Claw Toes

Is your toe bending downwards instead of forward?

A Claw toe is a deformity that causes your toe to bend or curl downward instead of pointing forward. This “abnormal” position can almost be referred to as “normal” as so many people have them. We only become involved in their treatment when the toe position produces pain, infection or irritation within footwear. Women are more likely to get pain associated with hammertoes than men because of footwear.

Claw Toe

Your toes are bent upward (extension) from the joints at the ball of the foot.

Your toes are bent downward (flexion) at the middle joints toward the sole of your shoe.

Sometimes your toes also bend downward at the top joints, curling under the foot.

Corns may develop over the top of the toe or under the ball of the foot.

A claw toe is a toe that is contracted at the Proximal Inter Phalangeal Joint (PIPJ) and Distal Inter Phalangeal Joint (DIPJ)  (middle and end joints in the toe), and can lead to severe pressure and pain. Ligaments and tendons that have tightened cause the toe's joints to curl downwards. Claw toes may occur in any toe, except the big toe. There is often discomfort at the top part of the toe that is rubbing against the shoe and at the end of the toe that is pressed against the bottom of the shoe.


Claw toes result from a muscle imbalance which causes the ligaments and tendons to become unnaturally tight.   This results in the joints curling downwards.  A claw toe deformity has a cocked up MTP joint, and both the middle joint (PIPJ) and the tiny joint at the end of the toe (the DIPJ) are curled downward like a claw.

Claw toes are common in people with high arches. And they can come from a muscle imbalance in which the deeper (intrinsic) toe muscles are weaker than the surface (extrinsic) muscles of the toes. This type of muscle imbalance can occur from more serious nerve problems.

Claw toes are classified based on the mobility of the toe joints. There are two types - flexible and rigid.  In a flexible claw toe, the joint has the ability to move. This type of claw toe can be straightened manually. A rigid claw toe does not have that same ability to move. Movement is very limited and can be extremely painful. This sometimes causes foot movement to become restricted leading to extra stress at the ball-of-the-foot, and possibly causing pain and the development of corns and calluses.

Arthritis can also lead to many different forefoot deformities, including claw toes.

  • Ankle fractures or surgery
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
  • Other brain and nervous system disorders
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

The correction of any foot disorder is dependent on the provider understanding the cause of that disorder. If you thing you have a hammer toe, please contact our rooms to arrange an appointment with Mr Edwards.

He will be able to perform a physical examination of your foot and your toe, X-rays may be required and a full explanation of your condition will be given.

Surgery is recommended when your toe is not moving in the flexed position and you have either:

  • Pain
  • Infection
  • Irritation in footwear
  • Painful corns on the toes flexed position

 Surgery options include surgically releasing the tendon to help lower your toes position and bone surgery to fuse the toe joint so that toe straightens.

Claw toes can be caused by tight fitting footwear. Tight fitting hosiery, in-particular tight fitting “onsies” for infants can also harm the growing foot and cause toe deformities. It’s best to cut to young feet free and let cover them in cosy, loose fitting clothing. Other toe shapes are inherited and there is little we can do to influence their shape. In general, give your toes room to breathe, treat them like fingers rather than sausages and do your best to accommodate their shape rather than force them into spaces that are too tight.

Mr Edwards can discuss the surgical treatment options available for your Claw Toe during your consultation.

For further advice or to make an appointment, please contact one of our professional team, our numbers and contact details are listed on the Contact page.