In a perfect world, we would all have feet with normal arches, our toes would lie straight and look lovely, and we would never have to worry about foot pain limiting our activity. Unfortunately, we don’t live in such a world, and many of us suffer with foot problems. From major issues like ankle fractures or sprains to small problems with the toes, there is always the chance of something going wrong. Even overlapping or underlapping toes can cause discomfort and affect normal movement.

Why Won’t My Toes Lie Straight?

Many deformities in the toes are congenital – present at birth – and an overlapping toe is no exception. They are quite common in newborns. Some are caused by inherited traits and run in families. Others may result from the position in the womb or other structural problems. Adults can develop this problem over time if they are in the habit of wearing shoes that pinch their toes together. When there isn’t room for toes to lie flat, they will bunch together and may lie on top of each other. It is also common for people who develop a bunion to also have a second toe that overlaps the others.

Underlapping toes can be congenital, but they can also develop over time. Some people are born with muscle or ligament irregularities that pull the toes out of position. One such type – clinodactyly – involves the third, fourth, or fifth toe. The toe curls around so the top points toward the outside of the foot, giving it the common name congenital curly toe. These conditions can also be aggravated by wearing poor-fitting shoes.

Symptoms to Expect

When your toes underlap or overlap other toes, irritation will develop. They may rub against each other, causing blisters or red spots and pain, or against your shoes, causing calluses and corns that may also hurt. The pain may slow you down and alter the way you walk as you try to avoid it. The blisters, peeling skin, corns, and calluses could become infected and cause more serious complications. That is why even a simple problem with your toes could become a big problem for your health.

Treatments for Overlapping/Underlapping Toes

If the problem is congenital and discovered at birth, early treatment is begun while the tissues are still soft and malleable.Manipulating the toe into position and taping it in place during the first few weeks can help correct the problem. Exercises may also be used to stretch or strengthen the tendons and muscles, although the toe may always try to revert to its original position. The child will probably not outgrow the deformity, and as she gets older it will become more rigid.

Treatment in older people can include conservative methods like taping and exercise, but surgery may be necessary to correct the problem. If the toe is still flexible, just releasing the tendon that is pulling it out of position may relieve the problem. If the deformity is rigid, surgical intervention may involve the bones and skin as well.

If you or your child have overlapping or underlapping toes, visit the experts at Advanced Foot & Ankle Specialists of Arizona. Our doctors enjoy treating pediatric patients, and they can diagnose and treat any foot problem you experience.