There are different types of toe deformities. Some are mobile, meaning they can be straightened out and rehabilitated. Others are fixed at one or more of the joints and cannot be straightened without surgery.
Toe deformities can be caused by:
- direct injury to the toe or repeated low level injury to the area
- weak foot muscles
- tight or weak calf muscles at the back of the leg
- poorly fitting footwear
- family history (congenital)
- arthritis or the normal aging process
- certain health conditions such as Diabetes.
There are many different types of toe deformity and so, a whole variety of symptoms which may include:
- painful, thickened and inflamed soft tissue from footwear rubbing
- painful calluses formed from excess long-term friction or pressure
- pain under the ball of the foot from increased pressure
- deformed, thickened or black toe nails
- sore areas between toes from rubbing against the adjacent toe
- ulcers from breaks in the skin
Self-help and home treatments are the simplest, and often the best, method.
- Wear sensible shoes. Shoes that fit poorly, are too worn, or shoes that are simply the wrong style or shape for you place unnecessary pressure on your toes resulting in the formation of painful skin and nail problems.
- Avoid thin, flat-soled or high-heeled shoes.
- Avoid a shallow/small toe box.
- Stay away from pointed shoes with seams over parts of the foot that stick out.
- Wide-fitting shoes with fastenings are best.
Toe Protectors and Spacers
Toe protectors and spacers can help to reduce rubbing to the tops of toes and between toes.
Spacers help to align the toes and give relief from the pressure caused by adjacent toes.
Toe protectors are ideally used for toes that cannot be straightened by hand or while you are rehabilitating your toe.
There are several types of protectors and spacers available at your local Chemist or online.
Toe Stretch Exercises
This is a simple technique that can improve foot pain and toe function, especially when combined with the strength and stretching exercises below. Stretches should not be painful but will be mildly uncomfortable during the stretch.
Your big toe is made up of 2 segments and your smaller toes are made up of 3. You are likely to gain a better outcome on toes that are mobile, but some improvement can be achieved with most toe deformities.
Find a comfortable sitting position and start to work on straightening one segment at a time –by applying a gentle stretch to the toe. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds and relax. Repeat this 3 times and 3 times per day.
Once you can comfortably straighten 1 segment move onto straightening 2 segments at a time and finally straighten the whole toe.
Once you are able to straighten the whole toe – hold the deformed toe straight and pull downwards until a stretch is felt on top of the foot– hold for 15 seconds and relax. Then pull the toe upwards until a stretch is felt on the ball of the foot – hold for 15 seconds and relax. Repeat 3 times in each direction 3 times per day.
Finish each group of exercises by pulling up on the toes to feel a stretch under the ball of your foot and the arch and pull downwards to feel a stretch the top of your foot. Hold each stretch for 10-15 seconds and relax. Repeat 3 times.