How Come Your Toes Curling Lower

 

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If you wear high heels or shoes that don’t fit properly, you may suffer from toes that are curling down. When you wear shoes that are too tight, your toes can become crowded. That forces them into a bent position and puts pressure on the toes and joints.

Muscles tighten and shorten after a while. Curling down of the toes, known as claw toe, is due to abnormal bends at the joints in the foot which cause the toes to form an unusual position. Such toes may look odd and a person may experience some pain.

The condition commonly affects the four smaller toes of the foot, as stated by WebMD. Other times, curled toes are the result of neurological injury like stroke. When the neurological impact of stroke impairs the brain’s ability to send motor signals to the toes, the muscles in the foot and toes may over-contract to protect themselves, resulting in curled toes. The toe-curling is a side effect of our autonomic nervous system, which controls all the unconscious processes in your body, like breathing, heartbeat, and digestion, she says. “The toes curl in some people as an involuntary reflex,” she adds.

Toe curls after exercise! by: Ben this happens to me too and 100% of the time it is following intense exertion from some other part of the body, say situps or shoveling alot of sand. Every workout is not followed by my toes curling, but it only happens after this intense kind of exertion. Toe twitching, also called a tremor or a spasm, can be caused by a variety of conditions. Many simply result from temporary interruptions in your circulatory system, muscles, or joints. Others may.

Toe cramps have various triggers, but overuse, dehydration, and mineral deficiencies (mainly, potassium, calcium, and magnesium) are some of the most common culprits. Dystonia Curled, clenched toes or a painful cramped foot are telltale signs of dystonia. Dystonia is a sustained or repetitive muscle twisting, spasm or cramp that can occur at different times of day and in different stages of Parkinson’s disease (PD). For example, dystonia is a common early symptom of young-onset Parkinson’s.

Claw toes result from a muscle imbalance which causes the ligaments and tendons to become unnaturally tight. This results in the joints curling downwards. Arthritis can also lead to many different forefoot deformities, including claw toes. Wearing shoes that do not fit your feet well or that are laced too tightly can cause pressure on your feet and lead to this condition.

For runners, hill running is often what leads to this toe problem: the way your feet have to work when going up or down a hill can affect the tendons on top of your toes.

List of related literature:

These bones are embedded in the flexor hallucis brevis tendon, one of several tendons that exert pressure from the big toe against the ground and help initiate the act of walking: the propulsive phase of the gait cycle.

“Textbook of Physical Diagnosis E-Book: History and Examination” by Mark H. Swartz
from Textbook of Physical Diagnosis E-Book: History and Examination
by Mark H. Swartz
Elsevier Health Sciences, 2020

The two muscles that pass to the toes are criss-crossed; the muscle attaching to the great toe, flexor hallucis longus (FHL), arises laterally from the fibula while the muscle attaching to the lateral four toes, flexor digitorum longus (FDL), arises medially.

“Postgraduate Orthopaedics: The Candidate's Guide to the FRCS (Tr & Orth) Examination” by Paul A. Banaszkiewicz, Deiary F. Kader
from Postgraduate Orthopaedics: The Candidate’s Guide to the FRCS (Tr & Orth) Examination
by Paul A. Banaszkiewicz, Deiary F. Kader
Cambridge University Press, 2017

This is caused by strong ankle dorsiflexion from the anterior tibialis and toe extensors with weak or absent plantar flexion resulting from denervation of the toe flexors and the gastrocnemius/soleus group.

“Physical Rehabilitation E-Book: Evidence-Based Examination, Evaluation, and Intervention” by Michelle H. Cameron, Linda Monroe
from Physical Rehabilitation E-Book: Evidence-Based Examination, Evaluation, and Intervention
by Michelle H. Cameron, Linda Monroe
Elsevier Health Sciences, 2007

The quadratus plantae assists the flexor digitorum longus tendon in flexing the toes and may also adjust the “line of pull” of this tendon as it enters the sole of the foot from the medial side.

“Gray's Anatomy for Students E-Book” by Richard Drake, A. Wayne Vogl, Adam W. M. Mitchell
from Gray’s Anatomy for Students E-Book
by Richard Drake, A. Wayne Vogl, Adam W. M. Mitchell
Elsevier Health Sciences, 2009

A curly toe is caused by contracture of the flexor digitorum longus, and there is flexion at the MTP and the interphalangeal (IP) joints associated with medial deviation of the toe.

“Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 2-Volume Set” by Robert M. Kliegman, MD, Bonita F. Stanton, MD, Joseph St. Geme, MD, Nina F Schor, MD, PhD
from Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 2-Volume Set
by Robert M. Kliegman, MD, Bonita F. Stanton, MD, et. al.
Elsevier Health Sciences, 2015

Passing down the back of the lower leg under the medial malleolus and then forward, the flexor digitorum longus muscle draws the four lesser toes down into flexion toward the heel as it plantar flexes the ankle.

“Mosby's Essential Sciences for Therapeutic Massage E-Book: Anatomy, Physiology, Biomechanics, and Pathology” by Sandy Fritz, Luke Fritz
from Mosby’s Essential Sciences for Therapeutic Massage E-Book: Anatomy, Physiology, Biomechanics, and Pathology
by Sandy Fritz, Luke Fritz
Elsevier Health Sciences, 2020

Extensor muscles: Extension or opening of the toes is caused by extensor muscles situated in front of Tibio-tarsus limb bone.

“krishna's Chordata” by Dr. M. C. Bhatnagar, Dr. Geeta Bansal
from krishna’s Chordata
by Dr. M. C. Bhatnagar, Dr. Geeta Bansal
Krishna Prakashan,

The lesser toes were held in flexion deformities.

“Merriman's Assessment of the Lower Limb E-Book” by Ben Yates
from Merriman’s Assessment of the Lower Limb E-Book
by Ben Yates
Elsevier Health Sciences, 2012

As a unit, these muscles are large and powerful because they propel the body forward off the planted foot during walking and can elevate the body upward onto the toes when standing.

“Gray's Anatomy for Students E-Book” by Richard Drake, A. Wayne Vogl, Adam W. M. Mitchell
from Gray’s Anatomy for Students E-Book
by Richard Drake, A. Wayne Vogl, Adam W. M. Mitchell
Elsevier Health Sciences, 2019

The extended toes elongate the flexor hallucis longus and flexor digitorum longus muscles, and this increases the force of their subsequent contraction.

“Last's Anatomy e-Book: Regional and Applied” by Chummy S. Sinnatamby
from Last’s Anatomy e-Book: Regional and Applied
by Chummy S. Sinnatamby
Elsevier Health Sciences, 2011

Oktay Kutluk

Kutluk Oktay, MD, FACOG is one of the world's foremost experts in fertility preservation as well as ovarian stimulation and in vitro fertilization for infertility treatments. He developed and performed the world's first ovarian transplantation procedures as well as pioneered new ovarian stimulation protocols for embryo and oocyte freezing for breast and endometrial cancer patients.

Mail: [email protected]
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70 comments

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  • You are SUCH a nice guy. I wish we had doctors like you in Bakersfield, Cal. I don’t think good doctors want to come to this city. I don’t blame them a bit!

  • Lived with an older couple once upon a time, and was asked to take care of nails every once in a while…makes me sad to see someone without assistance at home like this.

  • I have to have all four on my left foot done the end of June. My problem is because I have R.A., and S.S. both autoimmune diseases.

  • I got this from wearing 7 inch heels for 12 hours straight while dancing, running and walking on lumpy grass. It was the WORST pain of my life. And I had my appendix removed.

  • This video was marginally informative, but painfully awkward & boring. I’ll still give it a thumbs up. I’m developing hammer toe on my pinky toes. My right one is worse, but it’s not about aesthetics for me. I’m only concerned because I have slightly wide feet (size 6.5W US) and the skin underneath my pinky toe’s proximal & MTP joints keep splitting when I’m not wearing shoes or if I have to walk or pivot quickly. Similar to the way a chapped lip can spilt when you smile… expect my feet are not dried out.

  • I was wearing unsupportive new shoes when my toe clicked a month ago as I was walking down stairs. I can barely move it now. It hurts so much. Twice now, it has clicked back and the pain subsided for a day but it comes back. I also have a bunion on that toe. Are these exercises for me?

  • They say it’s caused by our nervous system
    Neuropathy is still not understood
    No surgery
    Go higher to d pelvic structures
    Change ur posture of d pelvis

  • I am a kicker for my high school football team and got turf toe by kicking the ground at full force. Will these stretches work for me?

  • After about a month of the injury from football training not healing, I went to the doctor, and after she did some tests with her finger and asking me when there was pain, my doctor concluded it was a bone bruise, I believe it is turf toe, it has been about two weeks and half, now there’s a very little swelling mostly on the bottom of the big toe joint area, and it’s just stiffness when I move it up, do you believe my doctor was right and that I just need to do rehab and exercises?

  • Can stretching the tendons on a regular basis help to prevent the formation of hammertoes or even correct them if they are still flexible? Perhaps a kneeling exercise to stretch the top of the foot and tendons?

  • Damn>>> is some high school shop class missing their drill?! Thats a heavy duty lol. This doctor is kind, amazing and what a great personality!

  • Hello Dr Jo’s just wanna let you know your enthusiasm is really wonderful it is very contagious keep up the good work and wonderful videos

  • ⭐⭐ Leaving a Question or Comment? ⭐⭐ Hit the �� SUBSCRIBE �� button above first (if you haven’t already), and make sure you mention you’ve subscribed because I like to respond to my subscribers if I can!

  • Just have a doctor snip the tendon in the toe that holds the toe in that position.. Can be done in 5 minutes in the doctor’s office and it’s permanent.

  • saved me, just able to put weight down on my foot, had a pretty bad turf toe 2 days before travelling… couldn’t even walk, had to use a wheelchair in the airports. slowly starting these exercises. Thanks a ton!

  • I’m so happy I found your video! I had a skiing accident 11 weeks ago: tore my ACL and my MCL, bone bruising, sprained ankle and big toe. I only knew about the toe because it was blue, but it didn’t bug me, considering that I wasn’t weight bearing for weeks. Now I can FINALLY be on all fours… and discovered that my big toe hurts like crazy when I flex it! I didn’t know what to do, but now I feel much better. Thank yoU!

  • Doctor I want to thank you for your teaching. I also have diabetes and my husband cut my nail. He is 81 years young and while I was watching you he was cutting my nails and having a hard time cause now my nail are getting into my skin. He cut my nail monthly. My nail looks healthy and normal but it started to grow into my skin. Should I see a doctor? Also love your videos. Learning and thanks

  • My toes curl a little bit when I am not standing with my feet flat on the floor. I notice a little curl when I have my feet elevated. Would that be within the norm?

  • Hello my friend. I have a close friendly who has been toe pain. I am not physical therapist like yourself, but I know he doesnt have gout, overnight arthritis with uric acid. However, my buddy may have turf toe or hallux rigidus, which started acting up three months ago from doing a lot of walking. Will these exercises work for either toe condition. Thanks for your help as always, which is greatly appreciated. Take care. God Bless.

  • I got pretty bad turf toe from a fall (Dr. diagnosed, xray, bones are all good). It’s painful to put any weight on my big toe, or even move it up or down. When I move it sometimes I get a stabbing pain, especially between the big toe and next toe, and under the big toe. I’ve been resting and keeping it still, to speed healing and avoid pain. I assumed at this stage of healing any movement will set me back, is that not true?

  • Hi, Doctor Jo! Almost a month ago I broke my toe by crashing it against a piece of metal coming out of the ground. The thing is that with the pandemic I chose not to go to see the doctor to discuss the rehabilitation of the toe (I’m wearing a boot although the fracture was minor). Will you please help me by replying if I can start doing these exercises, are they safe to do them now? Thank you so much in advance! ��������

  • My 2nd toe on my right foot is turn inwards towards the big toe it’s crooked to the point my nail growns facing that way they look regular until you see that one toe. No one on YouTube has my toe problem. ��

  • Hi Joe I get this a lot so much so that I can’t do certain exercises like Burpees. Any way I can mitigate this so it doesn’t happen

  • Hi Dr. Jo:

    can this problem get suddenly?

    I haven’t step in a soccer turf in 5 years and I suddenly I got the problem?

    Thanks for your comments.

  • Silver Sneakers is offered through Medicare Advantage and for the company I work for doing Precerts it’s a part of their health care plan

  • Hi doc, I’m having a pain in the toe for 4 years (soccer match) and nothing but cortisone shots helped me. X-ray and MRI show no visible damage and I’m kind of desperate. Is it too late for me to start doing these exercises? Do you have any other suggestions? Thanks.

  • Can’t toes curl down or up? Why is it everybody talk about toe curling but don’t specifically talk about whether the problem is with it curling up or curling down?

  • My toes don’t bother me with regards to how they look or pain, I just want to know if I need to fix this, or if it is fine to not have anything done.

  • I hurt my whole lower leg walking a long distance in unsupportive shoes on concrete. I can walk fine now but my toe still hurts when I am in plank position and certain yoga poses. I’m a hiker so my feet are super important to me! I hope these exercises work for me:)

  • I have a hip injury from track and I’ve been working on it at PT and now since I’m back into running my turf toe came back and I’m scared that since I took a break for so long and it’s still here that I’ll have to go in a boot or something. Should these help if I do them once a day?

  • Looks like I can give a name to my injury now. Taking rest for almost 2-3 months now. But not healed still. Hope this exercises help.

  • This doctor is very kind and although the nails looked a lot better, well if men used nail polish, this might help. Maybe not though. Good work doctor!

  • How come this is the second video I have seen where they don’t know the patient history, as in the last time they were in their office?

  • I’ve had pain for months that was minor and just 4 months after having minimum pain I began to ride my long board more often than normal and then noticed the pain to be excruciating. It’s at the point of un-bearable. Not only do I have extreme pain under my toe I’ve started to notice the pain has now become under the arch of my foot were it bends. I think it might be a good idea to get some imaging Becz I’ve had this pain for more than half a year and it hurts very bad. Also I am a chef so I’m in the kitchen in my feet up to 18 hrs sometimes. Not that easy to find time to allow my foot to rest as much. Any advice?

  • Go to Correct Toes to get to the root of the problem. This is not a genetic issue, it’s a shoe problem. Surgery will not correct the root of the problem.

  • Mine has been bothering me since september last year. Odd that first exercise is easier curling while extended and flaring when pulling back. So hard the other way but i guess that’s how to work it.

  • Hi i watched this video beacuse Two weeks ago i got injured(turf toe) playing football on artificial grass. Find out this video today i hope it ill help me recovery and do you think i can come back to sport when i finish my recovery?thank you very much for this video

  • I’ve had turf toe for three months I got it after months of baseball and football the doctor saw no damage to my bone and made me wear a boot for 4-6 weeks but it still won’t heal

  • Every time I stretch my foot or exercise it, it gets worse. Idk what to do because leaving it alone and resting isn’t doing anything. I want to speed up my recovery becuase ive had this pain for over 3 months now. Is there anything else I can do??

  • Dr Jo, after dealing with runner’s knee, I was finally back to running/walking (halfway through the program) and I stubbed my baby toe, and learned I broke it! I’m in a boot for 3-4 weeks. My concern is, I fear my calf muscles with atrophy. Can you recommend any kind of safe calf strengthening exercise I can do? My break lucky, it’s not misaligned. Can I still wear “yoga toes” (it stretches the toes out a bit, and helps strengthen them. Do I have to wear this clunky boot 24/7 or is it ok for me to walk around barefoot on the carpet (but very carefully!) I am a big barefoot believer!! I don’t have any pain doing floor work with ankle weights on by the way. Hope you will consider doing a broken toe vid. It really is the pits.

  • Hi Dr. Jo, so after almost a month of rest I went to my doc and he said it was fully healed, but I still see some slight inflammation. He says I should start putting weight on it and stuff but I’m scared I’ll make it worse. I ship off to bootcamp in a couple months and this has really set back my fitness goals. I dont know what to do.

  • I would be so pissed if I wasted my time and money and got that kind of treatment. He did an awful job on the big toes, they should have been thinned down and instead of a dremmel he should be using something with cool water so it doesnt get hot for the patient and if they have fungus it doesnt become airborn. I’ve done this for years and that’s why I watch but I’m definitely not subscribing to this guy or watching anymore of his videos. AND THE WAY HE SAID SORRY was as if he couldn’t care less that he caused him discomfort.

  • Turf toe has to do with the tendon underneath, correct? The plantar fascia? Will these stretches work if there’s pain on the upper part of that area (area over the proximal phalange of the big toe and extensor tendon)?

  • Dear Dr Jo, I sprained my toes on my right foot by twisting them inwardly when I fell off the stool (the second next to the big toe severely and the third and fourth ones are moderately) 13 days ago. Can I start doing these toe workouts? The physio said I could do but basic ones like stretching up and down shown in this video. I started driving through using inside my foot on day 5 but when I came home it got swollen and I was in pain. I went back to driving on day 9, this time it was not sore. I drove yesterday and today, again using the same method and there is no more swelling but aching while my foot is still on the foot pedals. Am I doing more harm to my toes?

  • All of my toes are like this and they hurt terribly. I’m not sure why my Dr won’t even talk to me about it. My feet hurt so bad

  • What am I supposed to do if I have this issue for over a week. Can’t put weight on foot without footwear. Can’t bend and it looks swollen

  • Hey Dr. Joe I know I’m late but I had turf toe for a week and then it when away. Now it is back and I have had it for a 2 weeks. Should I see a doctor. Also it started bleeding under bit we know it is turf toe because I play soccer and I stopped to fast so my foot flew up in the shoe and now my joints hurt.

  • Wondering if these can also be used for tendinitis or arthritis. I don’t remember stubbing my toe, so I’m not sure I have turf toe. But I do have issues with PF and accessory navicular syndrome. One day it seemed my big toe was fine and the next it was sore when I pulled my foot back (same motion as in 2:07). Sometimes it okay and others it’s not. Tonight I had to cut my walk short because it hurt to step off it (not sure what that’s called… the exit step? The step-off?). �� Thank you for this video. I’m going to try these exercises!

  • For all of those who are wondering, it does work. I have seen massive improvement by doing these exercises every single day before bed. Dr Joe rocks!

  • How often do you do these? I think mine is strained from overuse. I walk a mile and a half every night and also jump rope 4-5x a week.

  • Why were those nails black is it just because the patient was black or is there something wrong with those nails I’ve never seen black nails before

  • I have been told all kinds of crazy things about the pain in my foot from torn tendons to arthritis and now street watching this video I did some of the stretches and this helped my toe feel much better that fast. I’m gonna keel doing it every day to see if it gets rid of the pain

  • I absolutely love how he doesn’t make the patient feel embarrassed, or blame them for the state of their toes❤️. My grandmother (God rest her soul) had diabetes, and her toes were real bad. They were numb so she didn’t realize it until they were curled over and she was having problems walking. She went in to a podiatrist who berated her, and was just nasty mean like referring to himself as a Ferrier and her foot as a hoof. He had her in tears, and that was the last time she ever went to one. Any time her toenails needed a trim mom or someone in the family done it. So when my Papa (great grandfather) got Alzheimer’s mom and I would go and trim his toes, because my grandmother couldn’t bear the thought of a dr berating him, and him not even know it…

  • The Doctor Wynn is probably one of the most sweet and peaceful doctor that I have seen in my life!!! He doesn’t judge, and he always talking nicely with the patients… He even making joke with them for make them relaxing.
    A great doctor!!! Congrats

  • I do like that your patience are never in pain and never feel embarrassed by the state of their nail, I think I would cuz they grow funny. Do you only do nails or do u fix overgrown skin on the soles of the feet? I’ll check more videos to see what else you do.

  • Hi Dr. Jo thanks for posting this video! When I do some of the exercises I feel a moderate amount of tightness build up in the arch of my foot close to the joint of the big toe. Is that ok or should I be trying to tone the exercise down a bit? When I do the lacrosse ball roll I find it helps relieve that

  • Omg! This is what you consider progress over the talons he came in with?! Your negligible
    ‘improvement’ demonstrates one and/or two things to me.
    You don’t know how terrible your skills are or
    you just don’t give a shit!
    Those big toes are horrendous, my Mum had diabetes and I cut her nails nice + short,
    so no debris would have a veritable ‘pool’ in which to congregate!
    Shame on your shoddy work on these beautiful
    Elders! Come on!��

  • Doc! Ypu are a damn podiatrist but you tell THE whole world that your nails are long and digging in?!? How smart is THAT?? M.

  • I feel like more of that left big toe could have been filed down more. Or at least the hunk scooped out. The scooping out of the funk is SUPER satisfying ��

  • Love your manor with your patients. My Nan was diabetic she had a ulcer on her heel that just wouldn’t clear turned in sepsis and she died last year it was awful the worst pain I’ve ever felt. The smell from it was terrible and not one I’m likely to forget but it didn’t stop me being by her side. So glad to see you looking after your patients so well. Xx

  • I have pain in all leg fingers that reason I m unable to stand up cause of lots of pain in heel toes ND fingers kindly help me Dr jo

  • Hi Dr Jo! This was super helpful! QuestionI have had plantar fascitis in my left foot now for several months and after yoga teacher training I developed pain in my right big toe. I never heard a pop or anything and it started hurting once I returned home. The pain appears in the joint connecting to my foot but closer to the inside (near second toe) when I flex my toe. So if when I walk the pain is when I press off of my big toe and its on the top of the main joint but closer to my second toe. Does this sound like turf toe? I mention my plantar fascitis on my left foot because maybe there are some similarities here with my fascia. Would these same exercises help this pain I’m experiencing? I’ve had this pain for 2 months with no relief:( Thank you in advance for your help!!

  • Thank you for posting such an easy to follow video.
    By the way, I’m pretty bummed about my injury and the dog and costume put a smile on my face. Thanks for that too.

  • How often should I be doing this per day? Is there such a thing as too much? Also this is definitely helping my turf toe. Really relaxing/strengthening those muscles!

  • Watching your and others on YouTube has convinced me to have none bails cut by a professional. I cannot reach and my hubby is afraid he will hurt me so I have to pay someone to cut them.

  • Wow ooh my god wow it worked wonders instant relief. Because of your happy face initially I didn’t take you seriously.Now I love you.
    Do you excercises for backpain after playing sports

  • Thank you for the video! Would these exercises be helpful for sesamoiditis as well? (I’m not sure if “turf toe” is the same as sesamoiditis.)

  • My second toe curves towards the third at the last joint both feet. I don’t want surgery. I don’t know what’s up if it’s the tendons or muscles but it just doesn’t bend barely only a little. That’s my main concern. Also the big toe I think I have hallux rigidus because my big toe after the knucke goes toward the second toe I don’t have a bunion. I was wondering if picking up marbles with second toe and towel curls would straighten the second toe. I feel lazy because of my feet problems. I am also digging my feet in my bed when lying on my back putting my feet flat but I like apply to much pressure. My feet hurt and there always in pain I just hate to look at them. I want help.

  • my pinky toe curls under my other toe. been like that forever and I believe I passed it down to my kid. what can I do to correct it.

  • My god, id shoot myself if I couldn’t get to my toes! I just spent over an hour last week not clipping, I do that regularly but painting and designing and placing rhinestones on just my toes. Then the next week same amount of time on my finger nails! If my toes ever got that bad I’d don’t think I’d be spending the time to make them look nice I guess. I guess once you loose mobility or flexibility it gets harder and harder to get down there and care for them and men even more so. Those tools are some serious tools he’s got there, one pass on my lil manicured natural nails would probably take my nail rite off the nail bed in one pass.I just appreciated my nails that much more on their worst day! Very nice doctor. He didn’t alienate or make fun of the man. He wants him to come back more often so it dosnt get that bad again. The worst that could happen if he wasn’t respectful if the man not coming back and the nails getting worse and digging into his foot where it could cause pain and infection all because of a bad comment so great job to this doc. Much respect to him and to the patient for not letting embarrassment keep him from getting help. That usually is the one of the biggest reasons that keep ppl from doctors trained to help, that and fear of pain.