woman holding her foot

Why Are Your Toes Curling Down?

Squeezing your feet into shoes that don't fit well can do serious damage to your toes and feet. Learn more about why your toes may be curling down—and other foot conditions.

Your Health

Some women go to great measures for the sake of being fashionable. We're talking to you high-heeled loving ladies or ones who buy shoes even if they're just a bit too snug.

However, squeezing your feet into footwear that doesn't fit can do a serious number on your toes. Here are a few conditions you may experience.

Types of Toe Conditions

Hammertoe: The middle joint of your toe bends downward. That causes your toe to rise up instead of lying flat. It occurs typically in your second, third and fourth toes. It happens when one of the toe muscles becomes weak. That puts pressure on the toe's tendons and joints, forcing the toe to become misshapen and stick up at the joint. Oftentimes, a corn or callus is on top of the deformed toe.

Claw toe: Your toes make a claw shape. The joint at the base of the toe bends up. And the other two joints bend down. That makes your toe curl and dig into your shoes' soles. You may have painful calluses or corns. Claw toe worsens without treatment and may become permanent over time.

Mallet toe: Your toe bends down at the joint closest to the nail (the joint that is at the end of the toe). It often happens in your second, third and fourth toes. Typically, though, it happens in the second toe since it's usually the longest. The skin near the toenail tip develops a painful corn, which can eventually lead to an ulcer. You may have corns or calluses or redness and swelling in the affected toe.

If you wear high heels or shoes that don't fit properly, you may suffer from toes that are curling down. When you wear shoes that are too tight, your toes can become crowded. That forces them into a bent position and puts pressure on the toes and joints. Muscles tighten and shorten after a while. Soon you can't straighten your toes.

Health conditions like diabetes and arthritis can contribute to issues. Certain foot shapes can also predispose you to developing these joint deformities. For example, a flat flexible foot can lead to hammertoes, as can high arches.

If you catch a toe condition at an early stage, your health care professional may suggest you use tape or a splint to hold them in the correct position. You may also want to stretch your toes and toe joints toward their normal position with your hands. Try exercises like using your toes to pick up a crumpled paper towel or marbles on the floor.

Wear shoes with roomy, soft toe boxes. Shoes should have a wider and deeper toe box to accommodate your foot's shape. Look for ones with good arch support, too. Avoid high heels and tight shoes.

If you have a corn or callus caused by your condition, use a file or pumice stone to make it smaller. Do it after a warm bath when your skin is softest. Then apply a moisturizing cream or lotion to keep the area soft.

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