Claw Toe

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This disorder is a deformity that typically affects one or more of the small toes. In many cases, all four small toes are affected. The toes bend up at the first joint and then curl down toward the floor, giving the appearance of a claw or talon.


Claw toe is caused by an imbalance in the muscles of the toes, which can be caused by ill-fitting shoes, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke, cerebral palsy, diabetes or other conditions.

Toes Become Curled

The muscles that are used to bend the toes overpower the muscles that keep the toes straight. The muscles that bend the toes gradually tighten, and the tendons and ligaments of the toes gradually shorten. This causes the toes to become fixed in a curled position.


Claw toes are identified by their curled appearance. Painful calluses may form where the curled toes rub against the shoes.


Treatment options can include a modification of footwear, splinting or taping the toes, pads and stretching exercises. In severe cases, surgery may be required to correct the deformity. Common surgeries to correct claw toes include tendon release, joint release, or metatarsal shortening.