Small Toe Deformity

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What is a small toe deformity?

All the toes, except the big toe, are known as the small toes. The common small toe deformity patterns are hammer toe, claw toe and mallet toe. They all describe variations of bending deformities affecting the joints in the small toes. The second toe is the toe most commonly affected. A small toe deformity can develop secondary to a bunion, but also occur without a bunion.

A small toe deformity can cause problems. The deformed toe can rub on the inside of your shoes or on the adjacent toes, and then can become reddened and inflamed. Overtime a small deformity can worsen and become stiff.

What are the available treatments for a small toe deformity?

In the first instance simple treatment measures are recommended to try and reduce your symptoms. These can have significant benefit and help avoid having surgery. Listed below are some of the main first line treatments for a small toe deformity but it is not exhaustive.

Appropriate footwear that consists of a deep toe box or soft upper top can reduce rubbing on shoes. Avoid high heels that push the toes down into the front on the shoe.

Toe spacers are soft devices placed between the toes to separate them, to help prevent rubbing, correct some of the deformity and relieve pain. Small pads on the top or under the tip of the toe may be beneficial.

A chiropodist can cut away (pare) the symptomatic corns on the deformed small toe and callouses on the ball of the foot.

If non-operative measures do not provide pain relief, chiropody requires frequent repetition or the small toe deformity impacts on your daily activities, surgery can be considered as a last resort.

The purpose of surgery is to straighten the toe in order to reduce pain. Small toe surgery is not recommended for cosmetic reasons or to avoid problems that are not yet present. The exact surgical procedure is individualised to each patient, it depends on the type of deformity and how stiff the small toe is.

Wellbeing Advice

Patients that have a healthy diet, take regular exercise and refrain from smoking are more likely to experience a quicker recovery with a more successful outcome from their surgery.

If you have any concerns about your general health and well-being (diet, exercise, smoking cessation) you are encouraged to discuss this with your GP, who will be able to provide advice on the options available to you.

We hope this leaflet has answered any questions you might have. If you have any further queries, please feel free to discuss them with any of the medical or nursing staff.