Wound Care

Claw Toe Surgery: What You Need to Know

Claw Toe Surgery: What You Need to Know

Posted On: November 21, 2022

Claw toe is a common condition that occurs when a person’s toes bend into a claw-like position. It typically happens to the four smaller toes and affects the middle and end joints (those furthest away from the ankle). Without treatment for claw toe, whether surgical or non-surgical, affected toes may become permanently stiff and impact a person’s ability to walk or a blister can form on the top of the toes potentially creating a wound.

If you suffer from this condition, you may be considering claw toe surgery. In this blog post, our expert team will highlight everything you need to know about claw toe, its causes and symptoms, the surgical procedure, post-surgical care tips, and non-surgical treatment options. Let’s get started.

What Is Claw Toe?

As the name implies, claw toe is a deformity where the toes are bents in an abnormal claw-like shape. The main cause of claw toe is an imbalance of foot muscles, which can be caused by the following factors:

  • Ill-fitting shoes
  • Genes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis
  • Nerve damage caused by diabetes
  • Stroke (in this case, the stroke-side foot may be affected)
  • Spinal cord tumors
  • Polio and cerebral palsy
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (an inherited neurological disorder)
  • Trauma

Over time, without treatment, the symptoms of claw toe may get progressively worse. In addition to bent toes, these symptoms include calluses, corns, pain, blisters, ulcers, and swelling.

Claw toe is diagnosed during a physical examination of the toes, and a person may also be tested for neurological problems (as certain neurological disorders can weaken the muscles of your foot, resulting in imbalances). A primary healthcare provider typically refers a person to a podiatrist for specialized care and treatment options.

Surgical Treatment of Claw Toe

Both surgical and non-surgical options exist to treat claw toe. In this section, we will focus on surgery. The severity of a person’s claw toe will determine the exact type of surgery they will have (such s whether the claw toe is categorized as early or late stage/flexible or rigid).

Some of the surgical treatment options for claw toe include:

  • Toe fusion
  • Tendon lengthening and rerouting
  • Shortening the bones of the phalanx

Another option is to temporarily insert a steel pin to hold the affected toe in its correct position until healing occurs. Ultimately, the goal of claw toe surgery is to straighten the toe long-term (to recover support on the ground).

Claw toe surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure. It is performed either while the person is asleep or awake under local anesthesia. As the recovery time from claw toe surgery is minimal, a person can walk the same day wearing comfortable tennis shoes.

Goal of Claw Toe Surgery

The goal of claw toe surgery is to realign the toes and to relax the retracted parts. The specific nature of the procedure will depend on the exact type of surgery. Generally, claw toe surgery takes between 30 and 60 minutes to complete, though each case is different.

Following the completion of the surgery, a dressing will be applied and post-operative instructions are sent home with the patient.

Post-Surgery Recovery and Care Tips

While a person will be able to walk the same day as the surgery, full recovery will take a few weeks. The exact timetable for recovery will depend on the type of surgery a person has had (in some cases a person may benefit from the use of crutches, a walker, or a special shoe to help maintain balance during this stage).

Other post-surgery care tips include:

  • Keep the foot elevated as much as possible in the first few weeks after surgery
  • Avoid driving for a few weeks if the procedure was on your right foot
  • Avoid placing the affected foot under water until any screws or pins are removed (if applicable)
  • Regularly ice the foot to help reduce swelling
  • Consult with your doctor if you are unsure about performing any activities in the weeks after surgery
  • Avoid smoking

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

As noted, there also exists a number of non-surgical treatment options for claw toe. These include:

  • Strengthening and stretching toe muscles through exercises
  • Wearing shoes with good arch support, low heels, and roomy toe boxes
  • Avoiding tight shoes and high heels
  • Wearing a splint or tape to hold your toes where they’re supposed to be

What You Need to Know About Claw Toe Surgery

Without effective treatment such as claw toe surgery, claw toes may become permanent. This can make walking and running painful. If you would like to learn more about your surgical options regarding claw toe, speak with an experienced and professional podiatrist.

In North Texas, your premier choice for advanced podiatry and wound care is Graff Foot, Ankle and Wound Care. We treat a wide range of conditions including claw toe and hammer toe. Schedule your appointment with our team today or click here to request a callback.