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Curly toe treatment and surgery

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What is a curly toe?

A curly toe is a toe that is flexed and most commonly medially deviated (turned in), although it can be laterally deviated (turned out). It most commonly occurs in the 4th and/or 5th toes and is generally not painful. It is caused by tightness of the long tendon that runs underneath the toe.

What kind of problems can it cause?

Curly toes do not cause any problems in the newborn or infant. At this age they are never painful. As the child gets older, sometimes they can develop blisters or callosities which can be uncomfortable. These problems develop because of the toe rubbing in the shoes.

Bilateral 4th Curly Toes


Does it need to be treated?

Most curly toes do not require any treatment. In fact, up to 25% of them will resolve spontaneously. Thus, reassurance of the new parents is usually all that is required. Even in adults they are usually asymptomatic. However, if the child or adult is developing pain from blisters or calluses, treatment may be needed.

What treatments are there for curly toe?

In the past, pediatricians have recommended stretching and taping in young children. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that these methods make any difference. If the toe is causing problems such as pain, callosities, or blisters from rubbing in the shoe, release of the contracted tendon is a simple procedure and can be performed as an outpatient withexcellent results.


In summary, a curly toe is a common problem seen in newborns, sometimes resolves spontaneously, and usually does not cause pain or disability. If it does cause pain, callosities, or blisters from rubbing in the shoe, a simple surgical procedure can solve the problem.

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