What Is Morton's Toe?

It's not too worrisome of a condition.

From being cold or painful to feeling like they're tingling or swelling, our feet can cause us a number of issues—especially when those issues are foot-related concerns related to the physical form of our feet.

Foot deformities can happen to anyone and, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), can include conditions such as splayfoot, high-arched feet, or flat feet. One such genetic foot deformity that can affect your big toe specifically is Morton's toe (also known as Morton's foot or "Greek foot").

What Is Morton's Toe?

If you have a second toe that's longer than your first toe (your big or great toe), you likely have Morton's toe. The second toe is longer because one of two bones (the metatarsal or the proximal phalanx) in that toe is longer than the one in the big toe. Most people don't have problems with their feet just because the second toe is longer unless they have a condition called brachymetatarsia.

Brachymetatarsia is described as an abnormal shortening of one or more metatarsal bones. It occurs when the growth plate of that bone closes too early. This condition requires surgery, whereas most people with Morton's toe have few issues and rarely require surgery.

Additionally, Morton's toe is not the same as Morton's neuroma. Morton's neuroma is the result of thick tissue surrounding a nerve in your foot that leads to your toes, per the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). This type of neuroma normally occurs between the second and third or third and fourth toes and leads to pain in the ball of the foot, according to the AAOS.

Morton's toe is genetic, Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, Vionic Innovation Lab expert and podiatrist at City Podiatry in New York City, told Health. Additionally, the authors of a 2019 study published in theInternational Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research noted that the way Morton's toe is inherited seems to be complicated. In other words, the aspects of genetics that make Morton's toe more likely to occur in a person's foot are unclear.

What Are the Effects of Morton's Toe?

Morton's toe does put more pressure on the second toe than the first, which can cause foot pain in some people. The increased pressure can also lead to painful corns or hard calluses on the second toe. The pressure and pain can certainly be aggravating, but in most cases, there's nothing serious to worry about.

Other issues may arise from Morton's toe as well: "Toenail damage, ingrown nails, and nail injury is also very common from having a longer second toe, especially if you wear high heels, pointy, narrow, tight shoes, or are a runner," said Dr. Sutera.

How To Resolve Issues Related to Morton's Toe

If you do have pain from Morton's toe, your shoes could be the culprit. You want to make sure your second toe has enough room in each pair of shoes you own. That could mean sticking to shoes that have a roomier toe area and secondhand selling or donating ones that don't.

"When we're at a shoe store, it's very common to measure for the great toe. You should measure for your longest toe," said Dr. Sutera. "Over time, cramming your second toe into a shoe that doesn't fit well can cause pain, arthritis, and hammering."

People with a longer second toe are also at greater risk of developing hammer toe, which is when the toe becomes bent at a downward angle per MedlinePlus, which can also be caused by not wearing comfortable shoes. It's just another reason to always wear shoes that fit properly, which Dr. Sutera said is the best treatment for Morton's toe. Orthotics and metatarsal pads can also help balance and redistribute the weight across the ball of the foot.

Although it's rare, surgery can also be used to shorten the toe—or lengthen the big toe—but it's usually done in very severe cases and when no other method has been successful in relieving pain.

A Quick Review

Morton's toe is a foot condition in which a person's second toe is longer than their big toe. In general, Morton's toe is usually nothing to worry about, though the condition can cause foot pain or toenail issues. However, making sure you have more room in the toe of your shoes can help relieve some of the problems that might arise with having Morton's toe. If you have any questions or concerns, reach out to a healthcare provider.

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Sources
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  1. Córdoba-Fernández A, Vera-Gómez ML. Literature Review on BrachymetatarsiaOrthop Nurs. 2018;37(5):292-302. doi:10.1097/NOR.0000000000000487

  2. Aigbogun EO, Alabi AS, Didia BC, Ordu KS. Morton's Toe: Prevalence and Inheritance Pattern among NigeriansInt J Appl Basic Med Res. 2019;9(2):89-94. doi:10.4103/ijabmr.IJABMR_128_18

  3. Kim HT, Hong SM, Kim IH. Treatment of Brachymetatarsia Involving the Great ToeJB JS Open Access. 2018;3(2):e0046. Published 2018 Apr 19. doi:10.2106/JBJS.OA.17.00046

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