As Trinis, we say when a woman’s second toe is longer than the big toe, she would rule her significant other. Hmmm…this “theory” is often said to be true, however in a number of cases, women would say differently. Turns out I am one such person whose second toe is longer.
Approximately 10 percent of persons have this attribute, with approximately 80 percent suffering from chronic pains. As it turns out, what I thought was normal, is actually considered a deformity and also referred to as Morton’s Syndrome.
What is it?
Our toes generally decrease in size from the largest to smallest, which is from the “big toe to little toe”. In the case of a Morton’s Toe, the big toe appears to be shorter. In reality, the cause of this is not that the second toe is longer than the first, as much as the first metatarsal is shorter than it should be, in relation to the second metatarsal.
Morton’s Neuroma and Morton’s Toe should not be confused. A neuroma is a painful nerve entrapped condition. However, Morton’s Toe is genetic, while Morton’s Neuroma is acquired. In some cases, the neuroma can actually be caused by Morton’s Toe.
The longer second toe takes much of the weight that is usually distributed to the big toe, leading to excessive pressure on the second metatarsal head. This results in pain similar to the discomfort associated with metatarsalgia.
Morton’s Toe sometimes causes hyper mobility of the first metatarsal and big toe, which can produce a lack of lateral stability in the foot. The bulk of the body’s weight is on a line from the middle of the heel, through to the second toe, creating a kind of “walking on ice skates” effect, ending in an unstable ankle.
In a normal foot, there is a triangular base created with the heel, and the heads of the first and fifth metatarsals, that more evenly distributes the weight over a broader surface. Depending on your body structure and postural habit, a person with Morton’s Toe will find themselves over pronating or supinating the foot. This can, in turn, throw the back, shoulders and neck out of alignment. The hips may have a forward tilt. It has been documented that the foot has this structure, and by connection to the rest of the body, there is a resulting chain reaction of misalignment causing all kinds of problems.
This foot structure is known to cause and perpetuate musculoskeletal problems. Problems start with the feet and the list is long.
Problems Associated with Morton’s Toe
• Metatarsalgia (ball-of-foot pain)
• Morton’s Neuroma
• Metatarsal Stress Fractures
• Plantar Fasciitis
• Hammer, Claw and Mallet toes
Lower Extremity Pain
• Ankle Pain – Weak Ankles
• Shin splints
• Tight, Sore and Tired Calf Muscles
• Knee pain
o Tight IT Bands
o Runner’s Knee (Chondromalacia)
o Fractured Meniscus
o ACL Tears
• Sciatica Pain
Back and Neck
• Scoliosis & Kyphosis
• SI Joint Pain
• Sciatica (Piriformis Syndrome)
• Low-Back Pain
• Upper Back and Shoulder Pain
• Neck Pain (head forward posture)
Morton’s Toe can impact the whole body because it changes your posture and the way you walk and run.
Utilising Massage Therapy for Treatment
Clients often have non-specific complaints of chronic pain. It is not unlikely that these long time sufferers have heard of all kinds of reasons for their pain, and applied all kinds of remedies over the years. One look at his or her feet will tell you if the person has Morton’s Toe. Massage therapy can do a great deal to ease the possibly related pain.
What is most often recommended is Trigger Point Therapy, although Swedish massage, acupressure, neuromuscular techniques and reflexology, will help as well.
If a client comes to get a massage, and seems to suffer from chronic pain with no specific cause, it may be worth the therapist’s time to check the structure of the feet. Advice could be given about the foot pad, and then massage techniques provided to relax the muscles and address the trigger points. Both parties may be surprised by the great results.
Morton’s Toe and Ageing
This is probably the most overlooked part of this syndrome. Young people, because they are stronger and more active, may have fewer symptoms from Morton’s Toe, but with faulty body mechanics, it’s tough on both joints and ligaments. Knee osteoarthritis can be traced directly to torque in the knee caused by Morton’s Toe, and internal rotation of the tibia; and so can Meniscus tears, along with tens of thousands of arthroscopic knee surgeries.
For someone with this foot structure, athletic activities can accelerate and aggravate wear and tear on joints and ligaments, causing you to give up your favourite sports prematurely. So, correcting your Morton’s Toe can lead to better body alignment, and stronger athletic performance.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!