Most people think that they have weird feet, just because the second toe appears longer than the large toe. However, Morton's toe a common condition. Statistics indicate that more than 30% of people around the world are born with this condition. In fact, it is so common that even the feet of the Statue of Liberty feature this anatomy. This means that you should consider it more of a normal variation rather than a foot disorder. What exactly is Morton’s toe? If you have normal feet, you will observe that the first toe is the longest and the largest, as compared to the others.

On the other hand, if your foot is exhibiting Morton’s Toe, the second toe may be equal in length, or even much longer than the first toe. This also means that the first metatarsal is much shorter than it should be, relative to the second metatarsal. Despite the similarity in names, Morton’s Toe is not the same thing as Morton’s Neuroma. Morton’s Toe is more of a genetic condition while Morton’s Neuroma is acquired. There are cases where Morton’s Neuroma occurs due to Morton’s Toe. Also known as Morton’s Foot Syndrome, it is named after Dr. Morton, a foot doctor who was very famous in the 1930s.

What Causes Morton's Toe?

Unlike most foot conditions, Morton’s Toe is hereditary and present at birth. It can also be caused by other occurrences in life such as surgical intervention or amputation. If you have this condition, chances are very high that someone in your lineage had the same.

Recognizing Morton’s Toe

This condition can be quite misleading since it is not actually a long toe, if you consider the phalanges. It mainly concentrates on the relative length of the metatarsal bones. That is the comparative length of the first and second metatarsal, which defines this shape. In Morton’s Foot Syndrome, the first metatarsal is much shorter, in relation to the second metatarsal. There is no X-ray needed to establish that you have Morton’s Toe. A simple physical examination will be enough. For example, if the space between your largest toe and the second toe tends to be deeper, instead of wider, but much deeper when compared to the space between the third and second toes, then you have Morton’s Toe.

Does It Cause Problems?

Dr. Dudley Morton, who discovered this condition, published many articles on some potential problems that can be caused by Morton’s Toe. The problems mainly occur due to the foot structure. Most musculoskeletal problems start with the feet. This condition causes back and neck pain, lower extremity pain and foot pain. For the back and neck, you can suffer from neck pain, shoulder and upper back pain, sciatica, low back pain and Scoliosis & Kyphosis. When it comes to foot pain, Morton’s Toe can lead to bunions, hammertoes, plantar fasciitis, calluses, Morton’s Neuroma, metatarsal stress fractures, and metatarsalgia, among others. There is also the lower extremity pain, which includes conditions like arthritis, sciatica pain, knee pain, shin splints, tight, sore and tired calf muscles and ankle pain or weak ankles.

Morton's Toe Influence on the Whole Body

Dr. Morton also observed that people with this hereditary variation experienced significant gait changes. Many people with Morton's Toe tend to rotate their foot outwards, when walking or running. It also leads to certain postural changes. A solution to the problem was developed in the form of a Morton’s extension. It comes in the form of a rigid plate, which is positioned beneath the inside of the foot. The plate then extends to equal the length of the second metatarsal, just past the first metatarsal. Additionally, people with this condition tend to have a hypermobile first metatarsal. The first metatarsal is also slightly elevated. This means that when you try to walk with your feet and legs in the correct alignment, the big toe and the first metatarsal don’t bear weight correctly. Due to the elevated first metatarsal, people with Morton's Toe have slight problems walking, which is not easily noticeable.

How is Morton's Toe Treated?

Some doctors might recommend surgery, in order to align the first and second metatarsals. However, changing the length of the metatarsals would not be a complete solution to the problem, since certain conditions like bunions would still occur. The best treatment procedure would be to correct the elevated first metatarsal. When this is done, mechanics of the foot are also improved. This correction is done with the help of a small pad, which is placed beneath the head of the first metatarsal. The pad should be around ¼ inch thick. This approach was developed by Dr. Morton and refined by Dr. Janet Travell. Such a pad can be constructed using moleskin. Ensure that you consult foot specialists and professionals, if you consider using the pad. A properly designed and constructed pad can correct the posture and gait issues caused by Dr. Morton’s Toe.

The Relationship of Dr. Morton’s Toe to Ageing

This part is often overlooked when it comes to Dr. Morton’s Toe. Since young people are much stronger and highly active, they might get away with Dr. Morton’s Toe with very few symptoms or none at all. However, due to age, the condition starts manifesting itself through various ways. Conditions such as knee osteoarthritis can be directly linked to Dr. Morton’s Toe.

Is Morton's Toe Preventable?

Since this is a hereditary problem, it is not possible to prevent it. However, the pathology and the pain associated with this disorder can be prevented through two main ways. First, the pain can be prevented through orthotics. Once you have been diagnosed to have the problem, then you should be wearing custom orthotics, whether you are going to work, or participating in a physical activity. Secondly, the pain can be prevented by wearing proper footwear. You should be wearing supportive footwear in all your activities. Avoid narrow or too small footwear.

Bottom Line

If you have this hereditary variation, athletic activities can aggravate and accelerate wear and tear on ligaments and joints, leading to premature retirement from sports. It is therefore important to correct Morton’s Toe as soon as possible. This will lead to better body alignment, as well as a stronger athletic performance.

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Brian Bradshaw. I’m a super duper mega hiking enthusiast, with a love for everything that has to do with outdoors, hiking, gear, footwear and more.

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  1. Total distortion. Nothing in research to support these wild statements. Brian’s friends and family….really? You should really be ashamed of yourselves to upset parents to call this researched-based. Toe length is random. Back issues have myriad causes unrelated to toe length.

    1. Hi Daniel,

      Thanks for expressing your concerns.

      Yes, friends and family. Really. Without them, I couldn’t possibly maintain a site of this size.

      Our goal isn’t to upset parents. It’s to help everybody.

      Nowhere in this article is the word ‘research’ even mentioned. But it was, in fact, researched.

      How is toe length random? Do you wake up with toes of a different length every morning?

      Just because the article states back pain can follow from Morton’s toe, it doesn’t mean that back pain can’t follow from anything else.

      So as you can see, there’s a number of problems with your own critique.

      Could you be a bit more detailed and make suggestions as to how to improve this article on Boot Bomb?

      Thanks in advance for your time.



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