Curly Toes, Extra Toes, and Webbed Toes – Everything You Need to Know About Toes

10 fingers and 10 toes – that is what is usually said when you have an ultrasound of your baby and when they are born.

However, what if this isn’t the case? Or their toes seem to be a little out of line?

Here, we will discuss 3 toe conditions that may affect your children and what we can do about them.

Firstly, let’s have a look at the language around how we describe the toes in these conditions.

The 3 conditions that we are looking at in this article end in the suffix ‘dactyly’ which refers to the arrangement of alignment of the toes or the hands.

In this blog, we will be looking at:

  • Clinodactyly (curly toes)
  • Polydactyly (extra toes)
  • Syndactyly (toes that are wholly or partially fused/joined/webbed)

Condition One: Clinodactyly – Curly Toes

Curly toes are present from birth and commonly affect the 3rd and 4th toes.

These two toes tend to curl under the 2nd toe.

This occurs as a result of the tendons that flex the toes in this way being too tight and is a genetic condition.

Curly toes may only be noticed when your child begins walking.

It is not necessarily considered normal, however it is a common condition and is more often than not a condition that does not warrant too much concern.

Are curly toes painful?

Some symptoms that can arise as a result of curly toes include:

  • Blisters or pressure sores on the ends of the toes
  • Changes to the nail structure (usually thickening of the nail plate)
  • Difficulty wearing shoes
  • Pain or discomfort when playing sports.

In saying this, not all curly toes produce symptoms.

How can curly toes be treated?

Your child will be experiencing a lot of physical changes and growth spurts, therefore curly toes can often resolve as the structures in the foot grow and change. This issue often resolves itself as your child begins weight bearing and walking.

If not, there are a few simple management options that you can try including ensuring your child has enough room for their toes in their footwear and the use of simple toe separating/compensatory devices or taping.

Surgery may be required if the curly toes are still present after the age of 5 or if your child is experiencing considerable pain or discomfort, however this is often a ‘last resort’ treatment.

Condition Two: Polydactyly – Extra Toes

Polydactyly is a condition where a person has extra toes/fingers.

It is caused by a genetic mutation which is passed down through generations, meaning that someone else in your family may have also had it.

The extra toe itself may be fully functioning with the same bones and joints as the other 5 toes, however sometimes it may be a mass of soft tissue.

It can be diagnosed through an ultrasound while your child is in the womb, however, it is usually confirmed at birth.

It generally does not cause pain as it is often treated early

The types of polydactyly are characterised by where the extra digit sits:

  • Preaxial polydactyly – next to the big toe or the thumb
  • Central polydactyly – in between the middle toes or fingers
  • Postaxial polydactyly – next to the little toe or little fingers (most common)

How is polydactyly treated?

The treatment of polydactyly typically involves an amputation of the extra toe to allow for proper foot function and shoe fit, most often when the child is between 1-2 years of age.

Complications post-surgery are often minimal as it is performed at a young age, allowing the child to develop normally following this.

Condition Three: Syndactyly – Webbed Toes or Fingers

This involves total or partial fusion of the toes or fingers.

It is a common condition and occurs due to a genetic mutation that occurs during foetal development in the womb, where the fingers and toes don’t split properly at approximately 6-7 weeks gestation.

It is often diagnosed before the baby is born using ultrasound, however, like polydactyly, it is confirmed at birth.

It most commonly affects the middle fingers and may be present in conjunction with other genetic medical conditions such as Down Syndrome.

Syndactyly is often painless.

How is syndactyly treated?

Syndactyly does not always require treatment, particularly in mild cases.

Surgery is often performed when the child is between 1-2 years of age. Most surgeries are quite straightforward; however this will depend on how the digits are fused and whether there is any bony involvement.


If you have noticed any of these conditions or are concerned about your child’s feet, come in and see us for a comprehensive assessment at Watsonia Podiatry! Call us on (03) 9432 2689 or book online here.


Aaron Dri