Summer is here, and with it, all those gorgeous sandals and open-­‐toed shoes. The last thing one wants is to have to cover up due to unsightly toes! South African women are exhibiting common toe ‘deformities’ and these often infringe on our fashion choices. Bunions and hammer/claw toes are two of the most common toe problems affecting women today.

Whilst these conditions are sometimes caused by bio mechanical and structural abnormalities, shoe-­wear has become a strong causative and aggravating factor in women.

A bunion is described as a ‘bump’ on the inside of the big toe joint. Often the big toe deviates laterally. Genetics play a large role in the development of bunions but tight, narrow shoes are a definite extrinsic cause. This bony prominence can sometimes be painful as shoes rub against the exposed area. The skin can become very sensitive and often corns and callouses develop over the prominence. Often the big toe joint has a decreased range of motion. This means that the toe cannot move as freely as it once did. This in turn can cause other walking problems.

A hammer (or a contracted) toe is a deformity of the second, third, fourth and fifth toe. The toe appears bent and looks ‘clawed.’ This deformity is most often caused by a col apse of the structures in the fore-­‐foot resulting in a muscular imbalance. Again however, tight and narrow shoes can aggravate the condition. Pumps (court shoes) and pointy shoes leave little space for the toes and this causes them to ‘scrunch’ up inside the shoe. The muscles in the foot shorten and over time, the toes become inflexible and there is often total loss of range of motion.

Both these conditions are unsightly and often occur in conjunction with each other. More importantly however, they often lead to secondary dermatological and bio-mechanical problems. Because the toes have become deformed, most women’s shoes feel less and less comfortable and corns and callouses become a constant problem. Left untreated, these deformities become permanent making corrective change very difficult.

How do I treat this problem?

Treating toe deformities can be frustrating as a change in shoe-­‐wear is often the most effective way to reduce pain, callous formation and limit structural decay. This is not always an easy solution for the corporate woman.

  1. Accept that your shoe-­‐wear may be aggravating the problem; look for shoes that are more wide and less constricting. This is a constant problem for women as fashionable shoes are not always comfortable or ‘podiatrist-­‐ approved.’
  2. See a podiatrist. Your podiatrist will be able to advise you as to how to solve the problem. He or she will also be able to remove any callouses or corns present on your feet. Your podiatrist will also be able to tel you if surgery is an option. Bunion and toe surgery is possible in some instances but your podiatrist will be able to recommend the correct treatment or refer you to a surgeon.


For more information go to, or to find a podiatrist in your area go to the Podiatry Association of South Africa’s website on