Claw Toe

Curling in Toes with Several Pain and Pressure

What could be my problem?

The toe points down or up and is unable to straighten usually creating painful calluses.  A claw toe gets worse without treatment and may become a permanent deformity over time.

What causes Claw Toe?

  • Improper footwear that squeeze the toes such as shoes that are too short or high heels
  • Nerve damage caused by diseases like diabetes or alcoholism which weaken muscles in the foot.

When to see a foot specialist about Claw Toe:

  • Toes are bend upward (extension) from the joints at the ball of the foot
  • Toes are bent downward (flexion) at the middle joints toward the sole of your shoe
  • Toes are bent downward at the top joints, curling under the foot
  • Painful corns develop over the top of the toe or under the ball of the foot
  • To rule out neurological disorders that can weaken your foot muscles, creating imbalances that bend your toes If a foot injury (trauma) and/or inflammation cause claw toe deformity

If I have Claw Toe, what are my treatment options?


  • Footwear with soft, roomy toe boxes – avoid tight shoes and high heels
  • Exercises to stretch and straighten the toe
  • Custom orthotics or pads to reposition your toe and relieve pressure and pain
  • Special, prescribed “in depth” shoes that have an extra 3/8” depth in the toe box


If conservative claw toe treatments don’t help, your foot doctor may recommend surgery to treat the pain.

  • Flexible Claw Toe:  a tendon transfer procedure is used to correct the problem by repairing the tendons from the bottom of the toe to the top of the toe where it is sticking up.  This helps pull the bent joint into a straight position.
  • Fixed (stiff) Claw Toe:  there are two options for treatment. Joint resection can be used to treat the fixed hammer toe by making an incision over the top of the toe.  Ligaments and tendons may be cut to help with straightening the toe. The end of the bone is removed to allow the toe to straightened completely, and pins are temporarily used to hold the toe straight. The pins are usually removed three to four weeks after surgery.
  • Fusion: can also be used to treat fixed hammer toe by cutting the ligaments and tendons to help straighten the toe. The ends of the bone are cut and the toe is straightened. Pins, screws or other implants can be used to keep the toe straight while the bone ends heal together.