Toe Deformities

Toe deformities occur when the toe bones are misaligned. If left untreated, some toe deformities can negatively impact your child’s quality of life and cause problems with other weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips.


There are a number of reasons why toe deformities may occur. Some common ones include:

  • Children are born with the deformity (congenital)

  • Improperly fitted shoes

  • Trauma, such as jamming or toe fractures

  • Muscle and nerve damage that causes muscle and ligaments to tighten and leads to deformity

Signs & Symptoms

Common symptoms related to toe deformities are:

  • Pain when walking

  • Pain or discomfort when wearing shoes

Common Toe Deformities and Treatments

Hallux Valgus (Bunion)

Sometimes, the big toe (also known as the hallux) starts to turn towards the little toe causing a deformity at the base of the big toe. When this happens it is called hallux valgus or a bunion. Often this is caused by wearing the wrong types of shoes over time. Most bunions can be treated without surgery, using properly fitted shoes that take pressure off the area. If the bunion causes persistent pain and difficulty walking, surgery may be needed to realign the bones, tendons, and ligaments into the proper position.

Claw Toe

Claw toe is a condition where the toe bends down, digging or “clawing” into the bottom of the shoe. This condition is often caused by nerve damage, such as Charcot Marie Tooth Syndrome. Corns or callus may develop over the ball of the foot or the top of the toe, too. If the claw toe is flexible, wearing soft and spacious shoes can help along with stretching exercises. If the claw toe becomes more fixed and rigid, surgery might be needed.

Curly Toes

Curly toe is a condition that is usually present at birth, which means it is congenital. The toes that are typically affected are the small ones on the outside of the foot. They can curl towards the inside of the foot or to the outside. Curly toes happen when the tendons are too tight. In most cases, curly toe does not cause pain or discomfort. Surgery is rarely used, since the deformity usually gets better on its own.

Overlapping Fifth Toe

Overlapping fifth toe is usually present at birth (congenital) and it often runs in families. The condition causes the smallest toe on the outside of the foot to overlap the toe next to it. Performing stretching exercises and taping the toe can sometimes help, but the problem may come back. Surgery is rarely used, unless there is ongoing pain or other problems.

See more information

Congenital Limb Disorders

Orthopedic Rehabilitation