Bunions are a painful foot deformity, but they’re also the first step toward further foot problems. As the big toe bends inward, it crowds the space of the smaller toes and causes them to overlap. The second toe typically rises over the big toe, but the bunching of the forefoot can cause any adjacent toes to overlap.
Problems Associated With Overlapping Toes
Overlapping (or crossover) toes may be inconvenient at first, but they can eventually develop into a severe disfiguring foot deformity. The slow dislocation and crossing over of the toe can cause a variety of problems, including:
- Blisters. Overlapped toes often rub against the tops of shoes, causing blisters to form. If a patient has diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, or another condition that compromises immunity, a blister could develop into a foot ulcer with a potentially fatal risk of infection.
- Pain or stiffness. The most common symptom of an overlapping toe is pain from pressure and inflammation when wearing shoes. If the condition goes untreated, a patient could also suffer pain in the ball of the foot, making it difficult to stand or walk for long periods.
- Calluses and corns. Prolonged friction and irritation on the knuckles and sides of the toes can lead to calluses or corns, further complicating recovery.
- Balance and gait problems. Many people are forced to change the way they walk to ease the pain of overlapping toes. Compensating for injury can place abnormal pressure on other areas of the body, causing secondary injuries to the opposite foot, leg, or back.
- Difficulty finding footwear. Overlapping toes distort the size and shape of the foot, making it difficult to find shoes that fit comfortably. Larger shoe sizes or wider footwear might temporarily accommodate the condition but open the patient up to more problems (such as tripping or hammertoes) caused by ill-fitting shoes.
How to Correct an Overlapping Toe
Your podiatrist will have to examine your foot to determine the best way to improve lost balance and function from an overlapping toe. If you have a bunion and an overlapping toe, bunion repair could be enough to settle the remaining toes in place. In extreme cases, crossover toes and bunions may be corrected in the same procedure.
Once the bunion is corrected, overlapping toes may be resolved with:
- Corrective orthotics. Toe separators and spacers may be needed to keep your toes in the proper alignment as the bunion heals. After spacing is corrected, toe loops or “buddy taping” can help straighten a bent toe without restricting your ability to walk.
- Shoe changes. After surgery, patients might need to make permanent footwear changes to restore foot flexibility and prevent bunions from returning. Shoes with a high, broad toe box can help the smaller toes move back into their rightful position. As the toes become less cramped, the ligaments may stretch and bend downward to support the foot and restore balance.
- Tendon release. If an overlapping toe does not respond to conservative treatment, surgery may be needed to reposition it. To correct a severely contracted toe, a podiatrist may need to release a tendon and brace the toe in place so it will heal straight.
Whether you’re concerned about the look or the limitations of overlapping toes, our podiatry team is here to help. We take the time to listen to your concerns and carefully examine your feet to determine the best way to restore lost mobility. Contact us today by calling (208) 731-6321 or request an appointment online in our Twin Falls or Burley offices.