Wound Care

Claw Toes: Causes and Treatments

Claw Toes: Causes and Treatments

Posted On: November 21, 2022

Claw toes are no laughing matter. Deformities of the toes account for 20% of reported cases of foot and toe health issues.

Having claw toes can affect how you stand, walk, and exercise. But you’re not helpless to your claw toes. You can find effective treatment solutions once you educate yourself about them.

What are claw toes, and how can you know that you have them? What causes claw toes, and do any pre-existing conditions contribute to them? What are your treatment options?

Answer these questions and you can make living with claw toes easy. Here is your quick guide.

Symptoms of Claw Toes

The most obvious sign of claw toes is the unusual shape of your toes. Your toes point downward, and you may find it hard to straighten them.

Some people have pronounced claws while others have slight ones. As the condition gets worse, the claws may get more pronounced.

Many people develop blisters, calluses, and corns on their toes. These aberrations can occur on any part of your toe, including on your joints. They often occur due to the misshapen toes rubbing against the sides of shoes and other objects.

Your toes can also become swollen. Fluid may become trapped in your joints or underneath your skin.

Claw toe pain may or may not be present. Some people experience a tearing or throbbing pain, especially when they are standing or running on their toes. You may feel pain when you try to stretch or spread your toes out.

On rare occasions, people develop ulcers. These people usually have pre-existing conditions like diabetes that contribute to skin and foot problems. But if you scrape your foot or get into an accident, you can develop an ulcer on your toes.


Many people develop claw toes due to an imbalance in their muscles. While playing sports or exerting themselves, they may contract their toe muscles too far. This may cause the joints to bend and the tendons to tighten, resulting in claw toes.

Ill-fitting shoes can also force your toes out of place. If your shoes are too small, you may bend your toes to fit your feet inside of them. Over time, this can create claw toes.

If your nerves are damaged, you may curl up your toes without noticing it. Many people have nerve damage due to diabetes, alcoholism, or strokes.

Rheumatoid arthritis causes nerve, joint, and muscle damage throughout the body, including in the toes. Other less common causes include spinal cord tumors and polio.


Once you notice symptoms of claw toes, you should go to your doctor for an evaluation. Do not wait, as your toes may get worse, and you may develop problems with your ankles and feet. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and may perform a few tests.

You should then see a foot specialist. They will run tests to determine if you have neurological disorders that can affect your foot muscles. If you don’t, they will diagnose you with claw toes.

Treating Claw Toes

Don’t panic if you get a diagnosis of claw toes. Treatment for claw toes is straightforward, and you may be able to have healthy feet within a few days or weeks.

Wear Different Shoes

Your doctor may recommend that you wear a specific type of shoes. If they don’t give you a recommendation, you should find shoes that give you room for your toes. Feel free to buy a pair that is one size bigger than the shoes you normally wear, as this will give you room to extend your toes forward.

Try to find shoes with a soft insole. Do not wear high heels, as high-heeled shoes push your toes forward. You should also avoid tight shoes.

You can add a special pad to your shoes if your toes are locked in the claw position. This can redistribute the weight across your muscles and take pressure off the ball of your foot. Talk to your doctor about custom shoe inserts you can get.

Stretch Your Toes

You should stretch your toes multiple times a day every day. Sit down and use your hands to pull and massage your toes into their normal positions. Do not apply too much force, but exert enough that your toes extend outward.

Put marbles or small objects on the ground and use your toes to pick them up. Lift them off the ground, move them to the side, and then drop them into a container. Move one object at a time so you don’t overexert yourself.

Consider Claw Toe Surgery

Claw toe surgery is a last resort if nothing else works. You can get it right away if you have severe pain or mobility problems.

A surgeon can insert steep pins into your toes. This will hold your toes in position and allow you to heal over time.

If you are having problems with your bones, your surgeon can shorten your bones. They can also reroute or lengthen your tendons, which can help you stretch your toes out.

Most surgeries are outpatient procedures, so you will not have to stay the night in a hospital. However, you will need to spend time resting, and you should not exercise or apply pressure to your feet for a week or longer.

The Basics of Claw Toes

Claw toes can cause deformities, pain, and ulcers. They can originate from trauma, nerve damage, and arthritis. If you think you have them, go to your personal doctor, then make an appointment with a foot specialist.

Buy shoes that let your toes stretch out and rest your soles. Pull on your toes with your fingers and practice picking up objects off the ground. You can consider surgery if living with claw toes is too difficult for you.

Foot and ankle specialists are available in your neighborhood. Graff Foot, Ankle & Wound Care serves the Plano area. Contact us today.