Lesser toe deformities are changes in the shape of one or several of the four small toes.

Cause and symptoms

These changes are usually only referred to as lesser toe deformities when they are permanent and cause pain and discomfort as well as corns on the top or calluses on the tip of the toe(s). Corns are small lumps of hard skin while calluses are larger patches of thickened skin. They usually form where the toe rubs excessively against the inside of a shoe.

Lesser toe deformities can be caused by factors such as genetics, ill-fitting shoes, trauma, rheumatoid arthritis and conditions which cause nerve damage such as diabetes. Lesser toe deformities can also be caused by bunions.

Conservative treatment

Initially, the toe(s) can still flex and its position is able to be corrected. This is known as the reducible stage. The toe(s) can later become rigid which is known as the “fixed” stage. During the reducible stage, changing your footwear, podiatry treatment, stretching and wearing insoles can provide the desired relief.


However, if the deformity is fixed, surgery will be necessary. Surgery usually involves treating the cause (e.g. bunions) as well as the deformity with the aim of relaxing the ligaments, tendons and joint capsules in order to uncurl the toe(s). Occasionally, the phalanges (the bones that make up the toes) may also need to be realigned in order to achieve a satisfactory result. Treatment of this condition is tailored to each individual patient therefore, given the variety of different presentations, it is impossible to list all of the possible treatment combinations here.