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McDowell Podiatry
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Claw Toes: A Monster of a Problem

Gargoyles, with their hunched backs and scary faces, do a lot of work scaring off evil spirits and also acting as gutters that draw water away from the walls of cathedrals and castles. It’s no wonder why these stone monsters have claw toes! If your toes were perched for that long, they would be scrunched up too! That’s exactly what happens when you develop this condition.

Developing the Deformity

Claw Toes and PainClaw toes is a deformity that causes your toes to dig into the floor. They form from wearing shoes that squish your feet together. If you wear running shoes that are too short, the front of your feet will hit the front of the shoe and create the problem. High heels can also put too much pressure on the front of your foot and push your toes together.  Many times claw toes are the result of foot instability due to abnormal pronation.  Also it can be one of the first signs of an impending neuropathy.

Diabetes and alcoholism can also create nerve damage that weakens the muscles in your lower limbs, making you more at risk for developing the digging deformity.

Gripping, Digging Digits Display Pain

This painful condition usually appears in all of the four little toes at the same time. The base of your toe will bend upward and then bend downward at the middle joint. Sometimes, the tiny bone near the toenail will even curl under. It can be hard to find shoes with this deformity. Calluses and corns can form on the top of the affected digits, which is a result of them rubbing on the tops of your footwear.

Claw Your Way to Health

If you let this condition go, it will most likely get worse over time and develop into a permanent deformity. The joints are still flexible, at first, but they harden. If you visit the McDowell Podiatry Group, we can take some tests to evaluate how far your deformity has progressed and find out what caused it—whether it’s from a neurological disorder, arthritis, diabetes, inflammation, or a previous injury.

Catching It Early

Early treatment consists of splinting and taping your toes into place. You’ll need to see a podiatrist like Dr. Brian McDowell or Dr. Gavin P. Ripp if you want to get expert advice on how to do this. In the meantime, you can stretch your joints with your hands and pick up marbles and towels with your toes to get some movement in the area.

Later Stages

In its later stages, claw toes will require special pads to redistribute your weight and take pressure off of the area. You may have to wear a special shoe that has an extra deep toe box. You can also have your regular shoes stretched in the toe area by a specialty shoe repair shop. If all treatment methods have been exhausted without relief, we will talk with you about surgery.

Scare It Away With Good Shoes

Shoes are an extremely important part of your treatment and prevention. Make sure you wear soft pairs that give the front of your foot some room. Avoid any tight and narrow shoes, including flats, pointy-toed dress shoes, and high heels. It might cost more money to invest in a good pair of shoes, but it will save you a lot of money—not to mention discomfort— in the long run.

If your claw toes are making simple tasks like walking difficult, call the McDowell Podiatry Group at (916) 961-3434. Our office in Carmichael, CA, serves the greater Sacramento area, including Fair Oaks and Rocklin. Find us on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter for more helpful articles! 

Photo Credit: Simon Howden

Dr. Brian McDowell
Dr. Brian McDowell, board-certified podiatrist, provides cutting-edge foot and ankle care in Carmichael, CA.