Overlapping Toes refers to a foot deformity that occurs when one of the toes overrides the adjacent toe. The condition commonly affects the fifth and the second toe. Overlapping is generally detected at the time of birth or during early infancy. As the person ages, the deformity tends to become more rigid. Overlapping Toes may occur at any time in life and is more common in women than men.


  • Genetic traits passed on from the parents to the child
  • Congenital – it is believed that the position of the fetus in the womb is such in some cases that the foot gets cramped resulting in this deformity at the time of birth
  • Wearing pointed, high heeled shoes for a long time
  • Tightness in tendon or ligament that pulls the bone of the toe
  • Faulty foot biomechanics- fallen arches or high arched, both can result in Overlapping Toes
  • Bunions on the big toe may result in overlapping of the second toe as the former tends to bend against it
  • If the second toe is the longest amongst the others, it may tend to overlap
  • Hammer Toes
  • Joint injuries or displacements may alter the position of the bones


  • Visibly deformed toes
  • Formation of painful calluses over time
  • Swelling and pain in the toes as they rub against the shoes
  • Corn formation or hardening of the skin on the toes due to constant friction
  • Change in gait
  • In case the fifth toe overrides the fourth one, a small Bunion may be formed on its outer side


  • Analysis of the patient’s medical and family history besides taking note of the symptoms reported
  • X-ray imaging of the foot to study bone structure
  • MRI scan may be used to analyze the position and structure of tendons and ligaments that support the foot
  • Palpation and observation may be applied to assess condition of the affected toe


  • Passive techniques may be used in case of infants to treat the condition
  • Taping of the toes using special adhesive tapes to hold the affected toe in place. This may be applied for 6-12 weeks depending on the case
  • In severe cases, surgical release of the affected tendon or ligament may be performed
  • A pin may be surgically inserted to reposition the toe. It may be kept for a few weeks and then removed. The patient may be required to wear a cast or a special boot during this period
  • A splint may be used to secure the toe post-surgery
  • Use of shoes with soft shoes soles may be recommended
  • Use of orthotic devises such as shoe inserts may help to distribute body weight equally by rectifying the fallen or high arches

Visit the foot and ankle specialists at OrthoTexas for complete treatment of Overlapping Toes. For an appointment with one of our orthopedic surgeons, call us at 972-492-1334.

Updated 5/14/19