A claw toe is an extremely painful toe deformity which causes the toe to bend downwards into a claw-like shape. It is caused by a strain on the lower end of the digit, and are most common in the 2nd through 5th toes. The toe, when it bends and contracts, curls the top edge of the toenail, causing the painful inflammation. Claw toe can be treated early while the deformity is still flexible with splints or tape, but the tendonitis can become thick and hardened over time. While this can be very painful, it can also lead to permanent damage to other joints of the foot.
One of the most common causes of claw toe conditions is mallet toes. Mallet toes are actually a condition of the bones at the joint closest to the claw toe. When bones, tendons, or ligaments get stressed, they become inflamed and cause pain and often stiffness as well. This tends to happen most commonly in women and young children but can happen anyone. Treating mallet toes involves strengthening the surrounding tissues and bones of the foot which help reduce the risk of future injuries.
Increased stress on the feet and lower legs due to excess weight can lead to arthritis in the body's joints. A thickening and inflammation of the tendon sheath (the tissue covering the tendons and ligaments) is one of the main symptoms. This tissue thickens and creates pain when the body applies pressure on it. This can also occur in the area surrounding the claw toe if the body is placing too much stress on the joint.
The causes of mallet toe deformity are numerous, many of them hereditary. Some can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding long-term illness and poor nutrition, and wearing the correct footwear with appropriate arch support shoe insoles. In some cases the problem can be treated through surgery, though this is far more likely in patients with more severe cases. More common methods of treatment include physical therapy, night splints, braces, orthotic shoe inserts, and laser surgery.
As the name implies, night splints keep the foot stretched out at night so that the toes do not rotate inward during the day. Orthotics are devices that are either cushioned, molded or custom-made to provide an extra arch support by reducing the outward curve of the foot. They are specially designed to work in combination with a person's shoes to help prevent the problem from recurring. Most orthotics are comfortable and made of soft materials so as to not wear down easily over time.
If you have visited a doctor and know that the cause of your toe condition is both hereditary and unable to be cured through home treatment methods, then you may need surgery to correct it. There are two types of surgery: one that puts plates under each toe to block bone growth, and one where a device is used to push the bone back into position. Both procedures are relatively quick and fairly painless, though in rare cases, bones can be damaged, which will require additional treatment.
Claw Toe deformities that cannot be fixed through home treatment methods may occur because of extra digit malformations caused by an accident or injury. Extra digits appear as misaligned toes, and these usually grow wider as you get older. Wearing shoes for long periods of time may also contribute to this issue, as walking on hard surfaces may cause damage to the bones in your toes and heels.
Commonly called "hammertoes," "toe bends" or "toe claws," a common cause of these conditions is a lack of proper footwear and/or proper shoe insole. People who wear tight-fitting shoes or boots are much more likely to have their toe bones grow out of shape than those who don't. Having proper footwear with a great PowerStep arch support insole is important for everyone's health, and it can prevent your toes from becoming a painful problem.