Curled Fifth Toe

What is a Curled Fifth Toe?

A curled fifth toe is a congenital foot deformity that usually appears at birth, which causes the fifth toe to be abnormally curved, with the tip of the toe facing to the side of the foot. This deformity can result in the fifth toe overlapping with and getting caught between the fourth and third toe.

This condition can be accompanied with other foot deformities, such as hammertoe and overlapping toes. It is important to note that a curled fifth toe is different from a clubbed fifth toe.

What causes  a Curled Fifth Toe?

This condition causes the fifth toe to be curved inward, creating a negative pressure on the ligaments, joints and muscles around the fifth toe. This can cause pain, and can even eventually lead to arthritis. It can also make it difficult to find properly fitting shoes and cause calluses or bunions. 

In order to fix curled toes, it often helps to discuss the condition with a Podiatrist. This can help to identify the underlying cause(s), which is valuable for determining the appropriate treatment options. Some cause may be:

  • Inherited genetics 
  • Joint hypermobility 
  • Misalignment in the feet 
  • Lax joint ligaments 
  • Increased range of motion in the joints
  • Uneven weight distribution 
  • Added stress absorbed by the one toe

Common symptoms include: 

  • The fifth toe being bent upward and appearing to be the same length as the fourth toe 
  • Pain, tenderness, and irritation when wearing shoes or other footwear 
  • Discomfort when walking or standing 
  • A visible indentation between the fourth and fifth toes 
  • Redness, swelling, and tenderness around the toe joint 
  • Difficulty straightening the fifth toe.
  • Arthritis or joint pain in the affected fifth toe 
  • Misaligned toe or foot 
  • Stiff and difficult to move joint

Taking Care of Your Curled Fifth Toe 

  1. Stretch and massage: Gently stretch and massage the curled fifth toe, encouraging it to become straight and relaxed.  
  1. Change shoes: Wear shoes that feature a wide toe box, offering plenty of space for your toes to move freely and not be trapped in a narrow space.  
  2. Trim the nail: Trim the toenail appropriately to help further discourage the curl.  

  3. Use supportive products: Invest in orthotic products, such as toe spacers and caps, to help support the toe and keep it in the correct position as it is healing. 

  4. Try an exercise: Exercises like wiggling your toes, gentle pedaling and toe taps can help to stretch the toe and restore it to its original form. 

  5. Don’t ignore pain: See a Podiatrist. A qualified Podiatrist may be able to provide advice or offer a range of treatments for the problem, such as orthotics, exercises or manual therapies. 

Exercises for Curled Toes

The best way to treat curled toes is to rewire the brain using targeted toe exercises. The exercises for curled toes listed below can be helpful, but they might initially feel awkward or uncomfortable. It may seem counterintuitive, but some of them call for even tighter curling of the toes. However, regaining control of them depends on using the toe muscles.

Consistent toe stretching is necessary to maintain the length of the tendons. If this hurts too much, don't do it. However, once the tendons shorten, the process is challenging to undo. Here are some easy curling exercises to practice in addition to daily gentle toe stretching:

  • Toe Taps. Attempt to lift all the toes off the ground while the feet are flat on the floor, then lower them back down. Even if the toes are initially unable to move much, trying the movement will cause the brain to adapt.
  • Floor Grips. To begin, place the feet firmly on the ground, curl the toes to grip the surface, then release them to let them straighten naturally.
  • Towel curls. Pick up a towel placed on the ground, pin it between the toes. Place it back down after that and flatten it. Although this is a challenging exercise, it should become more straightforward with repetition.
  • Toe Extensor Strengthening. ​​Starting with the affected foot, cross it over the opposite knee. Secure a resistance band around the top of the foot and use your toe muscles to pull the toes back toward the body, pushing the resistance band away from the foot. Despite the minimal movement initially, these muscles will become stronger with practice.

Repeat these exercises 10 times at least once or twice a day. Increase the reps and frequency as your muscles get stronger. Visualize or attempt each movement multiple times a day to help recovery. You may need to passively stretch the toes with your hand or a caregiver if mobility is limited. Talk to a Podiatrist if you need more customized exercises. Be patient and keep exercising consistently to eventually fix your curled toes.

Fast facts about Curly Fifth Toes.  Did you know? 

  1. The fifth toe is the smallest toe on each foot. 
  2. Curly fifth toes are caused by a genetic mutation.
  3. It's estimated that about one in every 7,000 people have curly fifth toes. 
  4. While this mutation is usually harmless, it can lead to issues such as foot pain and difficulty wearing certain types of shoes. 
  5. In some cases, surgery may be recommended to correct the curvature of the fifth toe.

Planning Your Next Visit at Greenberg Podiatry

We at Greenberg Podiatry strive to tailor our care to meet each patient's individual needs. We address their current needs while also taking steps to prevent any potential problems in the future.

 Contact Greenberg Podiatry immediately for the guidance you require to take advantage of the opportunity to positively impact your wellbeing!