Are you toes beginning to bend up at the first joint, but down at the second joint? In other words, are your toes beginning to curl up so that they resemble claws? This condition usually affects all of the toes except for the big toe, and it is known as claw toe. Here's a closer look.
What are the symptoms of claw toe?
The primary symptom of the condition is the curling you're experiencing. However, you may also develop calluses on the tops of your toe as they rub on the bottom of your shoe. You may not initially experience any pain, but over time, soreness develops, especially after you wear shoes. Some patients have pain not only in the affected toes, but also in the top of the foot since the bending of the toes pulls on the muscles in the top of the foot.
What causes claw toe?
In most cases, claw toe is brought on by wearing shoes that are too small for an extended period of time. The shoes press on the front of your toes, causing them to curl -- and you may even subconsciously start curling your toes to better fit them into the shoes. Those with conditions that impede circulation in the feet -- such as diabetes and alcoholism -- are at an increased risk of developing claw toe since the decreased circulation weakens the muscles and makes them more prone to shortening and curling the toes.
What can be done about claw toe?
If you are just starting to notice symptoms of this condition, you may be able to correct it without professional medical help. Switch to roomier shoes, and spend a little time each day massaging your toes. As you massage them, straighten them back into their normal positions. Also, stretch and strengthen your toes by using them to pick up items like socks or marbles.
If you have had claw toe for a while and find it hard or impossible to straighten your toes into their natural position, then you should see a podiatrist. He or she can recommend a special orthotic device to slowly shift your toes back into a straight position. In the most serious of cases, you may need surgery to correct the problem.
Claw toe does not start off as a serious condition, but it can progress to the point that it impedes your walking and causes serious pain. So if your toes are starting to curl, the time to act is now. For more information about foot and ankle pain, contact a doctor.