What causes Claw Toes?

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Claw toes can cause pain and discomfort, making daily activities, such as walking, more difficult.

However, if caught early, the condition can be easily treated.

We are going to take a look at what claw toes are, what causes the condition, and the treatment options available.


What are claw toes?

Claw toes is the name given to the condition where two or three joints (middle and end joints) in the toe become bent. Usually, the joint closest to the base of your toe points upwards, and the middle or end joints turn downwards, giving the toe a claw shape.

Claw toes are often confused with hammertoes; however, both are different conditions. With hammertoes, only the middle joint of the second toe is usually affected, causing it to bend downwards. With claw toes, at least two or all three toe joints are impacted, and the condition can occur in all four smaller toes.

If caught early, claw toes can be managed and prevented from becoming severe. However, the affected toes may become stiff and no longer flexible if left untreated.


What causes claw toes?

Clawed toes can occur for a variety of reasons, but the most common causes are:

  • Bunions
  • Ill-fitting shoes that cause toes to bend, such as high heels with pointed toes
  • Trauma or injury
  • Stroke
  • Certain genetic neurological conditions, such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth-Disease
  • Polio
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Nerve damage caused by conditions such as diabetes or alcoholism
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis


Claw Toe Symptoms

The main symptom of claw toes is when your toe joints become misshaped, making them appear claw-like.

If the condition progresses, the skin on your toes may begin to rub on your shoes, leading to corns, calluses, or blisters.

In severe cases, you may also experience some pain and swelling.


Treatment options for claw toes

Once an orthopaedic specialist has diagnosed you with claw toes, various treatment options are available depending on your condition's severity.


Non-surgical claw toe treatment options

An orthopaedic specialist may suggest you wear a splint or tape to help hold your toes in the correct position.

You may also be given stretching exercises to help keep your toes mobile, and the specialist may recommend that you wear soft shoes with plenty of room in the toe box.

However, if the condition advances and your toes become rigid, non-surgical treatments may be unsuccessful, and you may require surgery to correct the problem.


Claw toe surgery

The type of surgery you need will depend on the severity of the condition. 

Toe surgery may involve releasing or lengthening the tendons, realigning the joints, straightening the bone, or fixing toes in place using surgical wires or screws.

The type of procedure you need and how long it will take depends on the severity of the claw toes. Surgery will be carried out under general or local anaesthetic, and you should be able to return home the same day.

Costs for this type of surgery will vary depending on which procedure you need. At Ramsay Health Care, we offer a range of finance options to suit you, such as 0% interest payment plans and a Total Care package that, for a one-off payment, gives you direct access to all treatment and aftercare support.


Recovery from claw toe surgery

Following surgery, you will be advised to avoid putting any weight on your foot. You may also need special stockings or footwear and require crutches to mobilise.

You will need to keep your leg elevated as much as possible during the first week following surgery to help reduce the swelling, and your surgeon will advise which pain-relieving medication is safe to take.

Your surgeon will advise when it is safe for you to undertake exercises to help regain your mobility, and if you’ve had a wire inserted in your toes, you will be informed when this will be taken out.

It can take six weeks or more before you can return to wearing regular soft shoes. However, swelling can take up to six months to go down completely.


Treatment for toe conditions at Ramsay Health Care

When you undergo treatment and surgery for small toe conditions with Ramsay Health Care, you’ll be cared for by some of the UK’s highest qualified and experienced orthopaedic surgeons, pain management consultants and physiotherapists.


Register your interest to hear from us