What causes toes to cross over each other?

If you’ve ever looked down at your feet and noticed that some of your toes are crossing over each other – don’t panic! It’s more common than you think. In this article, we’ll explore the possible causes behind toe-crossing and what to do about it.

Understanding Toe Anatomy

To understand why toes cross over each other, we need to start with an understanding of toe anatomy. Our toes are made up of small bones called phalanges, which attach to metatarsals in our feet. These metatarsals make up the arch of our foot and help support our weight when we stand and walk.

Each toe is made up of three phalanges, except for the big toe which only has two. The first phalanx connects to the metatarsal bone at its base while the last phalanx forms the tip of our toes where toenails grow from.

Common Causes Behind Toe Crossing

When one or more toes cross over each other instead they should be pointing straight ahead; it’s known as a crossover digit (most commonly occurs with 2nd & 3rd) here are some probable causes:


Many people inherit their foot shape genetically from their parents or grandparents, so if someone in your family has crossed-over toes then there’s a good chance that you might too! So much for ‘keeping it in the family’ right?


Wearing shoes that don’t fit properly can lead to changes in how our feet sit inside them, resulting in abnormal cleavage angles or rotations on digits most especially those poorly fitted heels!


Arthritis is a joint condition whereby inflammation leads will reduce motor control capabilities hence causing mild dislocations/hyperextension hence eventual deformities such as fingers/toes crossing!

Bunion Development

A bunion is a bony protrusion on mainly MTP joint and resultant bone anomalies over the involved phalanges can retract and cross usually the smaller toes to either side.

Morton’s Neuroma

Morton’s neuroma is a swelling of nerves that causes pain, numbness or tingling sensations usually situated between long bones at our foot base (metatarsal). The condition can result in one toe crossing over another as it does a painful routine getting squeezed where it shouldn’t be!

How to Treat Toe Crossing

Now that we know some of the possible reasons why our toes might be crossing over each other, the question arises – how do we treat them?

Proper Footwear

Wear shoes that fit well and don’t put pressure on your toes! Consider buying shoes with wider toe boxes or opting for open-toed sandals when you’re out and about. Remember, comfortable feet are happy feet!

Exercises For Your Toes

Exercises like stretching your calves will improve the flexibility which ultimately helps eliminate crossovers/underlaps. A vast majority don’t know its importance but believe me; taking just 5 minutes daily will work wonders.

Orthotic Devices

Doctors may offer prescription shoe inserts called orthoses which help aid better positioning plus act as shock absorbers too hence yielding faster changes

When Should You See A Doctor?

Toe-crossing normally isn’t cause for concern unless accompanied by heavy levels of discomforts such as Pain/soreness during walking, bruising on area affected you should see a Podiatrist promptly so they may evaluate further, take X-rays if needed then apply suitable management options accordingly.
Given all said from genetics to simple footwear adjustments/remedies yet crossover digits remain stubborn? Perhaps having them corrected surgically through complex procedures such as osteotomy/capsulorrhaphy would reverse any longstanding effects hence positive impacts normal lifestyle retrival may transpire due care must however exercised prior undertaking any surgery thoroughly consult qualified professionals for evaluations and guidance.


Toes crossing over each other can be a real pain, but with the right care and attention, it can often be managed effectively. Remember to wear appropriate shoes, stretch regularly & have regular checkups especially if arthritis runs in your family alongside regulating adequate collagen supplements to boost well-being. 

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