Can Claw Toe Be Reversed? Tips for Improving Foot Function

What is claw toe?

Claw toe, also known as claw foot, is a common foot deformity that causes the toes to curl or bend in a claw-like shape. This condition can be painful and affect a person's ability to walk and wear shoes comfortably.

Claw Toe Infographic

Why does claw toe happen?

Claw toe is typically caused by an imbalance in the muscles, tendons, or ligaments that control toe movement and is often the result of nerve damage caused by diseases like diabetes or alcoholism, which can weaken the muscles in your foot. Trauma and inflammation can also cause claw toe deformity.

Having claw toe means your toes "claw," digging down into the soles of your shoes and creating painful calluses. With claw toe, your toes are bent upward (extension) from the joints at the ball of the foot; your toes are bent downward (flexion) at the middle joints toward the sole of your shoe; sometimes your toes also bend downward at the top joints, curling under the foot; corns may develop over the top of the toe or under the ball of the foot. Claw toe gets worse without treatment and may become a permanent deformity over time.

Can curled toes be straightened?

Claw toe deformities are usually flexible at first, but they harden into place over time. If you have claw toe in early stages, your doctor may recommend some of the treatments listed below. Treatment for claw toe depends on the severity of the condition but there are many things that can help.

Can wearing certain shoes help with claw toe?

You will be advised to wear shoes with soft, roomy toe boxes and avoid tight shoes and high heels. Low heels can help alleviate pressure on the toes and provide more room for the curled toes.

Wearing shoes that are too tight or too small can squeeze your toes together, causing the muscles and ligaments in your toes to weaken and eventually tighten, leading to claw toe. Shoes with higher heals will force your toes into the front of the shoe which can cause issues as well.

Narrow dress shoes that are bad for claw toe

Additionally, shoes with narrow or pointed toe boxes can exacerbate existing claw toe, as they provide little room for your toes to move naturally. Shoes that are too flat can also contribute to the problem, as they fail to provide adequate arch support, putting additional and unnecessary strain on the toes.

Are there any exercises that are good for curled toes?

Performing exercises and stretches to strengthen and stretch the muscles in the toes can help improve their flexibility and alignment. Use your hands to stretch your toes and toe joints toward their normal positions. Exercise your toes by using them to pick up marbles or use your toes to crumple a towel laid flat on the floor.

It may be recommended by your doctor to have a professional physical therapist guide you through the process. Physical therapy sessions may include exercises, manual therapy, and other techniques to improve toe flexibility and alignment.

They may recommend toe splinting or taping. Applying splints or tape to the affected toes can help straighten them and reduce discomfort.

Can orthotics fix claw toes?

Wearing custom-made orthotic devices, such as toe splints or toe crest pads, can help realign the toes and relieve pressure on the affected joints.

Are there any medications that can help?

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroid injections may be prescribed to help reduce pain and inflammation associated with claw toe.

Can I avoid claw toe surgery with lifestyle modifications?

Avoiding activities that exacerbate claw toe, such as wearing tight shoes or engaging in activities that put excessive pressure on the toes, can help prevent further progression of the condition.

Can changing my diet help?

While what you eat won't directly cause claw toe, it can affect the condition and how you manage it. Being overweight can make you more likely to develop claw toe or make existing symptoms worse, because the extra weight puts pressure on your toes and feet.

To help reduce your risk of claw toe, it's important to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet. Cutting sugars is always a good idea. You will want a diet that includes calcium and vitamin D-rich foods like dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified cereals, as these nutrients can promote healthy bone growth and prevent conditions like osteoporosis that can lead to claw toe. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water can also help reduce joint inflammation and alleviate claw toe symptoms.

Big bowl of leafy greens

While changing your diet won't cure claw toe, it can be a helpful part of an overall treatment plan that promotes better foot health and manages the condition's symptoms. As always make sure you consult your healthcare professional before making any diet changes or doing things that can affect your health.

Are there products that help for claw toe after it has progressed?

If you have claw toe in later stages and your toes are fixed in position, a special pad can be purchased to redistribute your weight and relieve pressure on the ball of your foot; You can try special "in depth" shoes that have an extra 3/8" depth in the toe box; a shoe repair shop may be able to stretch a small pocket in the toe box to accommodate your specific deformity.

When do I need to see a doctor?

In some cases, if conservative treatments are not effective, surgical intervention may be recommended. Surgery for claw toe may involve releasing or lengthening tight tendons, fusing joints, or removing bone to correct the deformity.

For an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan for claw toe, consult with a healthcare professional, such as a podiatrist or orthopedic specialist. Treatment options may vary depending on the severity of the condition, overall health of the individual, and other individual factors.

To learn more about foot pain issues and how to locate the causes of foot pain click here.

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