Floating Toe Development and Treatment

If it feels as though you are walking on air, you might just be in a really good mood. Of course, it could also be an indication of a problem with one of your toes. Floating toe is a condition wherein a toe—often the second one—remains lifted off the ground. This might not seem like it would be a big concern, until you realize the importance of having all your digits grounded for force distribution.

Virtually every medical condition is best treated at its early stages, so it is important to recognize the symptoms and seek treatment at the earliest possible opportunity. If you recognize the signs of floating toe, contact our Indianapolis, IN podiatrist office for the care you need!

Floating Toe and How It Develops

In this condition, one of the toes no longer sits on the ground like it should. There are generally three reasons this might happen:

  • Bunions. With a bunion, imbalance in the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint of the big toe—the joint at the toe’s base—causing the toe to angle toward the other toes. If the toe drifts inward too far, it will push the second toe up.
  • Hallux limitus. This condition is a stiff big toe that has a restricted range of motion. It worsens in time, which can lead to excessive pressure on the second toe and its plantar plate. This plate is a thick, strong, ligament-type structure used to keep a toe in place and prevent it from rising or abnormal drifting. When a plantar plate weakens due to excessive pressure, it does not keep the toe in place.
  • Physical trauma. Striking a toe with hard force can also lead to floating toe. This doesn’t happen terribly often—approximately 95% of cases are from bunion or hallux limitus issues—but a possible scenario could be waking up in the middle of the night to use the restroom and stubbing your toe with a lot of force against a piece of furniture.
  • An abnormally-long second toe. When the second toe is longer than normal, the toe and surrounding soft tissue have to do more work and begin to fail.

In addition to the conditions that contribute to a floating toe, high heels tend to aggravate it and can cause it to worsen.

The symptoms (besides the abnormal positioning of the toe) include an unstable joint, thickened tissue under the second metatarsal head, inflammation, and pain. It is important to schedule an appointment with our office if you recognize any of these signs because the condition will progressively get worse if left untreated. Further, additional problems can arise on account of the second toe not carrying its intended share of the workload.

Fixing the Floating

There are generally two approaches to treatments for this issue. We can either protect the foot or correct the foot. Protecting entails conservative care options and better serves to address symptoms and prevent progression. These options can include shoe modifications and the use of special pads or sleeves.

Correction involves a surgical procedure. We can perform surgery for floating toe, but it is important to know it is actually difficult and unpredictable. The reason behind this is because the work is done on a very small joint. Additionally, long term damage to soft tissues may not allow the toe to return to its original position.  Success is certainly possible, but results can be limited on aggressive deformities. This highlights the importance of seeking early care for the condition.

As with any foot or ankle problem, it is best to get treatment at the earliest possible stage. Doing so will allow us to take measures to slow the condition’s progression. With that in mind, make sure you come in and see us as soon as you become aware of a floating toe, or any issue with your lower limbs. Call us at (317) 545-0505 for more information or contact us online today!

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Indianapolis, IN 46216

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