Morton’s Toe is a relatively common foot disorder that can cause a variety of pain not only in the foot, but in other parts of the body as well. Many podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons have stated that this problem is the root cause of numerous other foot problems, including plantar fasciitis, bunions, and hammertoe. It is estimated that around 20% to 30% of the population has Morton’s Toe to some degree.
WHAT IS MORTON’S TOE?
It is pretty easy to determine if you have Morton’s Toe. Essentially, if your second toe is longer that your big toe by even a slight amount, you likely have the condition. Another sign is that the space between the first and second toes is deeper than the space between the second and third toes. In more technical terms, the first metatarsal bone is shorter than the second metatarsal bone. These are the bones that connect the toes to the feet. This can cause a myriad of problems if it is not treated.
Another related condition that can cause Morton’s Toe is hypermobility of the first metatarsal bone. This means that the big toe’s metatarsal has too much movement, i.e. it is unstable. The primary reason for this condition is an abnormal looseness in the plantar ligament that attaches to the metatarsal bone of the big toe. This condition is not always as easy to spot as is comparing the lengths of the first and second toe, but it is treated in the same way.
Morton’s Toe can cause the foot to function improperly due to stresses put on several areas. This can be the root cause of foot problems as well as ankle, back, and some knee pains. This condition can negatively impact a person’s walking and running gait. This happens because the body weight is distributed improperly because of the bad foot mechanics. Many people tend to rotate their feet outward as a result, and postural problems can develop as well. It is common to have a painful callus under the second metatarsal because it is positioned improperly.
WHAT CAN BE DONE FOR MORTON’S TOE?
There are toe shortening surgeries that can be performed, but this normally is not the best plan of attack. Surgery is usually done only in severe cases, and often the toe’s improper orientation is of more concern than the length. The toe length can be addressed by wearing shoes which are a size larger than normal to give the toes more room. It is essential to choose footwear with a wide toe area. This will help to keep the toes from being awkwardly crammed into a confined space, but will not help with the weight distribution issues associated with Morton’s Toe.
An important key to relieving the effects of Morton’s Toe is to correct the foot’s alignment. This is done using special orthotics to overcome the foot mechanics issues. Padding the area under the first metatarsal is usually an effective treatment. This can be done using custom or off-the-shelf orthotics. A simple shim placed under the big toe can be surprisingly effective way to properly realign the foot with respect to the rest of the body. A shim or pad under the first metatarsal will often correct the foot rotation outwards and allow the foot to align more proprerly with the ankle, knees, and hips.
MORE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES
An excellent book which goes in depth about Morton’s Toe can be found in the book store section of this website. The book was written by Dr. Burton Schuler, and he describes how Morton’s Toe can be responsible for many aches and pains in the body.
Additionally, some orthotic products geared at Morton’s Toe relief can be found at the orthotics section of this site.
–flickr/andrea allen/Stephanie Lamphere