Overlapping, Underlapping Toes

We also want our patients to be informed about podiatric problems and treatments, because informed patients make better decisions about their health and well being. That is why we’ve included an extensive section on this web site covering the full array of topics associated with podiatry and podiatric diagnoses and treatments. We encourage you to look through these pages whenever you have an interest or concern about your feet.


Overlapping toes are characterized by one toe lying on top of an adjacent toe. The fifth toe is the most commonly affected. Overlapping toes may develop in the unborn fetus. Passive stretching and adhesive taping is most commonly used to correct overlapping toes in infants, but the deformity usually recurs. Sometimes they can be surgically corrected by releasing the tendon and soft tissues about the joint at the base of the fifth toe. In some extreme cases, a pin may be surgically inserted to hold the toe in a straightened position. The pin, which exits the tip of the toe, may be left in place for up to three weeks.

Underlapping toes usually involve the fourth and fifth toes. (A special form of underlapping toes is called congenital curly toes). The cause of underlapping toes is unknown. It is speculated that they may be caused by an imbalance in muscle strength of the small muscles of the foot.  If deformed toes are flexible, a simple release of the tendon in the bottom of the toe will allow for them to straighten. If the deformity is rigid, surgery may be needed to remove a small portion of the bone in the toe.