Claw foot is a deformity of the foot. The toe joint nearest the ankle is bent upward and the other toe joints are bent downward. The toe looks like a claw.
Claw toes present at birth (congenital). The condition can also can develop later in life because of other disorders (acquired). Claw toes may be caused by a nerve problem in the legs or a spinal cord problem. The cause is unknown in many cases.
Claw toes are not usually harmful in themselves. They may be the first sign of a more serious disease of the nervous system.
Claw toes may cause pain and lead to calluses on the top of the toe over the first joint, but may also be painless. The condition may create problems wearing shoes.
Call your health care provider if you think you may be getting claw toes.
What to expect at your health care provider's office
The health care provider will do an exam to check for muscle, nerve, and spine problems. The physical examination will probably include extra attention to the feet and hands.
You will be asked questions about your condition such as:
When did you first notice this?
Is it getting worse?
Does it affect both feet?
Do you have other symptoms at the same time?
Do you have any abnormal feelings in your feet?
Do any other family members have the same condition?
The abnormal shape of the toe can increase pressure and cause calluses or ulcers on your toes. You may need to wear special shoes to ease pressure. Claw toes can also be treated surgically.
Wang D. Claw toe. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2008:chap 78.
C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang