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Claw Toes

Introduction to Claw Toes

Claw toe (or claw foot) is a condition that can be present at birth (congenital) or develop over time (acquired). The name is a literal description of the way the toes begin to resemble claws due to a folding over at the joint and their downward pointing direction; the toes begin to curve toward the sole of the shoe. This type of misalignment is hard on the overall structure and balance of the foot and frequently causes painful calluses to develop. Claw foot is a degenerative ailment—it will worsen over time if left untreated and can become a permanent deformity.

 

Claw Toes

Symptoms of Claw Toes

  • Toes bend upward (extension) at the first joints (ball of the foot). .
  • Toes bend downward (flexion) at the middle joints (pointing toward the sole of the shoe). .
  • Toes may also bend downward from the end joints (closest to the toe nail) and curl under the foot.
  • Corns and/or calluses often develop on top of the toe and/or the ball of the foot.
  • Pain in the feet and/or toes.

    Causes of Claw Toes

    Claw toe is a common deformity frequently attributed to wearing tight shoes and/or shoes that push the toes into the toe box. Shoes that aren’t long enough and high heels are two prime examples of potentially damaging footwear.

    Diagnosis

    If symptoms of claw toe are present you should consult a medical professional for correct diagnosis. He or she may wish to perform further tests to rule out other causes as some types of neurological disorders can weaken the muscles of the foot and take on similar characteristics to this malformation. Imbalances in the foot can cause your toes to flex or extend in a similar fashion as claw toe, making self-diagnosis a risky endeavour.

    Your doctor will likely ask the following questions:
  • When did symptoms first appear?
  • Has it worsened over time?
  • Does it affect both feet?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • Are you experiencing abnormal sensation in your feet? Medical examinations can be stressful, so the better prepared you are the better you feel and the easier it can be to get a prompt diagnosis.

Treatments for Claw Toes

  • Deformities caused by claw toe may be flexible early on but there is the risk of them ‘hardening’ into place over time. Early diagnosis may mean allow you to use taping techniques or a splint to hold your toes in place and correct the alignment.

    Your doctor may also make the following suggestions for early stage deformity:
  • See products below
  • Wear shoes with soft toe boxes that have sufficient room for the malformation of your toes.
  • Avoid constrictive footwear and high-heels.
  • Manually bend toes and toe joints back into their correct positions. Be gentle.
  • Perform foot exercises: use your toes to pick up marbles from the floor. Crumple up a towel with your toes and then push it flat again (place the towel on the floor in front of you while seated).

    Later stage deformities (toes are in a fixed position) may be helped by the following exercises:
  • Wear insoles that redistribute your weight over the foot, which will help reduce pressure on the ball of the foot.
  • Invest on forefoot products such as toe crests and hammer toe splints. These will help ‘unfold’ the claw toe and normalize the foot.
  • Try using gel toe products such as shields or caps to eliminate friction between your shoes and your toes.
  • Look into "in depth" shoes: they generally have an extra 3/8" depth in the toe box, which will be more accommodating to malformed toes.
  • Find a shoe-repair shop and have the toe box of your shoes stretched to accommodate your toes.

    These are all non-invasive treatment that your doctor may suggest, particularly in the early stages of the disfigurement. If these treatments do not alleviate your claw foot surgery may be required in order to correct the problem.

    Surgical Treatment of Claw Toe

    Surgery is a last resort treatment for this malformation. When it is undertaken it can be performed under local or general anesthetic and does not always require an overnight hospital stay. The aim is to straighten out the toe through surgical intervention of two joints: the joint at the base of the toe and the joint that is bent.

    In most cases a return to a sedentary job will take no longer than 7-10 days, while an active job may require a longer absence. In either case after-care instructions should be strictly adhered to and sutures should be monitored for signs of infection.

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"Thank you very much for the toe stretcher I received last week. The transaction was easy and the product is easy to use and I must say I can feel my toes being pulled straight already! Thank you again!"


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