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  • Writer's pictureMichael Liougas

Toe Deformities That Require Toe Orthotics

Claw Toe

What is Claw Toe?

Claw Toe is one of the toe deformities where your toes bend into a claw-like position. When this happens, the toes dig into the soles of your shoes and you will require toe orthotics. As a result, you’ll have painful calluses at the tip or top of your toes. The abnormal claw-like shape usually happens to the four smaller toes of your foot.

What are the symptoms of claw toes?

The predominant symptom of the claw toe is the claw-like position of your toes. Normally, the toe joints closest to the ankle point up while the other toe joints point down. Claw toe does cause pain and results in the development of calluses, corns, and ulcers. This occurs as a result of rubbing your foot against your shoes. However, claw toe does not cause painful symptoms.

What Are the Causes of Claw Toe?

The causes of claw toe include:

  • Spinal cord tumors

  • Stroke

  • Genes

  • Trauma

  • Ill-fitting shoes

  • Cerebral palsy

  • Polio

  • Nerve damage due to alcoholism

What’s the Best Treatment for Claw Toe?

If you discover you’ve claw toe in the early stages, visit your doctor who will recommend a tape or splint to hold your toes in the correct position. Your doctor will also recommend toe orthotics such as hammer toe splints and toe crests.

Avoid high heels and tight shoes. You must exercise your toes by picking up marbles on the floor and wear shoes with soft, roomy toe boxes. A physiotherapy program can help regain strength and positioning.

Hammer Toe

What is Hammer Toe?

A hammer toe is a deformity of the foot that affects the second, third, and fourth toes. In this condition, the toe usually bends at the middle joint resembling a hammer. Initially, the hammer toe is flexible but if not treated early, a hammer toe can become permanent. This deformity can affect the toes on either foot.

hammer toes-one of the toe deformities that require custom orthotics

What Are the Symptoms of Hammer Toe?

One of the most prominent symptoms of the hammer toe is the toe bending downward. When this occurs, you’ll experience discomfort when you walk. Not only that. Hammer toe can cause pain when you try to stretch or move the affected toe or even the toes around it.

You may experience mild symptoms such as corns, calluses, and inability to wiggle your toes or even flex your foot. If you experience these symptoms, see your podiatrist right away.

What’s the Best Treatment for Hammer Toe?

Your doctor will recommend the use of hammer toe orthotics or insoles. You should also wear properly fitting shoes. The shoes and hammer orthotics work by shifting your toe’s position, relieving pain, and correcting the appearance of your toe. A physiotherapist can help with pain treatment.

Crossover Toe

What Is Crossover Toe?

Crossover toe is one of the most complex toe disorders. Unlike the hammer toe and claw toe, the crossover toe is a progressive condition where the second toe drifts towards the big toe. Eventually, the second toe crosses over and lays on top of the big toe.

Crossover toe looking pretty bad
Image source:

What Causes Crossover Toe?

Crossover toe occurs as a result of abnormal foot mechanics leading to the second toe crossing over and laying on top of the big toe. The condition affects newborns and adults when the supportive plantar plate and ligaments get weak due to pressure. This leads to the joint being unable to stabilize the toe. As such, the second toe crosses over the big toe.

The second toe usually becomes unstable as a result of the buckling effect and crowding caused by shoes.

What Are the Symptoms of Crossover Toe?

If you have a crossover toe, you'll experience sores on the top of the crossover toe, and swelling at the base of the affected toe. You may also experience pain that worsens when you squeeze the ball of the foot together or when walking. This is common when you wear pointy-toed or tight shoes.

What’s the Best Treatment for Crossover Toe?

If you’re experiencing swelling in the ball of the foot or persistent pain, schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately. Crossover toe is a progressive condition and gets worse over time. However, with immediate treatment, outcomes will improve significantly.

Use of orthotics where the doctor will have inserts placed in the shoes to relieve swelling and pain. The inserts also help to reduce pressure on the affected joint and reposition the foot.

Mallet Toe

What Is Mallet Toe?

Mallet toe is a foot deformity that affects the joint nearest the toenail. Like the hammer toe, the mallet toe affects the second, third, and fourth toes on either foot. The mallet toe affects the flexor digitorum longus and distal interphalangeal joint.

The latter is the last joint in the toe closest to the toenail while the former is the muscle that runs down to the four smaller toes. When these muscles become too tight, the toe joint bends upward.

Mallet toes that need custom inserts

What Causes Mallet Toe?

Mallet toe is often linked to wearing high-heeled shoes or tight footwear which crowds your toes in a tight space. Other causes include muscle and bone imbalances such as short foot bones or weak muscles. Arthritis and injury to the toe can also cause mallet toe.

What Are the Symptoms of Mallet Toe?

The main symptom of mallet toe is the bending or curling at the toe joint closest to the toenail. Other symptoms of mallet toe include toe pain when walking or wearing shoes, swelling, and redness of the affected toe.

What’s the Best Treatment for Mallet Toe?

Your podiatrist can recommend putting toe pads on calluses or corns, and stretching your toes frequently. He will also recommend custom orthotics or special shoe inserts that will take the pressure off the affected toe.

If you’ve diabetes, the doctor will check your feet for injuries and shoes each day. He will also recommend keeping your feet dry and clean.

How We Can Help

Assess joint and muscle function, including a range of motion and gait assessment

To assess the joint range of motion, we use a goniometer, a device that measures the angle at a joint. The device measures the range of motion in degrees - from zero to 360 and comes in various sizes and shapes for specific joints. Of all types, we use a universal goniometer that comes in two forms - short and long arms.

Assess your footwear for both fit and function

We take measurements of your feet while you’re standing. After we’ve measured both feet, we recommend the right footwear for both fit and function. The right footwear should feel comfortable and fit well to prevent toe deformities such as mallet toe, claw toe, and others.

Identify areas of risk with specialized tools such as pressure mapping (F-Scan or Pedograph)

Our specialist will complete a comprehensive foot examination at your appointment. The comprehensive exam will involve the use of tools such as F-Scan and Pedograph. The tools provide dynamic pressure, timing, and force information for gait analysis and foot function. Information obtained from the tools helps in the designing and testing of custom orthotics.

Discuss a treatment plan

After the comprehensive exam that involves pressure mapping, your doctor will create a treatment plan. Treatment options include activity modification, change in footwear, custom orthotics, and even physiotherapy. He will work with you to determine what’s needed to address your current medical condition. The doctor will also recommend ways to prevent future recurrence of the deformity.

the three different toe deformities that require toe orthotics

Difference Between Custom Orthotics and Over the Counter Devices

Custom orthotics require a prescription from your doctor, and they help to get rid of pressure or pain from conditions that affect your feet. Over the counter, devices are generic meaning they’re designed to fit any type of shoe. You can get them from your local pharmacy or store. Yes, they do provide some cushioning and comfort for your feet. But you don’t need a prescription.

Custom orthotics are usually made of materials such as graphite or polypropylene. These materials are quite flexible and help to create rigid foundations. Over-the-counter devices are always made of gel or foam. They last about a year and provide much-needed support. However, OTC devices do not correct actual toe or foot deformities, unlike custom orthotics.

Final Words

Custom orthotics include foot pads, ankle braces, arch supports, heel liners, and insoles. These devices correct your toe or foot condition since they are usually designed to fit your feet. They provide pain relief for your sore feet and help alleviate conditions. Such conditions include bunions, hammertoes, high arches, claw toe, mallet toe, and crossover toe.

So, don’t let pain keep you feeling discomfort or keep you from your favourite activities? Call our office or go online and schedule a consultation!

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