The word “claw” can conjure up a variety of images, such as eagle talons, lion paws, and knobby witch’s hands. They imply curved, sharp, stiff digits. Wicked witches in movies aside, people generally do not have claws; however, your toes can clench painfully into a condition called claw toe. Since you need your toes to help stabilize your feet as you walk, this problem can actually impair your mobility.

Clenched Toes

Claw toes are digits that curl inward and under, often pressing painfully into the soles of your shoes. The problem can affect any of the small toes—just one or all of them at once. An imbalance in your muscles and tendons causes the issue: one set of muscles pull in, while their opposites, which are supposed to keep the toes straight, aren’t strong enough to counteract them.

Initially you should be able to manually straighten out your toes. As the issue progresses, however, the digits become rigid and stuck. Eventually they can become permanently fixed in the curled position unless you take steps to treat the problem before it reaches that point.

The more limited your toe movement is, the more painful the problem becomes. The bent digits often rub against your footwear as well, which can cause corns to develop. Several different issues can lead the imbalance that causes to claw toe. Neurological conditions, biomechanical problems, diabetes, and arthritis can all cause muscular imbalances in your lower limbs. Tight shoes that cramp the toes can contribute to the condition as well. Fortunately, if you catch the issue early enough, it can be treated using conservative measures.

Relieving the Pressure

You will need to have your claw toe examined to determine its severity and the underlying cause. If a disease or preexisting condition caused your digits to contract, that will need to be treated as well to prevent the clawed toes from returning. We will thoroughly evaluate your feet and ankles. Then we can help you determine the best way to straighten out your toes.

Physical therapy to stretch and strengthen your toes may help counteract the muscle imbalance. Shoes with roomy toe boxes allow them to spread and avoid cramping. They can also help prevent corns from developing. You may need to wear orthotics to help support and pad your feet as well. If your digits are more rigid, then pads or taping can help protect them and relieve some pressure on the ball of the foot. You may still need special shoes with deep toe boxes. If conservative treatments are not helping and the problem is still worsening, you may need surgery to unclench your toes.

Your toes are meant to be straight and help you maintain stability. If they are painfully curled or rigid, they cannot do their job, and they impair your walking. With a little care and intervention, however, you can eliminate your pain and prevent an issue like claw toe from becoming permanent. Don’t wait until only surgery can offer relief. Contact Advanced Foot & Ankle Specialists of Arizona for an appointment or more information to take care of your toes.