Deformities that Affect the Little Toe

Published: 25th September 2009
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The fifth toe on our foot takes a lot of abuse largely thanks to the fashionable shoes we wear. This little toe is squeezed, squashed, smashed and shoved into footwear of all shapes and sizes. The unfortunate results are foot deformities and injuries that plague this itty-bitty part of our anatomy.

One of the most common causes of pain in our little toes is a lesion commonly referred to as a "corn". Corns can be hard (helomata durum) or soft (helomata molle). Both conditions result from friction and pressure over a bony surface (.i.e., the knuckle of your little toe). What is the source of this friction and pressure? The shoes we wear! (And sometimes pre-existing foot deformities.)

Hard corns usually develop on the outside of the little toe (i.e., the part that rubs against the inside of the shoe). Soft corns, also known as kissing corns, develop between the toes. Both conditions result in pain and irritation. If left untreated, corns can turn into foot ulcers (open wounds on the feet) that can spread infection to the soft tissue and the bone.

Corns are sometimes the result of another common foot deformity that affects the little toe - hammertoe or claw toe. This deformity occurs when the joint of the little toe becomes permanently contracted. It is often caused by high heels or narrow-toed shoes that force the toes into a bent position. If the toes remain in this position consistently, the joints and bones of the toes become permanently affected. The deformity can either be flexible or rigid, with a rigid deformity being much more difficult (if not impossible) to reverse.

Some deformities that affect the little toe are not our fault. Congenital deformities such as overlapping toes and underlapping toes are often identifiable shortly after birth. They are most common on the fifth toe of the foot, although they can affect the other toes as well. They lead to complications such as calluses and blisters forming between or on the top of the toes, which increase a person's susceptibility to foot ulceration. Although these deformities are congenital, they can be made worse by wearing ill-fitting or unsupportive shoes. A person who is born with an overlapping or underlapping little toe will want to choose his or her footwear carefully so as to not aggravate the condition.

Corns and calluses, as well as overlapping and underlapping toes are all relatively minor medical conditions that can nonetheless greatly limit our mobility. By taking care of the little toe, you are protecting the quality of your life.

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