Crooked toes can be caused by genetics, disease, flat feet or highly arched feet, rheumatoid arthritis, trauma to the toe or by shoes that are too small, too high or too narrow. In the early stages crooked toes can usually be corrected by self-treatment and ditching the high heels, but toe deformities can be a sign of nerve damage from more serious causes, so a doctor should be visited to rule these out.
Identify which of the three types of crooked toes you have. Hammertoe, also known as contracted toe, bone spur, deformed toe or rotated toe, is a deformity of the second, third or fourth toe caused by a bend in the toe at the middle joint. This bend results in a hammer-like appearance. If you have hammertoe you may have corns or calluses on the tip of the toe or on the joint surface.
Claw toe means that your toe "claws" into the ground or into the sole of a shoe. Calluses develop from the toe's rubbing against the sole of the shoe. Claw toe involves abnormal positioning of all three joints in the toe.
Mallet toe is similar to claw toe but involves abnormal positioning only of the joint at the end of the toe.
Check your shoes to see if they may have caused the toe deformity. Hammertoe sufferers may have caused or exacerbated their condition by wearing shoes that are too small or too narrow at the toe, or by wearing high heels that put pressure on the muscle groups of the toe. Additional factors in hammertoe are muscle imbalances, which are worsened by wearing these types of shoe.
Mallet toes and claw toes can also be caused by wearing shoes that are too high, too small or too narrow. However, conditions such as diabetes and alcoholism can result in nerve damage that causes claw toe.
To avoid worsening the crooked toe, wear shoes that have space in the toe area to accommodate the toes. Shoes should be at least half an inch longer than your longest toe.
Visit your doctor. She can rule out more serious reasons for your toe deformity, such as nerve damage, and give recommendations for treating the issue. People with diabetes, poor circulation or lack of feeling in their feet should visit a doctor before attempting any self-treatment.
Do toe exercises. These will stretch the stressed muscles and strengthen them in the correct position. Manually stretching the toes is a simple exercise. Picking things up with your toes will allow the muscles to work in a way contrary to the clawed or hammered formation and strengthen the muscles. Placing a towel or paper under your feet and crumpling it with your toes is another stretching and strengthening exercise.
Fit your shoes with cushions or pads, available from drugstores.
Consider surgery if it is recommended by your doctor. Early-symptom toe deformities can usually be corrected without the need for surgery, but for those who have permanent or painful deformities surgery can be a solution.
Surgery types for deformed toes include tendon transfer for correcting hammertoes, whereby a toe tendon is repositioned, straightening the toe; bone arthroplasty, whereby some bone and cartilage are removed to correct appearance; derotation arthroplasty, whereby skin is excised to allow correct repositioning of the toe; implant arthroplasty, whereby the surgeon implants silicon or metal to act as the sliding surfaces of the joint; and tenoplasty and capsulotomy, which release or lengthen tendons or ligaments, loosening up movement of the toe.
- Risks of surgery include swelling, infection and nerve damage. (See Reference One)