curled toes

Curled Toes – Why Your Toes Are Cramping And Curling


Your shoes and your lifestyle influence your feet in different ways. However, there are a number of other conditions associated with curled toes. It is important to identify your symptoms in order for a doctor to diagnose any possible conditions more accurately. In this article we discuss possible causes, diagnosis and treatment of curled toes.

What Causes Toes To Curl Up

The following three toe ‘deformities’ can be associated with curled toes.


Hammertoe: The smallest of the four toes on your foot have three separate bone segments connected by two joints. A Hammertoe has an obvious bend in the middle joint and is usually longer than the other 4 toes. This deformity is most common in the second toe.

Claw Toe: A Claw Toe is an abnormal curve in the middle of the joint as well as the last joint closest to the nail. It can occur in any of the smallest four toes.

Mallet Toe: A Mallet Toe is a bent deformation in the joint closest to the nail of the toe.

toes cramping and curling
This image shoes the different bends in a Hammer Toe, Claw Toe and Mallet Toe.

Toes Cramping And Curling In Shoes

If you are a runner, ill-fitting shoes can exacerbate the problem and take into account the impact on the duration of the workout. They compress the toe, causing the tendons of the toe to contract and tighten. Toes that are too short, too narrow, too high or too pointed can develop into curled toes over time.

For this reason, people with high arches tend to have curled toes. High arches reduce the space in the shoes for the toe space. Over time, this position causes the shape of the foot to shift, causing the toes to curl up.

In fact, ill-fitting shoes are the main cause of foot pain and problems, and eight out of ten people have ill-fitting shoes. To solve this problem, you should buy appropriate shoes.

You can visit a shoe or foot clinic and get an evaluation to ensure that you are investing in healthy shoes for your unique feet. At the clinic, a shoe specialist and podiatrist will help match the right shoe or insole to your foot shape, structure and alignment to meet your corrective, supportive and adaptable needs. A shoe fitting can be done at your local shoe store or included in the clinic.

Other reasons that can cause curled toes can be conditions that effect muscle imbalances. These imbalances can be due to incorrect biomechanics, abnormally long toes, neuromuscular diseases, arthritis, diabetes and simply just genetics.

toe curling meaning
A foot specialist can take an X-Ray of your feet to diagnose your curled toes.

How To Fix Curled Toes

There are a few different ways to fix curled toes. Movement of the affected toes can be difficult or painful. Corn calluses can develop when the toe rubs against the inside of the shoe. Your doctor can diagnose curled toes by examining your foot. He or she can arrange an X-ray to examine the bones and joints in the foot and toes.

Footwear: As previously mentioned, proper footwear can relieve foot pain. A low heel shoe with a deep toe box (a flexible material that covers the toes) can help. Leave enough space between your toes to relieve pressure and pain. Make sure there is at least half an inch of space from your long toe to the inside of your shoe.

See A Specialist: It is risky to try to shave or cut unsightly corns or bunions off your toes by yourself. Avoid over-the-counter medications to remove corn, many of which contain acid and can cause severe skin irritation. Foot wounds can infect the foot, and infections can be difficult to treat, especially if you have diabetes or circulatory problems. See a foot specialist (podiatrist) instead to get them professionally removed.

Botox: Botox is an evidence-based treatment for fixing curled toes, especially after a stroke. It helps to alleviate spasticity by acting as a nerve block, resulting in relaxed muscles that help the toes release tension. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to see if you would be suitable. Of course, there is always something else to discuss, and your therapist can see what you can do to get the best fit.

Electrical stimulation: If you combine electrical stimulation with other treatments such as toe exercises or Botox, you can see more results. Electrical stimulation helps to stimulate the brain to promote the reconnection between the brain and toe muscles. It is particularly effective for people with curled toes that may have been caused by neurological injuries or strokes.

Be sure to avoid high heels as they can increase the pressure on the toe and exacerbate the condition. If your curled toes are caused by shoes that are too tight, it can help to get a shoe with a larger toe space. This gives the toe the necessary wiggle space. If you have tried most treatments unsuccessfully, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Depending on the problem, your doctor may need to relax other muscles and tendons to relax the toe. It is best to try conservative treatment of your curled toes before considering surgery.

involuntary curling of toes
A physical therapist can help with exercises to reverse or reduce curled toes.

Curled Toes Exercises

The best way to fix curled toes is to rewire the brain with targeted toe exercises. Invasive surgery is a procedure that requires a long recovery time and may require you to stay off your feet for an extended period of time. So exercises recommended by your physical therapist could be a good option before opting for surgery.

Therapeutic exercises for curled toes are among the most effective non-invasive treatments available. Loosening exercises help to stretch the muscles in the feet and toes. The more you use your toes and foot muscles, the better your brain can control and relax them. These exercises work by activating neuroplasticity, the brain’s natural ability to rewire itself through repeated training. This works particularly well in people who have curled toes as a result of a neurological injury or stroke.

By using these muscles you can regain control over them. The following exercises for curled toes will help, but they may feel strange at first.

  • Toe stretches: If you still have flexibility in your toes, toe stretches are a great start. Flex your toes as wide as you can and hold for a few seconds, continue this stretch for 10-15 times. Stop if you feel too much pain. You can gently aid your toes in position with your hands and slowly build strength over time.
  • Toe Raises: With feet flat on the floor, lift your toes off the ground and stretch our your toes as wide as you can. Repeat 10-15 times.
  • Toe Crawls: Standing with feet flat on the floor, stretch out your toes and grip the floor, trying to inch yourself forward. This is a challenging one even for people without curled toes!
  • Toe Pick-Ups: Arrange some items on the floor that you can try picking up with your toes. This one always makes people laugh so have some fun with it. Using your feet as hands can help to develop your range of motion and strengthen all parts of the muscles in your toes and feet.
  • Toe Curls: Think bicep curls but for your toes. Contract your toes by curling them more, then release them. You can make this exercise more challenging by grasping a towel with your toes or something long with a bit of weight.
what causes toes to curl up
Picking up items with your curled toes helps with the range of motion and muscle flexibility.

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