What Are Overlapping Toes?

Overlapping Toes is a type of foot deformity in which a toe moves right on top of its adjacent toe. This is found mostly in the second and fifth toes. This condition is normally caused due to muscle imbalances or any type of abnormality in the one of the foot. One of the common causes of Overlapping Toes are bunions, especially between the second toe and the hallux as due to bunions the second toe is left with no space but to move over the hallux which results in the second toe to constantly rub against the shoe. Due to this constant rubbing there may also be ulcers formed in the affected area. Overlapping Toes are seen mostly in diabetics as diabetes is a condition which causes significant muscle imbalance and nerve damage in the foot. Arthritis of the foot can also cause Overlapping Toes.

Overlapping Toes

What Causes Overlapping Toes?

The root cause of Overlapping Toes is not entirely clear but it is believed to be congenital with some studies suggesting that it is caused due to abnormal positioning of the foot of the fetus. This condition also is seen mostly in families so there is also a genetic link to it. Foot deformities are not new to newborn babies and if they are left untreated then they may move on to become permanent deformities, although Overlapping Toes is a condition which is self limiting and resolves with time in most cases.

What Are The Symptoms Associated With Overlapping Toes?

Some of the symptoms observed in association with Overlapping Toes are:

  • Pain due to irritation caused by rubbing of the second toe on the shoe
  • Development of corns on the top of the affected toe
  • This condition almost always involves the second and the fifth toe regions.

How Is Overlapping Toes Diagnosed?

To diagnose Overlapping Toes the physician will first take a look at the affected toe. The physician will then inquire about a family history any foot deformities or if there are any other family members with the same condition. This will help the physician determine if heredity is playing a role here. The physician will then examine the footwear that the individual wears so that a cause for the deformity can be found. Once the physician notes that the second toe is on top of the fifth toe then it more or less confirms the diagnosis of Overlapping Toes.

How Is Overlapping Toes Treated?

Overlapping Toes can be treated both conservatively as well as by using a surgical approach. Once the diagnosis of Overlapping Toes is confirmed, then the physician will formulate a treatment plan which will be conservative at first and involve taping, binding, shoe inserts, modification of shoe gear along with gentle passive stretching exercises. This form of treatment will be done for about three to four months. This treatment is effective only if the deformity is new and the toes are still flexible enough; however, if significant amount of time has passed and the toes have become rigid then the likelihood of this approach to treatment being successful is extremely less. The next option is to move ahead with surgery. The surgical procedure involves releasing the tendons and the soft tissues from the affected toe region. In some cases placement of pins and wires may be done to keep the toe in its normal anatomical position. This placement of hardware is done for a period of almost four weeks before being removed. During the recovery phase, the patient is not allowed to weight bear on the affected foot so that the toes remain in their normal position and to prevent migration of hardware. Here it is important for the patient to inquire about the dos and don'ts from the surgeon so as to prevent any complications.

Best Shoes For Overlapping Toes

If you are suffering from Overlapping Toes and you do not require surgical correction for it then wearing proper type of shoe may be the route for you to go. When choosing a shoe for yourself to wear make sure that the shoe has an extra depth and the toe box is large enough so that the toes do not get cramped for room and stay relaxed. If the shoes are made of a material with decent elasticity so that it can be stretched then it would be much better. This is how a well designed shoe may come to your rescue if you are suffering eat from Overlapping Toes.

Products To Help Fix Overlapping Toes

Listed below are few products that can help you treat Overlapping Toes conservatively and which are quite effective as well:

  • Gel Toe Separators
  • Toe Alignment Socks (Padded)
  • Toe Separating Socks (Gel Lined)
  • Toe Spreaders
  • Toe Spacers.

How To Cope Up With Overlapping Toes?

As is the case with almost all of the deformities of the foot, Overlapping Toes are found in newborn babies and small children and resolves on its own. It does not cause any symptoms of pain or swelling which can be problematic for the child. There may be problems at a later stage in life if the deformity is not corrected at the appropriate time and the toe becomes inflexible and hard. It is then that the child may start experiencing pain and have difficulty ambulating. Overlapping Toes may also affect adults who wear ill fitting shoes and in some cases they were born with the condition and never got it corrected. There have been cases where such people have led an extremely normal and healthy life without any symptoms at all.

What Are Some Of The Questions That You May Ask Your Physician Regarding Overlapping Toes?

Below mentioned are some of the questions that you may ask the healthcare provider at the time of consultation:

  • What is the reason for the toes to become overlapped?
  • What are the chances of it resolving with time and not require any intervention?
  • Does this condition always require surgical correction?
  • In case if surgery is required can I wait till my child is a bit old or do I have to perform it emergently?

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: March 26, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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