How To Fix Crooked Toes

How To Fix Crooked Toes

"There was a crooked man, who had a crooked house. He had a crooked cat, and…he had some crooked toes...."

Hang on… that’s not how the nursery rhyme goes, is it?

Having crooked toes is not the natural state for your feet, either. Our feet have a duty that weighs heavy on them – they carry our FULL body around on a daily basis, and that’s no easy feat for such significant extremities.

And yet we often forget to respect and look after our feet, then wonder in shock at the apparent deformity that tends to develop over time.

Do you have crooked toe pain?

Foot pain is frequently overlooked as ‘just one of those things’, although it’s likely that there’s more to it than simple aches and twinges.

What are some common crooked toe pain symptoms?

  • Tenderness.
  • Swelling.
  • Corns or calluses.
  • Bunions.
  • Mis-shapen, bent or wonky toes.
  • Inflammation.
  • Joint stiffness.

Tenderness around the area is a potential sign that at least one of your toes is out of alignment, and a crooked toe complaint can present itself in a number of ways.

Swelling around the joint with pain, inflammation and redness indicates a definite problem.

it crowd hammer toe shoes

Jen's mangled feet from the IT Crowd

If your shoes are giving you grief, you have open sores, or painful calluses, it’s very probable that those little digits at the end of your feet need some well-deserved attention.

Often referred to as bunions, hammer toe, claw toe or mallet toe, crooked toes are a common and lasting issue for many individuals, and can cause a great deal of discomfort.

What causes crooked toes?

Although crooked toes can be triggered by hereditary health issues such as arthritis, according to Dr Ray at Northwest Foot And Ankle, the leading cause of crooked toes is often down to wearing conventional – and especially ill-fitting – footwear. Shoes that elevate your heels are a common culprit, as the very structure forces your toes into an unnatural position.

Similarly, ‘toe spring’ shoes can also be a problem. If you consider a pair of athletic shoes, you’ll notice how the front of the shoe curves up. This design feature manipulates your toes into an upward position, putting a strain on the tendons and bones in the foot.

Do bad shoes = bad toes?

Deformities aren’t all caused by stilettos and training shoes, however. In fact, most ‘flat’ shoes tend to incorporate a slight elevation in the heel, and generally encompass a toe spring. More significantly, tapered toe boxes (the toe area of the shoe) force the toes into a reversed triangular shape. The big toe is pushed inwards, causing the metatarsal to protrude and bulge on the inner side of the foot.

When we are born, our feet are ready-formed with the toes splayed outwards, much like many other mammals and creatures, to assist with balance and correct posture as nature intended. And yet we squeeze them into shoes that change their biological shape, albeit in a bid to keep them protected.

How to help a crooked big toe.

We have covered big toe pain in a previous article, but as confirmed by the experts over at the excellent Sports Injury Clinic website, one of the most widespread complaints affecting the largest toe, is hallux valgus; or as it is more commonly known, a bunion. As mentioned above, this can be hereditary in both women and men, but it tends to be more prevalent in women.

You will generally be more at risk of developing bunions if you have a history of arthritis, have experienced foot trauma, over-pronation, and last but not least, ill-fitting shoes.

Ensuring that children have shoes that are long enough, or wide enough in adults can help to prevent this issue, but fortunately there are options that can help to correct it, too.

example of hammer toe

This person's foot shows a good example of a Bunion and also some crooked toes.

What about my crooked second toe?

This can happen to any toe, but hammer toe, or digitus malleus, commonly occurs in the second or third toe. The deformity presents itself through a curling of the toe, or bending at the middle toe joint, which causes a ‘hammerhead’ shape – often resulting in sores or calluses on the joint.

As with bunions, the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society confirm that hammer toe can be caused by ill-fitting shoes, foot injuries or arthritis.

Types of hammer toe:

  • Flexible hammer toe - the toe can still be moved at the joint.
  • Rigid hammer toe - the toe is immobile.

Rigid hammer toe usually happens when the tendons become stiff and inflexible and often will need to be corrected with surgery.

How to straighten crooked toes without surgery.

So, what are we to do, short of leaving our feet as nature intended for the rest of our lives?

Of course, prevention is better than cure, and going barefoot where possible will go a long way to stave off any potential problems, as will wearing shoes that don’t force your feet into an unnatural position.

But thanks to fashion and modern trends, it’s unlikely that correctly fitting footwear is going to explode onto the market and change toe-attire any time soon.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help your toes and hopefully banish a lot of the discomfort.

Wear proper shoes to prevent bad toes.

First of all, finding the best shoe-fit you can will be a good first step. Avoid a pointed toe box and choose shoes where your longest toe doesn’t touch the end of the toe box/toe area. Softer material may also help.

Following that, it is possible to correct the misalignment of your toes, and it doesn’t have to involve surgery (which should really only be considered if all other options have been explored, and if the individual is experiencing severe pain on a daily basis).

Stretch, exercise and massage your toes.

Regardless of whether your complaint is that of bunions or hammer toe, you can help your long-suffering digits by treating them to a regular exercise program, as well as massage, to ease out any stiffness.

This video from The Health Channel gives some simple and effective exercises that can be done at home or work to help relieve hammertoe pain.

Use products like toe stretchers.

toe spacer hammer toe

A simple toe spacer such as this, will help keep your toes pointing in the correct position, avoiding any pain and discomfort.

There are also a number of corrective gadgets on the market, such as toe spacers, which can go a long way to help realign toes.

The user can wear them on their own, under socks, or in a correctly-fitting shoe.

** Read our review of the best gel toe spacers to see how effective these can be to help with quite a few different foot, ankle and toe ailments.


In summary, it’s important to understand and embrace the genetic structure of our feet as mother nature intended, and work on going back to basics.

Wear the right shoes, give your walking apparatus the treatment they deserve, and get off on the right foot in correcting your toes.