Lots of people think they have a weird foot, because it looks like the second toe is longer than the big toe. It is actually quite common, modelled after the Greek foot. The correct term for Morton’s Toe is Morton’s Foot Syndrome, named after Dr. Dudley Morton.
Morton’s toe is a little misleading, because this condition isn’t really a long toe, meaning the phalanges (toe bones). It is actually the relative length of the metatarsals (foot bones), specifically the relative length difference between the first and second ones, that defines this foot shape. Morton’s Toe, is a short first metatarsal, relative to the second metatarsal.
You don’t need an x-ray to determine if you have the condition. If the space between your first and second toe appears to be deeper, not wider, but deeper than the space between your second and third toes, you have Morton’s Toe.
Does Morton’s Toe cause Problems?
This foot structure is known to cause and perpetuate musculoskeletal problems, which start with the feet; and the list is long.
- 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
- Sciatica Pain
Back and Neck
- Scoliosis & Kyphosis
- Sciatica (Piriformis Syndrome)
- Low-Back Pain
- Upper Back and Shoulder Pain
- Neck Pain (head forward posture).
Morton’s Toe impacts the whole body, because it changes your posture and the way you walk and run. An x-ray would show the first metatarsal, as being shorter than the second metatarsal. Dr. Morton also observed a thicker second metatarsal shaft and hypermobility of the first metatarsal.
How can Morton’s Toe influence the whole body?
Dr. Dudley Morton observed that people who had Morton’s Toe experienced profound changes in their gait. He noticed many people rotated their feet outward, and had postural changes. His solution to the problem was to make what he called a Morton’s extension, which he later patented. It was a rigid plate that was placed under the inside of the foot, that extended beyond the length of the first metatarsal, to approximately the same length as the second metatarsal. In addition, Dr. Morton thought the first Metatarsal was hypermobile, that is, double jointed. However, what he missed, was that the first metatarsal was also elevated. Therefore, when a person tried to walk with their legs and feet in proper alignment, the first metatarsals and the big toes were not properly weight bearing. As had been later established, the Elevated First Metatarsal, affects many more people than does Morton’s Toe.
Some doctors might propose surgery to make the first and second metatarsal more equal in length. What Dr. Morton considered a hypermobile first metatarsal, often manifested in a splayed first metatarsal that pointed away from the foot. Changing the metatarsal length would therefore not affect its orientation, and problems like bunions would still be a likely result.
As it turns out, the correction for an elevated first metatarsal, also greatly improves the mechanics of the Morton’s Toe foot. This correction consists of a small pad placed underneath the head of the first metatarsal – thickness up to 1/4 inch. This approach was suggested by Dr. Morton himself, as well as Dr. Janet Travell, who wrote the recognised text books on myofascial pain. She considered correcting the Morton’s Foot problem essential to treating muscle pain.
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 is 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, and 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. Correcting the Morton’s Toe leads to better body alignment and stronger athletic performance.
This article is in response to a request from a subscriber from India. It is hoped that it has helped you, and others as well, gain a better awareness of this challenging condition. However, as to whether a Morton’s Foot is indicative of persons with superior intelligence or standing, be advised that this is a perception, which is not rooted in scientific fact.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!