For most of us, the big toe is the longest on the foot. But for a not-small amount of people (about 15% of the population), the second toe reaches farther than the first.
You may be wondering: aside from a visual difference, does this (inherited) condition, known as Morton’s toe or foot, cause any problems?
The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is: quite possibly! Let's take a closer look!
What is Morton's Toe?
This describes an inherited condition that leaves you with short foot bones. (Called metatarsals, they stop growing early because your growth plate closes too soon.) As a result, your second toe grows longer than your first. It's named for Dr. Dudley J. Morton, who discovered the problem about 70 years ago. Now, Morton’s toe is a very different problem than Morton’s neuroma. But they can both cause big problems for your feet. And they may both lead to similar symptoms and complications.
Second Toe Longer Than First: What are the Symptoms?
Not everyone with Morton's toe will experience foot pain. But their risk is higher. Because people with Morton’s toe are more susceptible to arch and heel pain, calluses and even stress fractures! And some of those problems happen more often than others.
The most common symptom of Morton's toe is callusing. Remember, a callus is a thickened patch of skin. It usually appears on the bottom of your foot. Since it's caused by too much pressure, it's a natural symptom of Morton's toe. After all, if you have imbalanced toes, you'll distribute weight improperly on the soles of your feet. And that can put too much pressure on certain spots, leaving you with one or more calluses.
Now, that's not all. Having a second toe longer than your first can make the ball of your foot or the base of your second toe hurt. Finding a proper shoe fit can be difficult, and wearing badly fitted shoes can lead to more pain, as well as damaged or ingrown toenails.
Plus, your big too often has too much mobility with this condition. That could increase your risk for sprains, or athletic injuries like turf toe. Farther down the road, you could develop bunions or arthritis. And you're more likely to develop knee, hip and back pain as you age.
How Can I Prevent Morton's Toe Complications?
According to Dr. Charis Eng of the Cleveland Clinic, if your second toe is longer than your big one, taking the following precautions can help prevent injury and discomfort:
- Choose shoes with wide toe boxes and strong arch support
- Consider orthotic inserts or foot pads that offer increased padding under the ball of the foot
- Stability is key in your footwear—low or no heels are the safest choices
- Steer away from sports that pound your feet with running or jumping as they can increase your already elevated fracture risk
- When deciding what type of exercise to do, think of lower-impact activities like swimming or biking
If these preventative measures don't work, never fear! I can help relieve your Morton's toe pain with a range of treatment options!
Treating Morton's Toe Pain in Houston, TX
Most often, we can resolve your pain with minimally invasive treatment options. One of your best bets will be custom orthotics. These can help correct imbalances resulting from your second longer toe. As a result, your foot pain should clear up. And you should be able to avoid new calluses forming.
It's also important to choose your shoes carefully. Look for pairs with lots of toe room. And avoid pointy-toed shoes that could pinch your longer second toe. Not finding enough relief? Adding metatarsal pads to your shoes could offer extra support. In some cases, taping your toes could also give you relief.
Maintaining a healthy weight will help keep pressure off your feet in general. And physical therapy exercises may help your gait. Which, in turn, will minimize Morton's toe complications. In rare cases, you may need surgery to shorten your second toe. But that would be a last-resort option. And one I'd work very hard to avoid.
Just because you have a foot that’s shaped differently doesn’t mean you’ll have to spend your life dealing with foot pain. If Morton’s foot or other structural foot problems are causing you discomfort, schedule an appointment with Dr. Andrew Schneider so we can help alleviate your pain.