While looking down at their feet many people will wonder: What's going on with my little toes? They might look like they are curled in, bent, red, or swollen. They may be painful or have skin lesions like corns and calluses. An abnormal or unsightly nail is frequently noticed as well. Upon further inspection one may notice a skin irritation or rash between the 4th and 5th toes.
Why are they like this?
A slight curvature of the 5th toe is very common and comes from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. As slight imbalance of the soft tissues can cause imperfect alignment of the bones. Tight or pointy shoes and high heels can also encourage the bend in the toe to increase.
If the nail is unsightly or abnormal it may be a sign that that nail is sustaining repetitive friction, rubbing, small trauma. These can all be the result of the toe bending as well as tight shoes.
If the nails sustains damage, cracking, lifting it can allow for moisture, debris and fungus to invade, causing a long term problem needing medication.
The skin in between the 4th and 5th toes is at increased risk when the toes are curled. The toe position will trap moisture and encourage the proliferation of fungus, causing an athletes foot.
Do I need to address this issue?
If the toe is symptomatic if needs to be addressed. If the area is painful, itching, red, or irritated it should be evaluated. A present infection needs prompt attention to prevent spread to other areas of the feet and other individuals in the household.
If the deformity of the toe looks to be progressing or getting worse it should be addressed before it becomes severe.
If the toe abnormality also comes with a larger foot deformity a thorough evaluation of the entire foot and it mechanics should be performed
What can be done to fix it?
There are many options for proper management of these issues depending on the diagnosis and severity
Wider shoes, alternative styles of shoes, padding can help.
Specific types of pads and splints can help
Paring or shaving of painful calluses
Medication for skin rash between the toes along with proper foot hygiene
Addressing the abnormal nail: biopsy of the nail to confirm fungus, topical or oral medication, pinpoint Laser to eliminate the infection
Custom foot orthotics to slow or eliminate the progression of the deformity by supporting the bony and soft tissue structures in the feet
Surgical correction of the toe to realign the joints
If you have an issue with your 5th toe we at Advanced Podiatry would be happy help you get it resolved.