Issues In Your Tissues

Musculoskeletal Pain & Pain Release

Why Are Some People’s Toes Crooked?

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Most clinicians or medical professionals would answer this question in the most simple way. They would say that some people have crooked toes as a result of Hammertoes, Crossover Toes, Broken Toes or Congenital deformities.

While that is mostly true; it still doesn’t really explain how the manifestation of crooked toes happens in some people.

What Is The Real Cause?

There are several reasons one can have crooked toes. In some people, the reasons involve imbalances and biomechanical issues.

In some people, these conditions are inherent probabilities based on hereditary character traits, habits and lifestyle choices.

Our feet are the pillars of our bodies. They stabilize us as our foundation but also mobilize us. Between those two main functions are a lot of necessity for balance.

If anything is wrong with the feet, it can affect the entire body. Any problems of this nature can, in some people; migrate into a pain problem elsewhere.

Even something that seems insignificant, like a crooked toe; can tells a lot about the body. It can define what is happening, what may happen, or what has already happened. But, let’s look a little more into it.

Broken Toes

How do you determine if you have a broken toe? Should you be concerned about it? Can anything be done about it? What options do you have to address it?

First of all, there are several different types of fractures of the toe. These are usually the result of a painful or significant event. These different fractures can cause the appearance of a crooked toe, especially if left unaddressed.

  • Displace fractures – is one in which a broken bone from a severe fracture has moved out of place. It can cause the toe to appear crooked.
  • Stress fractures – are long term damage that most often occur months or years after starting an activity. The muscles in the toe are stressed and become subject to pressure and impact. This causes too much stress on the bone, which subsequently cracks.
  • Traumatic fractures – are often the result of a significant event – like stubbing the toe really hard; dropping something heavy on the toe, or falling. The level of fracture will depend on the level of trauma that occurred. Some people may hear a popping or cracking sound as the toe breaks.

These types of fractures have a variety of symptoms that are indicators of the pain or problem. However, there are ways to determine if you have a sprain or a break. If you suspect that the problem is a broken toe; there are things you can do at home to initiate the healing process.

Congenital deformities

” Common newborn foot abnormalities include metatarsus adductus, clubfoot deformity, calcaneovalgus (flexible flatfoot), congenital vertical talus (rigid flatfoot), and multiple digital deformities—polydactyly, syndactyly, overlapping toes, and amniotic bands.”

some people
This newborn has extremely flat feet and pinky toes that are completely curled under. This may affect the gait, and certainly won’t be fully balanced.

Crooked toes can happen in some people due to birth defects. Usually, these are visibly noticeable in a newborn. It is something that should be examined by a doctor, and monitored by parents. However, there are some other hereditary issues that can affect the feet, and cause crooked toes in some people. (I’ll get back to this later).

Crossover Toes

The problem is more common in women. In fact, I can only recall one male; that I’ve worked on in the last 7 years; that had a problem like this. His problem originated due to being forced, as a child; to wear shoes that were too small for him.

This should explain fully one of the primary reasons some people, specifically women, end up with problems of this nature.


This young man was so embarrassed by how his feet looked; that despite having foot pain, he didn’t want me or anyone to see his feet.

He explained to me that when he was young; his parents couldn’t afford to buy shoes for his quickly growing feet. He was given hand-me-downs from his older siblings, but he was quickly outgrowing them.

Being forced to wear shoes 2 sizes too small created a situation for his body. Without properly sized shoes, his toes were being dislocated to adjust for the smaller more narrow shoes. This is a tall guy, so he was growing fast.

He was already embarrassed in school due to the hand-me-downs and not having any shoes. Per his parent’s insistence, he forced his foot into the smaller shoes, just to have shoes to wear.

Our bodies have innate intelligence, and he responded by adjusting, despite the pain it caused. The result was toes that crossed over and overlapped significantly, to the point of even more embarrassment for him.

He never let people see his feet, even wearing socks with sandals to ensure that no one saw them.

Ill-fitting Shoes

The majority of problems with Crossover Toes are caused by shoes that are too small. Some shoes are just not wide enough to give equal space to all the toes. Some people, predominantly women who wear pointed toe shoes; are subject to this condition happening, depending on the frequency and repetition of this habit.

Most people, especially women, do not wear supportive shoes. Flip flops are not supportive, despite the fact that the soft rubber makes them feel comfortable to most people.

Due to their total lack of support, they cause the feet to dip and roll. Walking in these shoes causes the feet to literally flip and flop from one side to another. This results in imbalance due to both the lack of stabilization. This affects foot movement and position, even while simply standing.

If the foot is unstable in its movements, it directly affects the leg muscles. This, in turn, affects the hips, the spinal column, and ultimately the back.

When the spinal column gets affected, the entire body can be affected. Subsequently, the feet are a major force in structural pain in the body.

Hammertoes & Bunions

Hammer, claw and mallet toes affect toes 2-5. The toes bend into an odd position, usually coupled with a Bunion. In fact, a Bunion can cause the big toe to become crooked or displaced as well.

The best thing to prevent the escalation of a developing Bunion is Toe Gel Spacers. This shaped rubber fits snuggly in between your big toe and second toe.

It prevents the toe from leaning towards the outside of the foot. These Gel Spacers can be worn at night while sleeping. They can also be worn in closed toe shoes and some sandals.

Some people have bunions.
A bunion like this is not just a flesh bunion, but the bone is involved.
This shift of the bone alters the balance significantly, and then the toes on
the opposite side bend and curve in an attempt to rebalance the foot.

Bunions are related to shoulder pain on the foot map. It can happen in people with either a low or high arched foot. Usually, this problem results from an imbalance in the gait, but it can also result from tight shoes. I have found that some people have a predisposition for Hammertoes and sometimes Bunions.

A Hereditary Thing

I have often worked on teenagers or twenty-somethings who showed signs of this development. When I brought it to their attention, they usually remarked that their grandmother had the same condition.

Men have a tendency to wear wider shoes. Some people have a hereditary predisposition for Hammertoes, but most men will not develop it; even if they have all the other contributing factors.

Women, on the other hand, usually develop this condition if their vanity supersedes their interest in protecting their health. Some people have a specific type of gait. This gait causes them to develop a very high arch and instep in their foot.

The Shape And Curvature

A high arch puts a lot of pressure on the ball of the feet. This pulling from the high instep tightens the ligaments in the top side of the feet. This causes the ligaments to shorten, pulling the toes up and back towards the ankle.

Usually, a person with this condition has very tight calf muscles as well. In women, this can be amplified by constantly wearing high heeled shoes.

When the ligaments are pulled up and back to their limit; the toes curl downward at either the first or second toe joint (or both). Eventually, this forms what looks like a mallet or claw.

If you have seen this problem in a grandparent, it is highly likely to happen to you as well; as it is a problem that develops over time, and will show up later as you age.

One of the ways to counteract this is to change your footwear. However, the toes need to be stretched; to prevent those ligaments from tightening up.


The missing piece to the puzzle is in some people’s understanding of balance and the effects of imbalance. Given time, what seemed to be a slight imbalance, can manifest into a monstrous pain condition.

Some doctors will then over medicate unnecessarily. They will even work their treatment agendas to the point of recommending unnecessary surgery.

Many of these recommendations are for easily preventable pain problems that result from imbalance. Subsequently, the imbalance has been exacerbated by improper shoes and a lack of some basic knowledge.

Some people have crooked toes because their foot is attempting to balance itself.
When one foot is out of balance, it will affect the opposite foot.
The toes of that foot will also move, bend and curve to accommodate the imbalance.
So there can be overall imbalance of the feet, as well as imbalance of each individual foot, creating an overlapping of imbalance that can affect the knees, hip and back.

The toes can curve, bend, or become crooked and overlap; because of an imbalance in the gait. When that is occurring, the muscles of the feet are trying to adjust to the imbalance. Therefore, the toes are forced to become supportive players in the drama of trying to rebalance the feet.

Unsupported Fashions

It doesn’t help that some people wear completely flat sandals with no support. They use flip flops, high heels, or things like slippers and ballet shoes while out walking in public.

Things like ballet (styled) shoes have a place and purpose – in a ballet studio; but they, like the other shoe types mentioned, are often used more for fashion than for their purpose.

I’m not saying the other shoes mentioned above have a purpose other than fashion. Many “fashionable” shoes are causing more harm than good. They create a situation of pain manifestation or exacerbate an already tenuous imbalance in the gait.

Finding The Right Professional

These problems initiate most often in childhood. Parents don’t tend to pay attention to this issue. They don’t ensure that the shoes they buy for their kids are balanced first, and supportive second.

This is because they lack knowledge of this, or perhaps assume that all shoes are balanced. To ensure that your feet or those of your kids are balanced, find a Pedorthist in your local area.

“A Pedorthist is a professional who has specialized training to modify footwear and employ supportive devices to address conditions which affect the feet and lower limbs.”

These are the guys that your Podiatrist sends your prescription to, to get it filled; then upcharges you an additional $100 or more for the same service that the Pedorthist can give you directly. And most Pedorthists do take insurance.

Plus, a Pedorthist will take a lot more time with you. They watch and record how you walk and observe and examine your balance thoroughly. Part of their process is to take a mold of your feet. They are very exacting in getting the right fit for your orthotics to rebalance you.

I have not found Pediatrists to be as exacting concerning balance. They focus only on conditions that require minor or major surgery. I’m sure those are the big money makers. The Podiatrist, that operated on my son’s necrotic ingrown toenail problem; performed that surgery very well. My son’s toe did heal up.

However, the Podiatrist was not as concerned with the fact that my son is severely flatfooted, needing orthotic support. That issue he dismissed. My experience and gifting as a pain specialist say that this is not something to dismiss.

Migrating Pain

It will cause severe pain later in my son’s life if he is not mindful about his feet. He needs to address the imbalance with corrective actions like stretching, losing some weight, proper diet.

Conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure can affect the feet and exacerbate any imbalance already existing. He will definitely need supportive shoes to rebalance; in order to prevent the oncoming pain that he would otherwise be destined for.

I’ve gotten him orthotics, but I am still making improvements to his shoe collection. My goal is to maximize the support as much as possible. I’m fully aware that a situation like this will graduate into knee pain, hip pain and low back pain. It has the potential to affect the vertebrae. This can lead to pain problems in the upper torso as well, due to postural problems.

Some people, who suffer from low back pain; would alleviate about 50% or more of their pain problem if they were examined by a Pedorthist. By so doing, they could obtain proper, supportive footwear that rebalanced them. Proper supportive footwear is not always what is popular or fashionable. However, if it is going to protect you from pain down the road, it is surely worth it.

Invest In Your Feet

Additionally, many people have crooked toes because the shoes are too small or too narrow for their feet. As such, they don’t give sufficient room for the spread of the toes. Since the toes are moving to help the balance; not having the room to move or open up causes them to tighten or bunch up. This is a compensatory attempt to help the feet maneuver and balance. This can cause crooked toes to develop.

In order to avoid the development of problems in the feet, good shoes are a must, and worth investing in. The main thing to pay attention to is tightness or hardness. Whenever there is hardness, like calluses; anywhere in the tissues, it is a signal that a pain problem is developing, or has developed.

Just because you don’t immediately feel the effects, doesn’t mean it has not developed. Furthermore, something like a callused area in the feet, like on the heels, is a signal. On the foot map, that points to the hips and glutes. This is a signal that everything in the pelvic area is getting restricted. Keeping your feet in good health is crucial to maintaining the health of your body and staying pain-free.


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