claw toe

curled under toe digits

CLAW TOE Frequently Asked Questions

Toes are meant to lay flat against the ground and stay flexible enough to wiggle and spread freely. This allows them to help you balance and push off the ground when you step. Problems like claw toe, which stiffen and curl your digits, can make it uncomfortable and difficult to wear shoes and walk normally.

A claw toe is caused by weakened muscles in your feet. You have pairs of muscles that control your digits, allowing them to both bend and straighten. If one side becomes too weak to support the toes, its opposite contracts and tightens. The little digits then bend and curl under at the middle and end joints, creating a claw effect. This condition can affect one or more of your smaller toes at one time, though it seems to typically affect a whole foot when it develops.

Several different factors can cause this condition. Too-tight shoes that squeeze your toes and trap them in a bent position are common culprits, but not the only ones. Nerve damage, particularly from diabetes, is another issue. Injuries that affect your nerves or problems like arthritis can also contribute to clawed toes.

Tight tissues and constantly bent digits are uncomfortable. The toes also tend to press into your footwear and rub against the fabric of your shoes. This can lead to blisters, corns, and calluses. They can also make it difficult to fit into and wear many types of shoes.

The difference between claw toe and hammertoe has to do with the joints that are affected by each condition.

Claw toe

Clawtoe develops when the two end joints in your little digits bend and curl under, while the joint at the ball of the foot bends upward slightly, creating the claw-like look. It can affect any or all of the smaller toes, and often impacts all four at once.


Hammertoe occurs when the middle joint of any of the small digits becomes fixed in a bent position. The second toe is the most commonly affected, and usually only one or two digits have the problem at once.

Because these are different problems, they have slightly different causes and treatments. However, they share the same risk.

Both need to be treated before they progress too far; otherwise, the conditions may become permanent issues.

Claw Toe: Curled Under Digits

If you are struggling with one or more painful claw toes

know that you don’t have to suffer!

The sooner you treat the condition, the sooner you’ll relieve the discomfort—and the less likely you’ll develop a permanent problem.

Let Dr. Darren Silvester and Dr. Gregory Larsen here at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic know if you have toe troubles. We can help you relieve your discomfort and heal your feet.

Take the next step toward happy feet and schedule today!

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Claw Toe: Curled Under Digits

claw toe

treatment options

Can conservative care help with my claw toe?

This condition does not improve on its own. Typically, it gets worse with time. If it goes untreated for too long, it may even become a permanent problem. The key to relieving the discomfort and restoring your toes is to invest in properly treating the problem before it has a chance to advance too far.

Dr. Darren Silvester and our team here at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic will carefully examine your lower limbs to not only diagnose your deformed toes, but also determine the source of the issue. Then, we can help you begin a targeted treatment plan to manage the condition.


conservative treatment options



A first step, conservative treatment option for Claw Toe is to consider the shoes you wear everyday.

You will most likely need to change your shoes to models with wider, deeper toe boxes. Keep roughly half an inch of space between the end of your toes and the tips of your shoes so your digits are not squished.

Avoid footwear with a pointed toe box or high heels that can force your forefoot into the cramped front of the shoe.

You may need special toe sleeves to protect your feet from corn and callus formation.

Special pads or orthotics can help relieve pressure on your forefoot that may be aggravating the position, too.

At Next Step Foot and Ankle Clinic, we are the first to bring San Antonio and surrounding areas Custom 3D Orthotics with our FitStation by HP(Hewlett Packard), digitized for unparalleled accuracy.

Our FitStation provides thousands of data points on not only the pressure points of your foot standing still (like a cast would) and when your feet are in gait (a person’s manner of walking), giving the doctors a view of how your body as a whole is affecting each foot for your perfectly tailored fit. Helping relieve that pressure off the big toe joint.

Keep in mind, shoes that are narrow don’t work too well with orthotics.  



Here are a couple minimally invasive tips to help relieve pain caused by Claw Toe:

1.  Stretch out your toes regularly to relax tightened tissues. Balance this with exercises to work the muscles in your toes. Strengthening the digits can help you straighten your digits back out again overtime.

2.  Stretching your toes backwards and picking up small objects with just your feet are two excellent actions that benefit your lower limbs in this way.

If nerve issues led to the problem, you’ll also need additional treatment to manage whatever caused the issue in the first place.

Click here for 5 Quick Stretches for Relieving Toe Pain


Our Blog

In additional to educating our patients with video’s, we share monthly blogs, with entries from our very own Dr. Silvester and Dr. Larsen.

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