Claw toe is similar in appearance to hammertoe, but the distal joint of the foot is also bent, giving your toes a claw-like appearance. Tight, improperly fitted shoes may be a factor of claw toe, but nerve damage, diabetes, alcoholism, and other vascular and muscle damaging conditions also can cause the muscle constriction. Failure to treat claw toe may result in permanent toe malformation that requires surgical intervention.
Claw toe may begin as a slight curve affecting multiple joints of the toe. It advances to the curved, claw-like appearance in which your toes bend upward from the metatarsal bones at the ball of your foot and downward from the middle joints. Unlike hammertoe, with claw toe the distal joint continues to bend and curls the distal phalange under the foot. That two-part curve is a clear sign of later stages.
Additionally, the tops of toes or ball of the foot may develop corns and calluses.
Claw toe may also indicate, or be caused by, neurological disorders that weaken foot and toe muscles, resulting in imbalance and bending. Curvature after trauma may also indicate the beginnings of claw toe.
Like hammertoe, the joints affected are flexible at first, but can become rigid over time. Non-surgical treatments such as better-fitting shoes, therapy, splints, and orthotics can help relieve symptoms. Additional treatment is necessary for other neurological conditions that cause claw toe. If surgery is required, your surgeon may recommend one or more procedures to restore toes to their appropriate alignment and movement. To learn more about surgical options, please review the HAT-TRICK◊ section of this website.