Over and underlapping toe conditions are too often considered to be merely cosmetic and not in need of correction, but these can actually turn into serious problems. This might not seem to be the case when they first occur, but chronic discomfort and severe irritation from toe deformities bring many patients to Foot Specialists of Long Island for treatment.
We can certainly provide that treatment if the issue becomes severe, but earlier care can help prevent a manageable condition from devolving into one that requires a surgical procedure!
Overlapping Toe Causes
Toes that overlap tend to most commonly be either the big or little toe of the foot, but this can actually happen to any of the digits.
In the same manner that the condition tends to be more serious than people realize, so the causes can actually be quite complex. It is easy for people to look at the issues that result in overlapping toes—like bunions and hammertoes—and dismiss them as conditions that simply happen on account of footwear that doesn’t fit correctly.
The reality of the matter is that though footwear might exacerbate an existing or developing condition, the primary causes are structural imbalances. If toes overlap because of a bunion, this imbalance happens in the joint found at the base of the big toe – the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. In this common deformity, the big toe drifts inwards and contributes to the MTP joint pushing out along the inner edge of the foot. In severe cases, the big toe will then overlap the toe next to it.
There is a related condition called a bunionette that happens on the other side of the foot. When the joint imbalance causes the little toe, instead of the big one, to drift inwards, it will eventually (when left untreated) overlap the toe next to it.
When we look at hammertoes—and the related mallet and claw toe deformities—we see that the imbalance isn’t with a joint, but rather with the muscles on the tops and bottoms of the toes. The weaker muscles are overpowered by the stronger ones on the opposite side. This leads to a condition where toes curl up in an unnatural fashion. When this happens, an affected toe is not completely flanked and kept in position by the toes on both sides. It can then drift and overlap a neighboring one.
Other genetic conditions or deformities that could be at play include:
- Morton’s toe (an unusually long second toe)
- stiff tendons – these keep the foot from flattening against the ground
- various other inherited foot conditions
What is particularly problematic about the above conditions is that they can cause an imbalance to occur in the way foot tendons and muscles operate. These two bodily structures are intended to function in concert to manage the physical stress and strain that standing, walking, running, and jumping place on the feet. When a tendon pulls too hard and the muscles are unable to properly counterbalance, the gait cycle may be affected and lead to an array of new issues.
Overlapping Toe Symptoms
The problem is usually rather obvious and quickly diagnosed by visual inspection. The two toes are bunched up together to the point where they seem to, or actually do, overlap. There are some other symptoms that usually accompany the condition. They include any of the following:
- irritation due to friction
- calluses on the toes
- toes rubbing against the interior of footwear
- an altered gait when walking
Treatment for Overlapping Toes
Given the progressive nature of conditions that lead to over and underlapping toes, it is important to seek treatment at the earliest possible stage. This increases the likelihood that conservative treatment methods will be effective at relieving symptoms and preventing the condition from worsening.
In cases of bunions, hammertoes, and other toe deformity issues, surgery is often the only way to fully correct the condition that conservative remedies do not relieve. When we recommend this course of treatment, we will carefully discuss the options with you, so you can know what to expect and make any necessary arrangements to prepare for surgery and postoperative care.
Long Island Foot and Ankle Care
Foot Specialists of Long Island provides comprehensive foot and ankle care for all patients from across the greater Nassau County community. Contact us for more information by calling (516) 804-9038 or schedule an appointment at our Massapequa, NY podiatrist office online today.