Toe Deformities

A variety of toe deformities can occur in children's feet:

Mallet Toe

Mallet toe refers to the downward bending of the third joint near the end of the toe, giving it a mallet-like appearance. Corns or calluses may develop over the deformity as a result of constant friction against the footwear. Mallet toe can be inherited or may develop from wearing shoes that are too tight or high-heeled.

Claw Toe

Claw toe is a rare deformity that affects the toe joints, making them flex over to resemble a claw. Claw toe can occur along with cavus foot, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease or myelomeningocele and can result from changes in the structural anatomy and/or neurologic disorders that cause muscle imbalances.

Curly Toe

Curly toes are present at birth and affect the third, fourth and fifth toes of one or both feet. It’s caused by tightening of the tendon that runs below the toe, resulting in pulling of the tip of the toe under the next toe towards the sole. If your child has curly toe, they may develop areas of hard skin on the soles of their feet and may have difficulty selecting shoes that fit properly.

Generally, no treatment is needed if curly toes don’t cause any symptoms. But, if the condition becomes severe and causes irritation, surgery may be performed.


Polydactyly is a condition where there is an extra digit present in the feet. The great or “big” toe, or the fifth toe, is usually affected. Polydactyly may occur alongside other congenital anomalies, or as an isolated problem. If the extra toe doesn’t cause any problems, it may be left alone without any treatment. Surgical excision of the extra toe will be done in cases where there is an extra little or big toe that is prominent, causing difficulty in wearing shoes. Surgery is usually done after the age of nine to 12 months.


Syndactyly is the presence of fused digits and may occur along with other congenital anomalies, or as an isolated problem. It rarely causes any problems and does not need any treatment. The connection between two or more toes varies from a thin skin attachment to a bony attachment (synostosis) between the bones in the fingers.

Bunionette (Tailor Bunion)

Bunionette is less common and happens at the joint where the little toe meets the foot. It’s a fluid sac over the outer side of the little toe joint that becomes swollen and inflamed, causing pain. Padding can relieve the discomfort. If it doesn’t help, surgical correction may be needed.