Claw toe is a deformity, where a toe bends and appears like a bird’s claw. The affected toe is bent upward from the joint at the ball of foot, and downward at the joints in the middle and tip of the toe to curl under the foot. Hard thick skin called corns may develop under the ball of the foot or on the top of the affected toe, causing pain while walking.
Claw toe can occur in the four toes other than the big toe due to nerve damage, which weakens the muscles. They may be present at birth or acquired later due to other disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, cerebral palsy and brain injury. Women are affected more often than men since claw toe can also form by wearing very tight or high-heeled shoes.
When you present to your doctor’s office with these symptoms, your doctor performs a physical examination of the foot and orders tests to rule out other nerve disorders that can weaken muscles in the foot.
Claw toe is first treated conservatively with regular stretching of the toe and toe joints, wearing soft comfortable shoes with a broader toe box, or splinting or taping to hold or align the toes in the correct position. When conservative treatment does not relieve symptoms, your doctor may suggest surgical correction. This often involves tendon releases.