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Martin Foot & Ankle

Morton’s Toe: Pressure on Your Metatarsals

Sometimes the natural foot shape you were born with can actually contribute to pain and foot problems. The length, shape, and position of bones in your feet can make a huge difference for how they handle and distribute pressure. One foot shape that is a factor in many different problems is actually very common—Morton’s toe. This condition can change how the ball of your foot absorbs shock.

Strange Anatomy of a Classical Foot

morton's toeMorton’s toe (also known as Morton’s foot syndrome and Greek foot) is a commonly-inherited but inefficient foot shape. As a result, your second toe is longer than the big toe. It’s not the actual toe bones that are longer, though; rather, it’s an issue with the metatarsal bones they are attached to. A Greek foot has a first metatarsal that is shorter than the one next to it. Often the bone is unusually moveable and slightly raised, so it doesn’t bear weight correctly and contributes to faulty biomechanics. At the same time, the second metatarsal ends up thicker than normal.

How Bone Length Adds to Foot Pain

Your metatarsals are crucial for absorbing pressure and pushing off the ground. The first metatarsal is normally the biggest and bears a significant portion of bodyweight. When it’s too short or not in the proper position, the brunt of your weight to sits mostly on top of the second toe, rather than being spread between the big toe and the smaller ones. This, of course, strains the bones and can lead to many different painful problems.

Metatarsalgia is one of the most common side effects of Morton’s toe. The strain can contribute to Morton’s neuroma, stress fractures, calluses, and toe deformities like hammertoes as well. The unusual mobility in the big toe may make you prone to bunions. The abnormal pressure on the second digit can change your gait, too, and put you at risk for overuse injuries. You might develop shin splints more easily, and be more prone to arthritis. Problems developing in the knee joint are common as well.

Alleviating Pain, Correcting Mechanics

Since this inherited Greek foot can lead to a variety of different problems, our expert team at Martin Foot and Ankle will have to evaluate your symptoms and look for the underlying cause. Our team may need diagnostic images to see the length and position of your first two metatarsal bones. Once we know if your second metatarsal is longer than the first, or that the first metatarsal is positioned higher than it should be, we can begin treating the problem.

For the majority of people with Morton’s toe, conservative correction is all you will need. Accommodating the metatarsal differences and appropriately distributing your body weight through the ball of your foot will alleviate your discomfort. Special metatarsal pads under the big toe work well for this. Prescription orthotics are best, since they can be the exact size your foot needs and can correct biomechanical or gait problems that might be connected. If orthotics paired with proper shoes don’t help, you might need surgery to correct the metatarsal length and positioning differences.

Morton’s toe may be inherited, but you don’t have to resign yourself to the accompanying foot pain. You can take steps to protect your lower limbs. Let Martin Foot and Ankle in York, Lancaster, and Hanover, PA, help you live with comfortable, healthy feet. Just make an appointment by calling (717) 757-3537. You can also make an appointment with us online.

Dr. Maria Ann Kasper
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