by guest blogger, Ann Steck
I thought everyone had a longer second toe because I did and everyone in my family did. I never gave it a thought. In fact, folks with straight across toes were a little funny looking! I didn’t become curious until Sandy made a casual comment that when your second toe is the longest it can be like walking on skates. Really? That many of us have a fat pad or callous at the base of this toe. Well, yes.
It’s not actually a longer second toe, of course, but a shortened first metatarsal, so that the large first-toe joint is behind the smaller second-toe joint, as you can see in the photos. Sometimes the toes line up, but the second toe joint is always ahead of the first, which you can see more easily when the toes are curled (right photo). Another characteristic is that the space between the first two toes is deeper than the spaces between the other toes. This is called called “Morton’s Toe” or “Greek Foot.” I began to poke around the internet in my spare time, and discovered that a number of physical concerns I have experienced might be traced to this condition. Hyperpronation as a child. Scoliosis at age fifteen. Plantar fasciitis as an adult.
The problem is that the big toe, which should be the most involved in walking and pushing off from each step is overshadowed. The second toe is forced to take over this function due to its length and the position of the joint. This misuse transmits upward, and can skew skeletal structure, muscles and connective tissue.
There is a solution which is delightfully old-fashioned. Wearing a pad under the metatarsal head of the big toe allows it to become weight bearing and assume better function. Pads may be made from Dr. Scholl’s moleskin, or purchased ready-made from mortonsfoot.com
I committed to a three month trial of using pads under the metatarsal head. It wasn’t long before I became aware of increased stability, especially when doing Tai Chi and other balance activities. I noticed that my knees tracked better. I have bought insoles and toe pads for my shoes, and find that their consistent use improves my functioning.
If your second toe is longer, I urge you to explore and experiment. Here are some of my favorite links:
Overview from a dancer:
Overview from Bonnie Prudden:
Low estimate of frequency, with some scary surgical remedies!
Postscript by Sandy Levy
Dr. Janet Travell was familiar with the work of Dr. Dudley J. Morton, who as early as the 1920’s had explained the consequences of living with such a foot and the simple correction for it. In Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction, the landmark textbook that Dr. Travell wrote with Dr. David Simons, she said that if a patient with muscular pain also has a Morton’s foot, unless this foot problem is corrected the pain will not resolve. Depending upon whom you consult, between 20% and 40% of the population, at least in the West, have a short first metatarsal. However, over 90% of my clients’ feet are structured in this way. Draw your own conclusions.
If you are curious about your own feet, look at the knuckles on your first two toes. Do they line up evenly or with the second knuckle behind the first? Or is the second knuckle ahead of the first as in the photo of a Morton’s foot? If it’s hard to tell, try bending your toes so that you can more easily see the knuckles.