Overlapping Toes: Causes, Symptoms, Preventions & Treatments

Facts about overlapping toes


What is Overlapping Toes?

You may have long believed that your overlapping toe condition is merely cosmetic and not in need of correction, but having overlapping toes is actually a serious problem. It may not seem so when it first occurs, but if left untreated, this form of hammertoe can lead to discomfort and severe irritation, mostly due to the friction caused by toes not being in correct alignment with each other and with the interior surface of a shoe.

Overlapping toe is most commonly seen with the fifth or “pinky” toe, which gets smashed up against the other toes over time until it almost seems to “overlap” them. In extreme cases the overlap can be more literal. The first toe, also known as the “big toe” is another common candidate to suffer from overlapping toe. Do not let these generalizations mislead you, however.

The condition of overlapping toe can actually occur to any of the toes on the foot.

Causes of Overlapping Toes

Many disorders can affect the joints in the toes, causing pain and preventing the foot from functioning as it should. People of all ages can experience forefoot problems. Overlapping toes can occur in any of the toes and can cause extreme irritation if not corrected.

Symptoms of Overlapping Toes

  • Your toes visibly overlap
  • You feel pressure and irritation between your toes
  • The pain and swelling in your toes makes it difficult to walk
  • You have soft calluses between your toes and/or hard calluses on top of your toes

What can you do about it?

Treatment usually starts with new, low-heeled shoes or sandals. Shoes should be soft and roomy. The front part should be wide enough to accommodate your toes without squashing them together. Stretching your toes to maintain flexibility can also help. Left untreated, overlapping toes can lead to corns, calluses, and other foot problems.

Overlapping Toes Treatment Options

If your child has overlapping toes, your doctor may initially attempt to treat them with conservative measures such as binding, adhesive taping, shoe modification, passive stretching, and exercise. This will usually be tried for about six to twelve weeks.

These types of treatments are rarely successful, however, and in most cases surgery will be required to correct the deformity, especially if it has had time to become rigid.

In extreme cases, it may even be necessary for the toe to be surgically amputated, but this is only a last resort. If conservative treatment is to have any hope of success, the diagnosis must be made early, so it is important that children be examined by a physician as soon as their overlapping toes are noticed.

Prevention of Overlapping Toes

Several factors may work together to help prevent the formation of overlapping toes in the first place.

These include:

  • wearing shoes with ample room for the toes
  • avoiding high heels whenever possible
  • using vitamin supplements to maintain healthy bones and joints

These prevention measures will of course be most effective when the overlapping toes are an acquired problem to begin with. When the overlapping toe condition is a result of genetic factors, it may not be possible to prevent them using such methods as those listed above.

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