What is Toe Shortening Surgery?
Toe shortening surgery is an optional procedure that straightens and shortens toes. Any of the toes may be considered long, but the 2nd toe is most commonly long. Usually it is performed on the second and third toes, but it can be done on the others, as well.
The long toe can be straight or buckled. Over time, a straight long toe can become buckled forming a hammer toe.
Toe shortening occurs at the joints in the toe. In general, the surgery involves removing a portion of the bone at the contracted joint, to realign the toe. Once the bone is taken out, pins are put in place so the toe heals properly. A portion of the skin needs to be removed or restructured to accommodate the new toe length.
Patients with a long toe often experience pain on the toe tip. Excessive shoe pressure may result in the formation of a corn or callus on the tip of the toe. A long toe which has become hammer toe, can also have pain and callus formation over the toe knuckles.
As a result, the toe(s) may become irritated, red, warm and/or swollen. The pain may be dull and mild or severe and sharp. Many patients wear uncomfortable shoes, so the pain gets worse. Generally long toes may cause pain, but, on the other hand, in some cases there’s no pain at all.
Why Have Toe Shortening Surgery?
If toe length affects mobility and causes pain, it can become a serious medical problem.
Additionally, some people simply do not like the appearance of their feet, thinking that a longer second toe is unattractive. In this case, the surgery is purely cosmetic.
Common reasons patients seek treatment:
- Pain on the tip of the toe
- Callus formation
- Toe deformity
- Shoes won’t fit properly
- Interference with patient’s mobility
- Unsightly foot appearance
The basis for toe shortening surgery most often involves removing portion of bone within the toe. Often pinning the toe with a surgical wire is performed. Depending on the severity of the condition, there are several methods to surgically shorten a toe.
Generally, there are two methods surgeons use to correct shorten toes:
Joint resection (arthroplasty) or bone mending (fusion).
It’s important to emphasize that most of the surgical work, involves the joints of the toe, not the joint of the ball of the foot.
Joint resection procedure: Involves removing a small portion of one of the two small joints of the within the toe itself.
Bone mending procedure: Shortens the contracted toe by removing an entire small joint of the toe. This allows for the bone ends to mend together in a shorter position. Often surgical hardware (like a buried implant or a temporary wire) is necessary to keep the bones within the toe, steady during healing.