Problems People May Have with Their Toes

The toes play an essential role in the function of the foot and the ability to balance and walk properly. The toes are usually the last part of the foot that touches the ground while walking forward. They are also the most prone and most frequently injured part of the foot.

Toes absorb ground pressure, and many problems that affect toes are by abnormal foot anatomy. Here are some facts about toes and common toe problems:



A bunion is a bone abnormality caused by a joint swelling at the base side of the big toe. Bunions form because of the big toe moving out of place; it looks like a big bulge on the side of the foot, just below the big toe joint. It is caused by a slow separation between the first and second metatarsal bones or the long bones of the foot.

Bunions are one of the most common toe problems, and people with flat feet are more at risk of bunions. 

Problems linked with a bunion include; pain at the bump area, trouble fitting into shoes because of the widened foot, and painful calluses on the soles of the feet.

The typical treatment for Bunions includes; wearing protective padding removing calluses on foot. If those treatments are not enough, bunion surgery, known as a bunionectomy, may be done to remove the lump and readjust the toes.

Claw Toe

Claw toe deformities are triggered by nerve damage caused by diseases such as diabetes and alcoholism, which weakens foot muscles. The condition is called such because of the toes’ appearance, wherein claws look like they are digging into the soles, which can cause painful calluses. If untreated, the Claw toe can worsen and be a permanent deformity.

Claw toes are easier to repair when detected early. Splints or tape may help hold the toes in the correct position.

Hallux Limitus  or Stiff Big Toe Joint

Hallux Limitus causes stiffness of the big joint of the toe. It is usually triggered by an abnormal first metatarsal position or the long bone behind the big toe joint. If left untreated, it can cause other joint problems, calluses, and diabetic foot ulcers. Painful bone spurs also can develop on the top of the big toe joint.

Anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, and or functional orthotics are some of the common treatments for Hallux Limitus.

Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails commonly affect the big toe, which causes a lot of pain and redness. An ingrown toenail can sometimes become infected and have pus discharge. Symptoms from an ingrown toenail develop quickly as the toenails grow into the skin at the edge of the toenail. An ingrown toenail usually recurs, especially those excessively curved into the soft tissues. Inappropriate toenail cutting can cause the growth of a painful ingrown toenail. Sometimes, other toes can also develop ingrown toenails.

Proper trimming of the nails minimizes the recurrence of ingrown toenails. Although excessively cutting the toenail edges provides relief, it can worsen the problem because the toenail eventually grows back.

Ingrown toenails with abnormal shapes need surgery, such as removing the side of the nail that is growing into the inflamed soft tissue, removing the entire toenail, or removing the toenail and removing the nail bed matrix called ablation. This procedure kills the cells in the nail bed to stop the nail from growing back.

In-toeing and out-toeing

In-toeing and out-toeing happen when the feet are positioned too far inward or outward while walking. These conditions are common in young children trying to learn how to walk. As they turn two years old, most children outgrow these problems eventually. In some cases, children can wear special shoes or foot supports to train them to position their feet. 

Toe Fungus

There are two types of toe fungus, one is the type found on the skin, and the other is on the nails. The type on the skin is commonly known as athlete’s foot, while the type found on the nails is medically known as onychomycosis or more commonly known as toenail fungus.

All toe fungus eats keratin, a protein nutrient found in the skin and nails cells. The fungus starts to attack and spreads immediately because of the breakdown of the keratin, this results in scaly and flaky skin, and the nails become discolored and crumbly.

Fungal diseases usually affect the top layer of hair, nails, or skin and are typically caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes.

Fungal infections are contagious and can quickly be passed from one person to another through physical contact or contact with an area like a public shower floor, making transmission of bacteria or fungi easy.

Based on studies, toenail fungus does not affect children and adolescents as often as it does adults, especially older adults.

Common treatments include strong antiperspirants and medication, but if those methods do not work, there are surgical options.

Turf Toe

A Turf toe is a great toe joint injury that happens when the great toe is forced upward, like when an athlete cuts hard on artificial turf. Because of too much upward force on the great toe, soft tissues covering the base of the joint are injured or, in some cases, completely torn, resulting in pain and swelling in the toe. Partial tears can be treated with ice, elevation, and limited movement. Recovery is within 2-8 weeks. Complete ruptures require surgery and prolonged recovery of 4-6 months.

Toes, especially the big ones, are essential in daily life. Having an injury can impact the ability to bear weight on the foot where there is injury. Using one side more heavily can also lead to some foot or joint issues. The feet must be carrying the body’s weight properly.

A visit to the podiatrist is essential if the foot or ankle pain is not resolved. The foot comprises several joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons, and when one is not balanced, it can affect your ability to stand, walk, or run. A podiatrist can assess any foot damage and recommend the best solution.