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What is Morton's Toe?

Morton's Toe Can Lead to Foot Pain

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Updated October 15, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Morton's Toe

Morton's Toe

Phylameana lila Desy © 2010
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. You may have also heard it referred to as long toe or "Greek toe," as it is often seen in Greek statues. 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.

Morton's Toe and Foot Pain

The long toe stems from 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. As a result, the second toe ends up being forward of the first, which makes it take the brunt of pressure during the "toe off" of each step.

This 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 toebox of the shoe, leading to black toenail and bruising. Morton's toe may lead to overpronation -- excessive rotation of the foot inward.

Help for Morton's Toe

Finding the right shoes with a high and wide toebox 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.
Lacing to Prevent Foot Sliding Forward

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

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 toebox to relieve pressure.

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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