If your toes are crooked, you might not like their appearance. But crooked toes aren’t just a cosmetic problem. Crooked toes can rub against your shoes and cause painful calluses on the tops, tips and sides of your toes, as well as, in between your toes. When you have crooked toes, it can also be a challenge to find shoes that fit comfortably.
Crooked toes can be dangerous if you have diabetes, numbness in your feet or circulation problems. That’s because crooked toes can lead to calluses that turn into wounds and become infected. “This is a leading cause of toe amputations,” said Allison Rottman, DPM, a podiatrist with Banner – University Medicine in Arizona. If you have any of these conditions, make sure a health care provider evaluates your feet regularly to check for calluses and wounds.
Why are my toes crooked?
Your toes could be crooked because you have an imbalance in the ligaments, tendons, bones and muscles that control their positions. Dr. Rottman said these imbalances could be caused by:
- Nerve damage
- Wearing improper shoes, such as shoes that are too small or narrow
Depending on how your toe bends, you could have different types of crooked toes:
- Hammertoes. The middle joint bends the toe down, which causes the middle joint and bone to rise up. It’s most common in the second toe (next to the big toe). Hammertoes can cause thick toenails.
- Mallet toes. The joint at the end of the toe makes the toe bend down.
- Claw toes. The joints in the middle and end of the toe bend down so the toe curls in and contracts.
How can I prevent crooked toes?
You can take steps to keep your toes from becoming crooked—choose shoes that are long and wide enough for your feet, with a deep toe box. You’ll want about a finger width of space at the end of the shoe. Dr. Rottman recommends keeping your heel height to two inches or less. Stretching and strengthening your feet and toes can also help prevent toe deformities.
How can I treat my crooked toes?
If you have crooked toes, you can treat them with pads that help straighten out the toes and by wearing shoes that give your toes lots of space in the toe box. You can get special shoes prescribed if you need to. “In cases where these treatments do not work, there are several surgical options,” Dr. Rottman said.
The bottom line
Crooked toes aren’t just a cosmetic problem. They can cause foot pain, and they can lead to dangerous complications if you have diabetes, numbness in your feet or circulatory problems. Talk to your health care provider or a podiatrist to learn how to take care of your crooked toes. Reach out if you would like to connect with a podiatrist at Banner Health.
Learn more about caring for your feet:
- Do Your Feet Under or Overpronate? Here’s How to Tell
- Toe Pain, No Gain: Causes for Second Toe Pain
- How to Prevent (and Treat!) Ingrown Toenails
- Are Over-the-Counter Insoles a Waste or Worth It?