SUMMARY: Ignoring foot conditions like overlapping toes can lead to more foot problems later on. Find out what these are and how you can treat overlapping toes.
Overlapping toes are a common deformity where a toe turns inward and lies on top of the toe beside it. It can happen anytime and can affect any toe, but it is usually seen in the second and fifth toes. It is also usual for toes on both feet to overlap.
Symptoms of Overlapping Toes
The condition is asymptomatic. However, the odd position of the toes causes walking difficulties whenever you are wearing shoes. The overlapping toes rub against the shoe, resulting in inflammation and pain.
Since there is constant friction against the inside of the shoe, corns (hardened skin) usually form on the upper surface of the toes or in between them.
Overlapping of the smallest toe may lead to a bunionette or a small bump on the outer part of the small toe joint. This is also called a Tailor’s bunion.
When not treated immediately overlapping toes become rigid or fixed in one position, which are harder to realign.
Treatment Options for Overlapping Toes
Other foot deformities that are common among children correct on their own, but this is not always the case with overlapping toes. A flexible deformity can eventually become a rigid deformity when left untreated. When this happens, the child will start to experience pain and walking difficulties. Thus, it is important to seek treatment early on because this is when conservative measures are most effective.
Infants with overlapping toes usually respond to stretching exercises as their toes are still flexible. Adhesive taping is also needed to hold the affected toes and keep them in a straight position. Around two to three months of treatment is needed, but the toes may still overlap in the future.
In older children and adults, treatment includes keeping toes comfortable by wearing big toe box shoes so that the toes have more space and do not cramp up. It is also important to avoid wearing high heels. Furthermore, make use of toe gel caps to protect any corns that have formed and prevent constant friction and pain.
Toes can be aligned with the help of a gel toe straightener, gel toe stretchers, or toe separators. These keep toes separated and stretched, helping to realign them and keep them in their normal positions.
Surgery for Overlapping Toes
Surgery is another option but should only be considered if the problem has reached its severe stage and no longer responds to conservative measures.
Surgery involves straightening out the toe. This is done by releasing the tendon and soft tissues that surround the first joint of the toe.
A pin may also be used to keep the toe straight. The pin projects out from the affected toe and is taken out two to three weeks after the procedure. While the pin is still in place, the foot is protected by a splint or a special shoe.
During the recovery period, it is important that the patient stays off his or her feet as much as possible. Foot movement could undo what the surgeon has done or even cause the pin to shift to a different position.
Although some people with overlapping toes have perfectly normal lives, it is still advisable to see a doctor as soon as the problem is noticed. An expert will examine your feet and create a treatment plan based on your condition.