Causes and Treatment of Overlapping Toes in Adults and Newborns

Cause and Treatment of Overlapping Toes in Adults and Newborns

Overlapping toes are common congenital conditions which affect adults and newborns alike. They occur when one or both feet have a large number of small bones (osteophytes) fused together at the joint where they join the foot. These bones usually fuse during fetal development but sometimes happen later in life due to trauma such as accidents, surgeries, burns, infections etc.

The condition is called ‘overlapping’ because it occurs when the two ends of each bone meet. The term ‘toes’ refers to the joints between these bones.


In most cases, there are no symptoms associated with overlapped toes. However, some individuals may experience pain in their lower legs after standing up from a chair or lying down after sitting for long periods of time. Other symptoms include numbness in the affected area, swelling, tingling sensation and weakness.


There are several possible causes of overlapping toes. Most commonly, these involve injuries to the feet or other parts of the body. Some of the common causes include:


Surgical procedures

Infections such as frostbite, gangrene, or osteomyelitis (bone infection)

Inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout and ankylosing spondylitis

Overuse injuries in athletes that involve damage to the feet, ankles and legs


Treatment for overlapping toes will vary depending on the cause. For instance, doctors will usually recommend treating the underlying cause before addressing the condition itself. For example, if frostbite is causing overlapping toes, your physician may recommend treating the frostbite before attempting to correct the toes themselves. In some cases, surgical procedures may be necessary.

Overlapping toes surgery:

Surgery is necessary in some cases to separate the affected bones and relieve pain or other symptoms. However, this must be done very carefully to avoid causing further damage or complications. During surgery, your surgeon will make an incision in the affected area and move the bones apart. He or she may also remove scar tissue, bone spurs or other objects that are pressing on the bones.

Physical therapy:

In most cases, your physician will recommend physical therapy after surgery to increase ankle flexibility and improve mobility.

Exercises to avoid overlapping toes:

You can easily prevent overlapping toes by avoiding activities that may cause trauma or injury to your feet and legs. This includes refraining from participating in contact sports such as football or soccer and avoiding jobs that require you to stand for extended periods of time. If you are a professional athlete, wearing the proper protective gear is also important. Wearing shoes and practicing good hygiene can also help prevent foot injuries that may cause overlapping toes.

Most people are unaware that they suffer from overlapping toes until it is too late and the condition has already caused serious complications. If you notice any abnormal bone growths or changes in the appearance of your toes, consult with a physician immediately. Early treatment is vital to avoiding long-term complications.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about your health care with your provider. UCSF Medical Center does not warrant the accuracy, adequacy, or completeness of any information on this website and cannot be held liable for any losses caused by reliance on such information.

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Categories Foot Care

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