Many disorders can actually affect the joints in your toes, potentially causing you pain and preventing your foot from functioning normally as it should. Overlapping toes may not look serious but they actually are. They can cause discomfort initially, but if left untreated it can lead to considerable pain, as well as making other foot conditions far more likely to occur, with the deformity often causing balance problems.
Overlapping toes is a form of deformity characterized by one toe lying over an adjacent toe. This can occur in any of the toes but it usually affects the fifth toe. When one of the central toes is affected, the second toe will most likely be affected as well. When a bunion causes the big toe to be angled towards the others, this can also lead to an overlap, with the big toe moving over the second toe.
Most of the time, overlapping toes is caused by hammertoes, which may either be developed or genetic. If developed, it means that hammertoes may be a result of muscle imbalances. If genetic, it may be attributed to inherited foot structures, like having long second toes or stiff tendons. Ill-fitting footwear also increases the risk for developing overlapping toes. Wearing narrow shoes can also force toes to crowd together, and over time the toes tend to adopt the position that they are forced to when wearing shoes with the tendons shortening preventing straightening.
Symptoms commonly associated with overlapping toes aside from the visible deformity include inflammation and pain. When walking, the overlapping toes may rub with the interior side of the shoes, causing irritation and pain. People with overlapping toes also tend to develop foot corns and calluses. In the long run, individuals with overlapping toes will find that their normal foot movement will be affected as well, making balance difficult or a change to the walking gait. When this occurs the body weight moves to other areas of the feet which are not ideally suited to take the extra forces resulting in complications from the deformity in other areas of the feet and lower legs.
To properly diagnose overlapping toes, a foot doctor or a podiatrist needs nothing more than comprehensive physical exam, including past surgeries, present diseases and family traits. The doctor will usually assess the appearance and texture of the overlapping toes. An X-ray may be ordered if there are other suspected structural abnormalities of the foot.
Overlapping toes may be treated by either conservative or surgical methods. Conservative methods include wearing of footwear with broad toe boxes or wearing of foot supports that help keep the overlapping toes separate from each other. Examples of foot supports are toe combs, toe caps and toe straighteners. When you use these devices correctly, they can gradually reduce friction and lessen your pain in the long run as well as encourage the toes back into a more natural position.
Another conservative method commonly used is adhesive tapping and passive stretching exercises. This method may take six to twelve weeks to have an effect. Overlapping toes rarely correct themselves, and the deformity becomes worse the longer it persists, ultimately requiring surgery to correct.
Generally, there are two types of surgeries: the DuVries Correction and the Butler’s Correction. The former includes the release of a ligament between the toes, while the latter includes a second incision on the plantar side of the foot to move the affected toes.
Overlapping toes are actually quite different from person to person, so no two surgeries follow the exact same procedure. Before you decide to undergo surgery, it is advisable to consult two or more doctors so that you will obtain the best information regarding your toes’ condition, including the steps that should be taken to best solve them.
It is very important that you give immediate medical attention to problems causing pain in your toes. Ignoring the pain will just make matters worse.