Claw foot is a deformity of the foot. The joint of the toe that is closest to the ankle is bent upward, and the other joints are bent downward. The toe looks like a claw.
Claw toes may be present at birth (congenital). The condition can also develop later in life because of other disorders (acquired). Claw toes may be caused by a nerve problem in the legs or a spinal cord problem or signs of arthritis. The cause is unknown in many cases.
Most of the time, claw toes are not harmful in themselves. They may be the first sign of a more serious disease of the nervous system.
Claw toes may cause pain and lead to calluses on the top of the toe over the first joint, but may also be painless. The condition may create problems fitting into shoes.
Causes may include:
Contact your health care provider if you think you may be getting claw toes.
The provider will do an exam to check for muscle, nerve, and spine problems. The physical exam will most likely include extra attention to the feet and hands.
You will be asked questions about your condition, such as:
The abnormal shape of the toe can increase pressure and cause calluses or ulcers on your toes. You may need to wear special shoes to ease pressure. Claw toes can also be treated surgically.
Published Date: June 13, 2021
Published By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
Grear BJ. Neurogenic disorders. In: Azar FM, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 87.
Murphy GA. Lesser toe abnormalities. In: Azar FM, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 84.