Claw toes

Alternative names
Claw foot

Claw foot is a deformity of the toes in which the toe joint nearest the foot is bent upward (from contracture) and the other toe joints bend downward (also from contracture). See also claw hand.


Claw toes can be something that a child is born with (congenital) or can develop as a consequence of disorders (acquired). Claw toes may result from a problem with the (peripheral) nerves in the leg or from a spinal cord problem. Many cases have an unknown cause.

Claw toes in and of themselves are not usually dangerous, but sometimes they are the first symptoms of a more serious disease of the nervous system.

Common Causes

Call your health care provider if

This condition can develop in childhood or later in adult life. The condition itself is not dangerous but may indicate underlying nerve problems. If you think you are developing claw toes, you should contact your health care provider for an evaluation.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office

The health care provider will obtain a medical history and perform a physical examination, looking primarily for muscle, nerve, and spine problems.

Medical history questions documenting claw foot in detail may include:

  • time pattern       o When did you first notice this?       o Is it getting worse?  
  • location       o Does it affect both feet?  
  • other       o Do other symptoms occur at the same time?

The physical examination will probably include extra attention to the feet (and hands). Claw toes can be treated surgically or special shoes may be recommended to relieve pressure. The abnormal shape of the toe can cause increased pressure and calluses or ulcers on the affected toes.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 6, 2012
by Dave R. Roger, M.D.

Medical Encyclopedia

  A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | 0-9

All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.