Question:

What are some conditions of the toes that can cause pain and disability?

Oh the Toes...So Much Can Go Wrong!

Foot pain can definitely set you back, but when the pain is specific to your toes it may be even more debilitating. At least if your heel, arch, or ankle hurts, you might get by with a really good shoe. But if your toes are the problem, shoes only make it worse. And since you must flex and push off of your toes in order to take a step using a normal gait pattern, walking is out of the question.

Some toe-related problems that cause feet pain include:

  • Ingrown toenails- If the edges of your nail become embedded in the skin on either side, there can be pain and even infection (which may require antibiotics or even removal of the ingrown portion by a physician). This surprisingly debilitating condition is caused by improper cutting of the nails, nails that grow faster on the sides than in the center, or pressure from ill-fitting shoes.
  • Bunion- A condition characterized by swelling and/or deformity at the base of the big toe, pain, and limited movement. The toe bends toward the next toe and the joint protrudes out to the side. It can result from wearing tight, high-heeled, or pointed-toe shoes, and is seven times more common in women than men.
  • Corns- Corns form when skin becomes thick and hardens in response to pressure or friction, usually on the tops or sides of the toes. They are small and have a hard center within the thickened area.
  • Hammer toes- The middle joint of the toe (usually the second one) juts upward, giving a claw-like appearance, and causing pain with walking and movement. While some people are genetically predisposed to this (perhaps their second toe is longer than the others), hammer toes can also result from wearing ill-fitting shoes.

Conditions like ingrown toenails and corns may be remedied with proper foot care and over-the-counter remedies. Structural problems, like bunions and hammer toes, may require medical attention in order to be relieved.

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