Claw Toe

Claw Toe

What is a Claw Toe?

A claw toe is a toe deformity which causes the toe to bend downwards in a claw-like shape. Along with hammer toes and bone spurs, claw toes are among the most common toe deformities. In severe cases, redness, swelling, and open sores can develop over time due to the increased tension on the skin over the bent joint.

What Are The Causes of a Claw Toe?

Claw toes are often caused by genetics. In many cases, people are born with a foot type that will predispose them to developing claw toes over time. People with flat feet, high-arched feet, or flexible feet are more prone to these problems. Claw toes are sometimes caused or made worse by a bunion deformity involving the big toe. When the big toe starts to drift inward towards the other toes it may cause increased pressure on the second toe or displace it upwards.

Other causes of claw toes include long toes, tendon imbalance, injury, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and neuromuscular disease. Over time, the mechanics of your foot can increase the deformities, as can certain kinds of footwear. Women are more frequently affected because of the use of tight stockings and shoe styles like high heels.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms of a Claw Toe?

If you have a claw toe, you may notice that one or more toe joints are stuck in a bent position and become rigid over time. Depending on the joint affected, the toe may curl downwards. The joint might become swollen and red with pain along the toe joints. This rubbing in the shoe may also cause the formation of a red, inflamed sac of tissue called bursitis.

What Are The Risk Factors of a Claw Toe?

Genetics and the natural shape of your foot are factors in the formation of claw toes. You are at a higher risk if you have high arches or a tendon imbalance within your foot. Shoes that are too narrow, ill-fitting, high heeled or have pointed toes can also increase your likelihood of developing toe deformities. Claw toes can also be caused by injuries from medical conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes or neuromuscular disease.

How is a Claw Toe Diagnosed?

A podiatrist can often diagnose a claw toe with visual inspection and performing a physical and biomechanical exam. They will usually test for stiffness, reduced range of motion, or pain from specific motions of the joint. X-rays may also be used to make an accurate diagnosis.

What Are Possible Treatments For a Claw Toe?

When hammer toes and claw toes cause mild pain, the simplest solution is wearing wider, more accommodating shoes to decrease friction. Helpful changes to footwear may include smaller heels, softer material such as mesh and wider toe boxes. 

Surgical options should be discussed with your podiatrist if hammer toes continue to be painful despite conservative therapy or if findina a pair of comfortable shoes becomes a challenge.

The longer surgery is delayed in a symptomatic foot, the greater the amount of deformity that may develop. Patients who have their symptomatic hammer toes and claw toes corrected earlier tend to have greater satisfaction and recovery after the procedure.

Surgery For Hammer Toe & Claw Toe

The goal of surgical correction is to restore normal alignment and function of the toe joint. Different procedures will be recommended depending on whether the toes are still flexible or if they have become rigid, or if a claw toe is present. Sometimes a small pin is placed inside the bones to hold the toe in a proper position while it heals.

Are There Preventative Steps or Measures To Avoid a Claw Toe?

One of the easiest ways to prevent development of claw toes is to wear sensible footwear that doesn’t cause friction or strain to the toes. Avoiding high heeled shoes, flip flops and pointed toe shoes is recommended. There are daily exercises that you can do to help strengthen your muscles in case the claw toe is caused by a muscle imbalance. Regularly taking care of corns and calluses using a pumice stone or other treatments can alleviate pain and discomfort.

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