What is Morton's Toe?

Morton's Toe Can Lead to Foot Pain

Morton's Toe
Morton's Toe. Núria Talavera/Moment Open/Getty Images

Morton's toe is when the second toe is longer than the first toe (big toe). It is a common variation seen in 10% to 20% of the population. Having Morton's toe may lead to foot pain and the need to find footwear that will fit better.

Morton's toe may also be referred to as long toe or "Greek toe," as the feet seen on classic Greek statues often have Morton's toe. The Statue of Liberty, modeled after classic Greek sculpture, is a good example of Morton's toe.

It is often confused with Morton's neuroma, which is not related.

Cause of Morton's Toe

Morton's toe is something you are born with. The length of each toe is determined by the length of the metatarsal bones -- the long bones in the ball of the foot. In those with Morton's toe, the big toe metatarsal (first metatarsal) is shorter then the second metatarsal. It is a common variation rather than a condition that requires correction.

Morton's Toe and Foot Pain

The long second toe seen with Morton's toe is forward of the first toe and it takes more of the brunt of pressure during the "toe off" phase of each step, which would otherwise be handled by the sturdier first toe.

The constant pressure may cause a callus to develop at the second metatarsal head on the ball of the foot. It may also mean that the second toe gets pressure from the toe box of the shoe, leading to black toenail and bruising.

Morton's toe may lead to overpronation -- excessive rotation of the foot inward.

Motion control shoes can help correct overpronation and the problems that it brings.

Help for Morton's Toe

Finding the right shoes with a high and wide toe box can prevent the constant pressure on the tip of the second toe. Lacing the shoes to prevent the foot from sliding forward in the shoe with every step can help prevent toenail damage.

Selecting shoes a half size larger may also relieve the pressure on the second toe, when used in conjunction with proper lacing.

For those with continued foot pain and problems, a custom orthotic can help realign and cushion the foot properly, so that the big toe takes its share of the force when stepping. Get a foot analysis at a foot store or pedorthist shop to see whether over-the-counter insoles or custom orthotics may be needed.

Ultrarunner and author of Fixing Your Feet, John Vonhof, suggests that those with Morton's toe avoid slick insoles, to help prevent the foot from sliding forward in the shoe. They may also want to cut slits in the toe box to relieve pressure.

In cases of unrelieved pain, surgery may be performed to lengthen the first metatarsal or shorten the second metatarsal.

Source:

D. J. Morton, "Metatarsus atavicus: the identification of a distinct type of foot disorder. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 9: 531-544, 1927.

Decherchi P. "Dudley Joy Morton's foot syndrome." Presse Med. 2005 Dec 17;34(22 Pt 1):1737-40.

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