What Is A Morton’s Toe? Causes and Treatments

If you’re reading this article, then there’s a good chance that you’re not exactly sure what a Morton’s toe is and whether or not you have it.

Not to worry! By the end of the article, you’ll be a pro about Morton’s toe.

You’ll understand the condition, foot problems that arise from it, and treatments if you have a Morton’s toe.

And don’t worry if you do happen to have a Morton’s toe. You’re in good company because Meghan Markle has them!

What is a Morton’s Toe?

Let’s start with the basics. Although it sounds like a really precise condition, a Morton’s toe is more common than you might think. It’s when your second toe is longer than your big toe. It occurs in around 10-30% of people across the world

A Morton’s toe can also be called a long toe or a Greek toe since that’s typical for Greek statues in contrast to a Roman or Egyptian toe when your big toe is the longest toe on your foot.

It’s not actually your toe bone (the phalange) that is longer but rather the metatarsal which connects to the phalange that is longer for the second toe for people who have a Morton’s toe.

Additionally, because a Morton’s toe is an anatomical variation, it’s not necessarily a medical condition that you need to correct as it does not cause pain for everyone who has it.

Morton’s toe is actually more formally called Morton’s foot syndrome named for Dr. Dudley Joy Morton who studied the human foot extensively during the first half of the twentieth century. 

Morton’s toe should not be confused with Morton’s neuroma, which affects the balls of your feet, named after Dr. Thomas George Morton.

What Causes a Morton’s Toe?

Some people have suggested that your ancestry determines whether or not you’ll have a Morton’s toe, but the evidence indicates that it occurs in a variety of populations and people groups.

Although a Morton’s toe is colloquially called a Greek toe, it isn’t more common in Greeks than other ethnicities even though it is pretty common on Greek statues, like the Statue of Liberty modeled in a Greek fashion.

Instead, it’s genetic, so it’s passed down to you from your parents, your grandparents, and maybe even further back. If you have a Morton’s toe, then there’s a good chance that one of your parents does and that you’ll pass it along to your kids.

What are Health Issues Related to a Morton’s Toe?

While a Morton’s toe isn’t a condition (it’s just an abnormality), you can experience some health issues due to your second toe being longer.

Can Change Walking Style

Perhaps the biggest change that you’ll notice from having a Morton’s toe is that it can change your walking style, which can add pressure to different parts of the feet that wasn’t meant to be there.

Because shoes are designed for the majority of the population, that means that they typically don’t take into account people with a Morton’s toe. If you don’t get shoes that fit properly with a wide toe box and room for your second toe at the top, you could deal with toe issues.

Shoes that are too tight on your second toe can lead to calluses, corns, and hammer toes, which occurs when your toe is bent permanently. This all comes from your second toe being pressed against the top of the shoe, which can happen with a Morton’s toe.

Can Lead to Other Potential Health Issues

In addition to making shoes uncomfortable and changing your walking style, a Morton’s toe can also lead to other pain. You may experience pain in your lower back due to an irregular gait. Lower leg and foot pain can also occur.

Similarly, it’s very likely that you’ll experience pain between your first and second toes as they rub against each other. If your big toe and second toe are pushing against each other, you may also develop bunions as well.

You may also deal with black toenails and bruises if your second toe is close to the toe box of the shoe and regularly presses against it.

Finally, you may deal with overpronation, which means that you rotate your foot inward too much. You may need to get a new pair of shoes to help correct your overpronation, especially if you run on a regular basis.

What is Treatment for a Morton’s Toe?

There are a variety of treatment options for a Morton’s toe although remember that you are only dealing with the symptoms and it will never completely go away as it’s a genetic condition.

Change Up Your Footwear

Shoes aren’t designed for people with a Morton’s toe, so you’ll have to adjust for that. You can try correcting shoes you already have by tying the laces differently to relieve pressure on your second toe or even cutting slits in the toe box for less stress on that second toe.

If that doesn’t work, you should try purchasing new shoes that have a wide toe box. If you’re a runner, try Altra because they are known for their especially roomy toe boxes. You can also try ordering a half size up in your typical brand.

You’ll also want to avoid putting pressure on those toes, so avoid footwear that has pointy toes. Ladies, you’ll also want to avoid high heels, especially very tall or very skinny heels, and opt for wedges instead if you want to stand a little taller.

Use Foot Pads and Insoles

Another option is to use foot pads. Since there’s a good chance that your first and second toes might rub against each other, try using a foot pad between your big toe and metatarsal to keep that rubbing down.

You can also use foot pads anywhere that there is friction or rubbing to help alleviate that pain. Another option is to get a custom orthotic/insole to get the cushioning and alignment that you need. Just make sure that it’s not too slippery or slick and slides forward!

Take Care of Calluses Immediately

Finally, you’ll want to make sure that you address calluses immediately so that they don’t get worse. Soak your feet in warm water, which will help soften the callus. Then gently use a pumice stone to remove them. Finish by rubbing your feet with some lotion.

After taking care of the calluses, you’ll want to cushion the area where you developed them to help relieve pressure and try to find shoes that will fit better. Just remember that it may take time to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Is Surgery Necessary for a Morton’s Toe?

In short, no, surgery is likely not necessary for a Morton’s toe. In most cases, you can treat any symptoms at home by getting new shoes or inserts and using foot pads. However, if you still are experiencing pain, you may need surgery.

If you do get surgery, your surgeon will either lengthen your first toe (metatarsal) or shorten your second toe (metatarsal), and your big toe and second toe will be the same length again, giving you an Egyptian or Roman foot!

Final Thoughts

In the end, you’re not alone if your second toe happens to be longer than your big toe! The Statue of Liberty and Meghan Markle both have Morton’s toes just like you. While it won’t ever go away, there are things you can do to mitigate the pain.

Make sure that you purchase properly fitting shoes with plenty of room in the toe box for your second toe and lace your shoes differently if needed. Don’t forget to treat any calluses you get and keep your feet nice and healthy, applying plenty of lotion on a regular basis.

Aigbogun, Eric Osamudiamwen, Ade Stephen Alabi, Blessing Chimezie Didia, and Kenneth Shelu Ordu. “Morton’s Toe: Prevalence and Inheritance Pattern Among Nigerians.” International Journal of Applied & Basic Medical Research 9, no. 2 (April-June 2019): 89-94. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6477964/.

Bumgardner, Wendy. “Helping Morton’s Toe Foot Pain.” Verywellfit. Accessed October 16, 2020. https://www.verywellfit.com/what-is-mortons-toe-3435533

Decherchi, P. “Dudley Joy Morton’s Foot Syndrome.” Presse Med 17, no. 34 (December 2005): 1737-1740. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16374398/

Harvard Medical School. “Finding Relief from Calluses and Corns.” Accessed October 16, 2020. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/finding-relief-from-calluses-and-corns

Lauriello, Samantha. “The Internet is Freaking Out Over This Discovery About Meghan Markle’s Toe.” Health. Last modified December 5, 2018. https://www.health.com/mind-body/meghan-markle-mortons-toe

Lynch, Sarah. “Fact Check: Different Toe Lengths Do Not Indicate Ethnicity.” USA Today. Last modified July 15, 2020. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/07/15/fact-check-greek-foot-mortons-toe-not-linked-ancestry/5443618002/

Miller, Korin. “There’s Actually a Name for When Your Second Toe is Longer Than Your Big Toe.” Women’s Health. Last modified December 3, 2018. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/a25335727/second-toe-longer-than-big-toe/.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on print