Your toes are supposed to lay flat on the ground when you’re standing upright, but for millions of Americans, one or more of their small toes is visibly bent or curled downwards. They may not be painful at the moment, but if you notice that the middle of one or more of your toes is beginning to bend upwards, you should reach out to your family physician or a foot and ankle specialist. Below, we take a closer look at three different conditions that can lead to bent toes, and why treating them sooner rather than later is imperative to preventing long-term issues.

Different Types Of Bent Toes

If one of your smaller toes has a visible upwards bend to it, you’re likely dealing with the early stages of one of the following conditions:

  • Hammertoes – A hammertoe describes a toe that is bent downwards because of an issue with the second joint in one of your toes. This causes the middle toe joint to rise up and the toe itself points towards the floor.
  • Claw Toes – Claw toes involve an abnormal bend of the middle and last joint in your toe, not only causing the middle joint to rise up, but the tip of the toe begins to curl underneath itself, giving the toe a claw-like appearance, hence the name.
  • Mallet Toes – Mallet toe is the term for an abnormal bend in just the joint closest to the tip of your toe. It most commonly affects your second toe, especially if it is longer than your great toe, but it can affect any of the smaller toes. With mallet toes, just the tip of the toe points downward.

Why Do Toes Unnaturally Bend?

The most common cause of one of the above toe abnormalities is the result of prolonged use of ill-fitting shoes. If your toes are constantly pressed up against the front of a tight toe box, your toes may bend due to the lack of space. Over time, this puts excessive stress on the joint and soft tissues like the muscles and tendons. This can cause muscles to tighten and tendons to contract, and left untreated these tissues can become less flexible and more rigid. This means that even when your feet are free from shoes, the shortened or rigid tendons may rest in a contracted state, causing the toe deformity.

Aside from poor-fitting shoes, diabetes and arthritic changes can lead to joint damage and visible toe changes, so it’s important to monitor your foot health if you’re dealing with either of those health conditions.

If you notice that one or more of your toes is starting to bend upwards, it’s imperative that you seek treatment sooner rather than later, even if you’re not in pain at the moment. If you continue to wear tight shoes or neglect those toe joints, the problem will only get worse. Addressing the problem while the tendons are still healthy and flexible typically yields much more successful results than if your toe tendons have become rigid. If enough damage has taken place, conservative treatment will be ineffective, and at that point the only way to address the discomfort and deformity is through a surgical procedure.

So if you are noticing what appears to be an abnormal bend in one of your smaller toes, reach out to Dr. McDonald and his team. He can assess the health of your toe joints and set you up with a conservative care plan to prevent any further progression and alleviate any symptoms. If the condition is already in a rigid state, he can also discuss your surgical options and the benefits associated with correcting the deformity with a minimally invasive procedure. For more information, or for help with any foot or ankle condition, reach out to his team today at (860) 244-8889.

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