A Comprehensive Discussion on Morton’s Toe Treatment

mortons toe treatment

Morton’s Toe is a deformity characterized by a shortened first metatarsal bone. The presence of this particular issue is evidenced by a second toe that appears to jut out much further than the big toe. In some cases, it’s actually caused by an extended length of the second metatarsal bone which makes the first appear much shorter. Regardless of the actual anatomy behind the deformity, Morton’s toe manifests the same symptoms.

You might be wondering – how can the length of one toe be a cause for concern? Although it might seem that Morton’s toe is nothing more than a cosmetic issue, there are actually a variety of problems that could arise as a result of this seemingly harmless deformity. Pain, gait issues, and acquired deformities are just some of the possible consequences of walking around with Morton’s toe.

If you have Morton’s toe and you want to know what you can do to help ease its symptoms and complications, keep on reading as we discuss everything and more on Morton’s toe treatment.

What is Morton’s Toe?

For those who don’t have it, Morton’s Toe might not actually seem like such a big problem. Of course, it does cause some cosmetic issues, but how could a simple elongated or shortened toe call for treatment?

Morton’s toe is one of the most common deformities of the forefoot, occurring in an estimated 30% of the population. Of those who have it, an estimated 80% experience chronic pain in the feet and legs, but many others report pain in various parts of the body. This is because a slight change in the length of even just one of your toes can drastically alter the way your body moves and bears weight.

For instance, during the normal gait cycle, the big toe and second toe share the load as your foot flexes in preparation for toe off. But in a person with Morton’s toe, the shorter first toe takes on more weight, thus giving rise to the possibility of poor biomechanics.

what is mortons toe

At first, an individual with Morton’s toe might not complain of any problems other than cosmetic. But as we age, the effects of Morton’s toe can become significantly more pronounced. So while it might be asymptomatic early in life, older individuals with the deformity are more likely to experience its effects.

The Symptoms of Morton’s Toe

Note that younger individuals are less likely to experience Morton’s toe symptoms. However, once they do start to arise, they may take a toll on mobility and occupational performance.

  • Pain in the feet, legs, hips, and lower back
  • Formation of calluses along the base of the big toe and second toe
  • Frequent trauma inflicted on the second toe, especially during sports and exercise
  • An apparent protrusion of the second toe much farther than the first

Over time, poor biomechanics, faulty weight bearing, and wear and tear can cause Morton’s toe symptoms to worsen. In adulthood, those who have the deformity can develop a variety of other foot and bone conditions such as:

A very small fraction of the population with Morton’s toe will never develop symptoms at any point in their life. Commonly, these are those with very mild toe length discrepancies.

Causes of Morton’s Toe

Mortons Toe Causes

How exactly does one come to have Morton’s toe? Is it acquired, or are we born with it? According to experts, there are two possible causes for the deformity.

The first is heredity. With an estimated 30% of the world population having Morton’s toe, it’s not unlikely for one of your parents to have the deformity. If one of them does have it, then the chances of being born can be anywhere between 25% and 50%.

The second cause for Morton’s toe is another condition called hypermobility of the first metatarsal. This condition is essentially the result of an unstable cuneometatarsal joint, which causes the first toe’s bone structure to slide out of place in relation to the other bones beside it.

How to Treat Morton’s Toe

To make things clear, there is no long-term solution for Morton’s toe. Surgery isn’t commonly recommended because the deformity isn’t serious enough to warrant such drastic measures. However in some instances when the problem causes a variety of other foot conditions and deformities to arise, some doctors might suggest certain surgical procedures in order to minimize the development of complications.

Choosing the Right Shoes

morton's toe shoes

The first and most practical solution to help manage and minimize discomfort from Morton’s toe would be to be mindful of your footwear choices. There are a few things you need to watch out for in a shoe design if you want to steer clear of pronounced pain. Here are some of them:

  • Narrow toe boxes that squeeze the toes together
  • Shoes that have a ‘flat’ step feel, lacking in cushion and bounce
  • Non-seamless uppers that can increase the chances of calluses or bruises on the skin
  • Insufficient arch support

All that considered, you would be better off choosing shoes that allow more room upfront in order to accommodate the length of the second toe. If your chosen shoe doesn’t come in a wide size, you can just go 1 to 2 sizes larger than your usual.

Investing in Cushion Inserts

morton's toe orthotics

In terms of responsiveness, it’s always better to find Morton’s toe shoes that are designed for bounce and rebound. These take a load off your toes during the toe off phase of the gait cycle, reducing the pressure on your deformity. If you feel that your shoes don’t offer enough bounce, you can purchase gel inserts or insole cushions to help improve step feel.

For individuals with Morton’s toe, it’s always best to seek out inserts that extend full length instead of just supporting the heel. Anything that’s only half or two-thirds the length of the sole can lift the heel and displace weight bearing anteriorly. This can further increase the weight on the toes and cause even more pain.

Trying Out a Regular Massage

Although there isn’t a lot of literature on the treatment, some sources suggest that massage might be a good way to manage Morton’s toe. Kneading the muscles and gently pulling away knots that may have developed in the muscle tissue as a result of poor biomechanics can refresh the feet and eliminate pain. This also helps reduce the chances of other complications from developing as a result of the deformity.

Using Morton’s Toe Orthotics

Orthotics are external devices placed over parts of the body to help assist in mobility and posture. There are a variety of Morton’s toe orthotics on the market, and some of them work really well to manage pain and long term complications.

morton's toe pad

The most commonly available design is the Morton’s toe pad which is designed to cradle the ball of the foot as well as the base of all other toes. This reduces the stress on the toes’ joints and minimizes the chances of developing calluses. Some manufacturers also design them to have spacers that keep the toes from making contact with one another so as to achieve ideal alignment.

There are a variety of these toe pads on the market – soft gel vs. stiff thermoplast, perforated vs. solid, half length vs. full length. Choosing the right toe pad relies largely on what you find to be comfortable. Do your research and read up on reviews before making a purchase to make sure you’re buying something that will benefit your specific case.

Taking OTCs and Supplements

Finally, there are some supplements that you might want to take in order to help manage the symptoms of Morton’s toe. The most widely recommended for the deformity is vitamin B6 which helps regulate and normalize levels of pyridoxal 5’-phosphate in the system. Some studies suggest that there is a link between a lack in PLP and Morton’s toe, which indicates that perhaps increasing its concentration in the body can help treat the symptoms of the deformity.

If you feel that the pain is too pronounced to be resolved by just shoes, orthotic inserts, massage, or any other treatment, you may want to consider taking over-the-counter pain relievers under the guidance of your doctor. Choices like naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin are all effective in relieving pain for most cases of Morton’s toe. In some instances, your specialist might prescribe stronger pain medications to help reduce the discomfort you feel.


To many, Morton’s toe is nothing but a cosmetic problem. But to the 30% of the population that experiences it, it can alter daily life. As the years roll, the symptoms of Morton’s toe may become significantly pronounced. So it’s important to at least have a clear understanding of what to expect if you’re not feeling the symptoms just yet.

If you’re struggling with Morton’s toe, try out these treatments. By making the right choices and practicing the proper methods, you can effectively manage pain and achieve optimal mobility that won’t hinder the way you experience life