Ball of the Foot Pain

What causes toes to curl up? [Toes cramping and curling how to fix IT!]

Do you have toes cramping & curling? We review what causes toes to curl up, why are my toes curled & how to fix curled toes!

Do you have toes cramping & curling video summary:

🦶Do you have Second Toe Joint Pain? Second Toe Capsulitis? We will show the best Second Toe Pain Treatment & Second Toe Taping!🦶

We review what causes toes to curl up, why are my toes curled & how to fix curled toes. Second toe joint pain can sometimes be caused by something called Freiberg Disease or Freiberg’s Syndrome.

0:00 Second Toe Joint Pain
0:42 Freiberg’s Disease
1:00 Feiberg’s Syndrome Causes
1:15 Freiberg’s Syndrome Symptoms
1:32 Long Second Metatarsal Joint Pain
1:58 Second Toe Pain Diagnosis
2:15 Second Toe Pain Podiatrist
2:30 Second Toe Joint Pain Causes
3:35 Second Toe Pain Taping
4:07 Bottom of the second toe taping
4:50 Freiburg Disease Stages
5:25 Best second toe joint pain shoes
5:50 Best second toe joint pain Orthotics
6:10 Second toe joint pain pads
6:35 Second toe pain treatment
6:50 Second toe joint pain injection
7:15 Second toe pain surgery
8:05 Second toe joint pain causes
8:35 Second toe joint pain relief
9:15 Second toe pain massage
10:35 Second toe pain stretches & second toe pain stretching
11:15 Second toe pain exercises

what causes toes to curl up

What causes toes to curl up?

Have you noticed your toes curling up since of late? ‘Why do my toes curl?’ may be a question that bothers you.  It can be related to foot deformities which may occur due to an imbalance of muscles, ligaments, or tendons in your foot which normally holds your toes straight. Have you ever wondered why these deformities occur? These deformities may result from your foot structure, injuries to your foot (foot trauma), and certain disease processes like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis or even due to the shoes you wear.

What does curling your toes mean?

There are 3 kinds of toe-curling deformities.

  1. Hammertoe – When the middle joint of a toe is abnormally bent, it is called a hammertoe. Your middle joint will pop up while the tip of the toe point downwards.
  2. Mallet toe – When the joint nearest to the toenail bends abnormally, it is called the mallet toe. Here the middle toe joint is not affected, and only the tip of your toe points downwards.
  3. Claw toe – Both middle and distal joints are affected, and your entire toe will curl downwards. Since it looks like an animal claw, it has got this name.

Toe-curling is commonly seen in your second, third, and fourth toes. Curling your toes mean abnormal bending of joints in one or more of your toes. They may curl up or down depending on the deformity.

Associated curling toes and spasming toes causes:

Metatarsalgia, Morton's neuroma, 2nd toe capsulitis, plantar plate

Ball of the Foot Pain Pictures & Photo Gallery:


  • Metatarsalgia: which means generalized foot pain without a specific cause.
  • Second toe capsulitis: this is the inflammation of the second toe joint capsule.
  • Capsulitis is related to hammertoe formation, and can lead to a plantar plate tear. There is some overlap between these three disorders. As they get worse tearing and ligament damage can occur.
  • Morton’s neuroma: this is the damage and inflammation to the nerves between and underneath the metatarsal joints.
  • Fat pad atrophy of the ball of the foot: this is the loss of cushioning in the ball the foot.
  • Plantar Plate Tear: A plantar plate tear is ripping of the ligaments holding the toe together. 

So, click on the photo gallery to see the specific causes of your ball of the foot pain!

What are the symptoms of curled toes?

When your toes are abnormally bent, it can cause pain. Moving the affected toes can be difficult because of the deformity. When your curled toes rub against the inside of your shoes, corns and calluses can occur.

What causes toes to curl?

Curling of your toes may be due to;

  • Abnormal balance of your toe muscles – when your muscles in the toes are not balanced, it can lead to instability, resulting in contraction of your toes, making them curl.
  • Foot trauma – If an injury occurs to your toes, such as stub, break or jam a toe, this particular toe is likely to curl.
  • Wearing certain types of shoes – If you constantly wear high heels or footwear which is pointy or too tight at the toe box, your toes will be crowded into space, preventing them from lying flat. This curled position of your toes may persist even when you stay barefoot. Wearing ill-fitting shoes, especially while you run and exercise can crowd your toes, causing the tendons of your toes to tighten and contract. Extended time in such a position may cause a shift in the shape of your feet while curling your toes.
  • If you have high arched feet or bunions – these can reduce the space in your shoe’s toe box. This will make you more prone to develop toe-curling.

Certain factors may increase your risk of developing curled toes. These include;

  • Your age – the risk increases with age
  • Sex – women tend to get curled toes more than men
  • Certain diseases like arthritis (especially rheumatoid arthritis) and diabetes make you more prone to deform your foot. Stroke patients and those who suffer from neuromuscular diseases are prone to foot deformities with time. These foot deformities include curled toes.
  • Heredity and genetics may play a role in increasing the risk of developing curled toes.
  • The length of your toes – If your second toe is longer than the big toe, your risk of developing curled toes is higher.

Why do toes curl with age?

When you age, you become more prone to curling in your toes because of muscle weakness and imbalance. Toe-curling is not due to a one-time event. Your toes curl gradually with time, and as you age, there can be faulty mechanics and worsening diseases like diabetes which may lead to deformities.

Why do I curl my toes when I walk?

Some muscles and tendons are attached to the top and bottom of our toes. They are designed to pull with equal force on our toes. This equal force keeps them straight while they act as levers for balance and stability during our walking and running. Many of us have imperfect feet, unfortunately, and there is a biomechanical imbalance as we walk. There are subtle differences in the forces of the tendons applying to the toes. This imbalance of forces makes the toes elevate and bend, making them curl under. Once our toes get out of position, the stronger tendon will continue to pull this toe further. This will curl the toe when we walk.

This 2021 review article states that changing the dynamics of flexibility and muscle function is important in forming hammertoes, claw toes, mallet toes, and curling downward toes.

What are the home remedies and lifestyle changes you can try for curled toes?

Wear suitable footwear – Low-heeled shoes with a wide toe box helps to ease the foot pain. If the material which covers your toes is flexible, the pressure on your toes will reduce. There should be half an inch space between your shoe and your longest toe. If there is adequate space, the pain and pressure will be relieved.

If you have diabetes with poor circulation, avoid over-the-counter medicated corn removal products. Because they contain acids, they may lead to severe skin irritation. Do not attempt to cut or shave corns and calluses off your toes. Foot wounds are prone to get infected easily. Once infected, foot wounds are difficult to treat. Therefore, always seek help from your doctor or a podiatrist before attempting such procedures on your own.

How will your doctor diagnose toe-curling?

Simply by examining your feet, your doctor can diagnose toe-curling. They should determine whether the deformity is hammertoe, mallet toe, claw toe, or a mixture of deformities. Sometimes X- rays are ordered to evaluate the bones and joints of your feet further.

How do you fix curled toes?

If your deformity or toe-curling does not bother you, you may not need any treatment. But sometimes, you may have pain or trouble wearing your shoes. When your toes are bent, they rub against your shoes, leading to painful corns and calluses. If you have such problems, you can make an appointment with a podiatrist.

Initially, your toes are flexible and can be manually straightened. When the condition progresses, your toes become more fixed. With time they become more rigid. Once the pressure on your toes increases, pain can arise. The corns and calluses can occur, which may also cause pain. Most people commonly seek help only when the pain starts.

What is conservative management for toe-curling?

If your toes are not painful, the condition can be managed conservatively. You can wear shoes that accommodate your toes well. Monitoring should be done to see whether the deformity worsens or the amount of pain.

Once the toes become painful, other treatment options are considered. Some of the treatments given for toe-curling are;

  • Using pads or straps to cushion the toes. These can also pull the toes in the direction that alleviates the pressure on your toes.
  • Using shoe inserts – can reposition your toes and relieve the pressure while reducing your pain.
  • Splinting or taping
  • Physical therapy and exercises – toe exercises include stretching your toes, picking up marbles from the floor, or crumpling a towel with your toes. This will stretch and strengthen your toe muscles.
  • Wearing customized shoes – your doctor may recommend a different kinds of shoes so that they will be less painful and comfortable, especially when you walk.
  • Custom orthotic devices to take pressure off your toes

Treatment of corns and calluses – debridement can be done to remove painful skin thickening

When is surgery considered for toe-curling?

Surgery is recommended if conservative treatment fails. For permanent repair of your curled toes, surgery is the only option. Surgery is beneficial when your toes are rigid, or the pain is so severe that it interferes with your daily activities and wearing shoes. Surgery will help to get your toes back to their straight position. During surgery, the tendon that prevents your toe from lying flat will be released. Sometimes pieces of bone will be removed to straighten your toe. Once the deformity is corrected, the pain will be relieved too.

This 2020 review article discussed a high rate of recurrence with hammertoes even after surgery can correct them. 

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