What is Morton’s Toe?
Morton’s toe is a type of condition which does not typically cause any pain to the patient who has it, but there is still the potential for it to eventually lead to musculoskeletal issues. Chiropractic care can help if or when this type of issue does occur. Morton’s toe is a condition where the patient’s second toe is larger than the big toe on the foot. Using technical terms, the first metatarsal is shortened relative to the second metatarsal.
A few alternative names of the condition are “Royal Toe”, “Greek foot”, “LaMay toe” or long toe. Morton’s toe did not get its name for the same reason as Morton’s neuroma, nor are the two conditions the same. While it was Dudley Joy Morton who first described Morton’s toe disorder, it was instead Thomas George Morton who discussed Morton’s neuroma1. Morton’s neuroma is a ball of foot pain that is located between the 3rd and 4th toes. The tissue in this condition thickens around the nerves that lead to the toes. Its cause has generally been linked to cases where patients are regularly wearing high-heeled shoes. Wearing low-heeled shoes with wider toe space can help, although some patients may end up with corticosteroid injections or even surgery.2
Outside of its primary medical implications to the patients themselves, Morton’s toe also has an interesting cultural and anthropological history. Greek sculpture has idealized and prominently featured the condition. In fact, even the famous Statue of Liberty shares this feature. It had been used as a standard of aesthetic throughout the duration of the Roman and Renaissance periods.3
Complications of Morton’s Toe
While Morton’s toe is sometimes thought of as a foot shape of a normal variant, it can still potentially lead to physical complications. The weight of a person’s body, when walking, is usually primarily borne by the first metatarsal head. With the alternate physical structure in Morton’s toe, a different toe becomes more prominent than the biggest toe. As a result, the smaller head of the second metatarsal bears the weight that the first metatarsal used to bear. This becomes more particularly a problem in the many cultures which commonly wear shoes, as shoes are not generally shaped to make space for the long second toe.
Aside from nail problems, other difficulties can arise, such as musculoskeletal dysfunction. About 10% of people have Morton’s toe. Over 80% of those people who do have the condition eventually end up seeking medical help for musculoskeletal issues resulting from their Morton’s toe. The longitudinal arch drops in the foot, leading the ankle to roll inward. The pronation causes the leg to rotate internally. And the leg can end up functionally lengthened or even shortened as a result of the unnatural gait. Even though the legs might not actually be physically different lengths, they can act that way. And the problems which are associated with having legs of different lengths could still arise. One hip lowers, due to the unbalanced pelvis, and spinal issues may result.
Some of the other problems can include scoliosis, kyphotic curve changes of the spine, knee pain, hip pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, low back pain, and more.
A general treatment might be “proprioceptive orthotics”. These devices can help with preventing the negative side effects of having Morton’s toe as well as other foot problems. These include Morton’s neuroma, plantar fasciitis, bunions, and hammer toes.4
Chiropractors look at patients and their lifestyles to see what may be contributing to their pain. They may recommend, in the cases where patients visit the office with problems resulting from their feet, custom orthotics and a change in footwear. There could be even small changes which a patient might need to make in order to begin pain relief. An example would be switching from high heels or shoes with improper support to footwear which is kinder to the body. Ergonomics matter, and treatment will depend on the nature of the foot problem.
Some chiropractic offices offer massage, such as myofascial release, as well as other treatments, like foot mobilization, ultrasound, and stretching. Some foot problems respond well to rest, ice, elevation, compression, and physiotherapy. A chiropractor will likely have recommendations for their patient about exercises or stretches that could be done at home to help relieve pain in between visits to the office. Chiropractors are experts at treating the associated musculoskeletal pain in the rest of the body, as well. In the case of many conditions, the chiropractor will be able to identify the source of the problems, even if the source is not obviously located in the same position as its related pain, such as when a back injury radiates pain into the legs. They tailor their treatment plans to the individual.5
See how orthotics can help.