In addition to your toe bending, there are multiple symptoms you may experience, including:

  • Pain

  • Calluses

  • Corns

  • Blisters

  • Swelling

The corns and calluses may form on the top or bottom of affected toes and on the ball of your foot.

How is Claw Toe Diagnosed?

Your doctor will conduct a thorough physical exam of your toes and foot to assess their position and their movement. A full diagnosis may also require a review of your family history to determine if genetics play a role in the issue. Your doctor may also test you for neurological conditions that can weaken your muscle and create imbalances.

Claw Toe Treatment

The severity of the condition will determine the best treatment options. Your doctor can opt to treat the claw toe with splinting, exercises, and footwear if they catch the condition in the early stages. You may benefit from surgery if the toes are held in a fixed claw position.

Non-Surgical Treatment

If you have early-stage claw toe, your doctor may treat it by holding the toe in the correct position with a splint or tape. These exercises may also help strengthen the muscle:

  • Picking up small objects with your toes.

  • Moving fabric laid flat on the floor with your toes.

  • Stretching your toes and the joints into the desired position with your hands.

Your doctor will also recommend that you wear shoes that have extra space in the toe box. It's possible to have a shoe repair shop modify your shoes to accommodate your toes.

Surgical Treatment

Your doctor may suggest surgery if non-surgical treatments do not improve the condition. Whether your toes are flexible or rigid will determine the surgical procedure.

Surgical options include:

  • Rerouting or lengthening the flexor tendon.

  • Placing a temporary metal pin in the toe to hold it in the correct position.

  • Toe fusion.

If you have any questions about claw toe, schedule an appointment with the foot & ankle specialists at Resurgens Orthopaedics today

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