What Is Morton’s Toe?
Posted by Jenn F. on Monday, February 16th, 2015
Is your second toe longer than your big toe? If so, then you’re among the ~15 percent of the population that has “Morton’s toe,” a genetically inherited condition. This anomaly was named after Dr. Dudley J. Morton, who first classified it more than 70 years ago. Morton’s toe isn’t a serious medical condition, but in some cases it can lead to foot pain or foot injuries. Read on for more information about Morton’s toe and what you can do if it’s causing you problems.
On one hand, you’re in “royal” company if you have Morton’s toe. According to the UK Telegraph, rulers from ancient Egyptian and Hawaiian royal dynasties all had long second toes. Reflexologists say you’re more likely to be a leader if you have Morton’s toe. Many Greek statues—and even the Statue of Liberty—possess long second toes, perhaps indicating that Morton’s toe was more prevalent among historical populations.
On the other hand, you may be more likely to suffer from certain types of foot injuries if you have Morton’s toe today.
How Can A Longer Second Toe Cause Physical Problems?
When the second toe is longer, the foot strikes the ground differently and more pressure is placed on the ball of the foot behind the second toe, causing callusing and pain. The rest of the foot will compensate for this added pressure by turning the toes outward. When this happens, the ankle turns inward, flattening the arch and creating greater stress on the foot. This stress can then radiate up through the legs and back. The greater the size difference between toes, the greater the risk of developing foot pain or injury over time.
What Foot Problems Are Associated With Morton’s Toe?
Our board-certified New York podiatrists at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine often see:
- Hammer toes
- Arch Pain
- Knee Pain
- Ankle Pain
- Stress Fractures
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Capsulitis of the Second Toe
While Morton’s toe doesn’t necessarily cause these other foot problems, or vice versa, there can be overlap between the symptoms and treatments for these conditions. And if a foot injury, anomaly, or deformity is left unattended or untreated, they can often exacerbate other foot injuries or problems.
What Can You Do About Morton’s Toe?
Conservative treatment for Morton’s toe includes placing a flexible pad beneath the first toe and the metatarsal, and restoring balance with custom orthotics. At the Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in Manhattan or Westchester, we use state-of-the-art computer scanning technology to determine the perfect measurements needed for patients’ custom orthotics—we can even order them for you.
Choosing the right shoes is also important in preventing foot pain associated with Morton’s toe. You want a thumb’s width of space between your second toe and the toe of the shoe, and a style with a roomier toe-box.
High-impact exercises like jumping and sprinting can increase the risk of stress fracture in Morton’s toes. It’s good to mix up your workouts with low-impact swimming and biking to avoid related toe, back, shoulder or neck pain. A little ice and foot elevation can go a long way after a long day. If over-the-counter NSAID medications have not helped take the edge off foot pain, then a cortisone shot can be administered for immediate relief.
Toe-shortening surgery may be an option if:
- You have serious pain.
- Conservative measures have not worked.
- You have difficulty walking or finding shoes that fit.
- You have a bunion or hammer toe that is worsening.
There are various procedures to correct the problem. For example, a section of the bone can be removed, and hardware such as a temporary surgical wire or permanent implant can be inserted to hold the alignment in place. Total healing time after toe-shortening is about six weeks, with most patients returning to normal activities and shoes in two or three weeks. Factors like smoking, age, comorbidities, and poor nutrition contribute to prolonged healing times.
NY Foot Doctors
Consult with our experienced podiatrists in Manhattan or Westchester to learn more about correcting a long second toe that is causing you grief.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.