What are claw toes?
Claw toes are a toe deformity similar to a hammertoe but with a few distinguishable differences.
Claw toes, like hammertoes, describe the bent position of the toes that looks like the toe is curling down. Unlike a hammertoe, claw toes have a closer resemblance to a hook where the toes curl beneath themselves.
What causes claw toes?
Tight shoes that squeeze your forefoot are the most common cause for this toe position. Diabetes, trauma, excessive inflammation and alcoholism are also culprits. The process behind diabetes and alcoholism is the resulting nerve damage that weakens the muscles of the foot, leading to the clawing of the toes. Certain neurological conditions can also weaken the foot muscles and these need to be ruled out with specific tests.
How are claw toes treated?
When toes first begin to claw, they are still flexible and may be managed with:
- Taping or splinting
- Good fitting footwear with a deep toe box
- Stretching and strengthening
- Orthotics if the cause includes faulty foot biomechanics
When claw toes have been present for years and are rigid, medical grade footwear is often indicated. Only as a very last resort should you consider surgery. Claw toes are often associated with bunions and other alignment problems.