How To Treat 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.
3% of US adults over the age of 21 suffer from crooked or hammer toes, according to The Institute For Preventative Foot Health.
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?
- Corns or calluses.
- Mis-shapen, bent or wonky toes.
- 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.
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.
This great video explains why high heels cause hammertoe.
It also explains that if you have to wear heels, make sure to flex and stretch your toes afterwards or use a product like YogaToes, which I have reviewed on this site.
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.
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.
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.
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 tootsies 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.
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.
You 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.
Do toe straighteners work?
Toe straighteners are a good option to fix your toes’ alignment without the need to perform surgery.
You can definitely find comfort in using toe straighteners to change the structure of your toes and prevent them from hurting for good.
What types of toe straighteners are best for crooked toes?
There are many options available for you when attempting to fix this problem. Check out some of the most popular ones on the market:
For one crooked, big toe.
A Bunion Splint Corrector helps you find relief for your big toe pain.
The splint works to correct the toe crookedness over time.
For many crooked toes.
An entire toe separator would work well in this situation.
You can put these on like socks and keep them on overnight. These tend to be a little bit more comfortable as they keep your entire foot in line without a splint.
For hammer toes.
These types of toe straighteners work to correct claw overlapping toes.
These crooked toes can be corrected individually with this splint. It helps to gently separate and align crooked toes and can be a great option for you if you need effective toe straighteners.
These types are also interchangeable between the right or left foot.
What are the benefits of toe straighteners?
When used properly over a recommended period of time, toe straighteners can significantly reduce the appearance and pain experienced with crooked toes.
Here are some of their best benefits:
- Flexibility - They can be used on anyone because of their adaptability.
- Affordability - They are very inexpensive, which makes them easier to buy for anyone.
- Recyclable - They can be reused a number of times. If you experience symptoms, simply just continue to reuse until they cease.
- Non-Invasive - They are safe to use because they do not require any surgery.
All toe straighteners work differently so be sure to choose one that works best for you. Amazon has a few options to choose from that would work well for anyone dealing with crooked toes.
Treating your toes’ misalignment no longer has to feel like a daunting experience. You can now treat your condition with safe and effective home treatments such as using toe straighteners. They were designed to give you results without the need for costly and dangerous surgery.
They are a nice alternative for you if you are looking to cure their conditions on your own. Toe straighteners can help you take your life back and expose your feet without feeling embarrassed or discomfort.
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.