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morton's toe. it's all greek.

Oh, God. *deep breath* This isn't one of your posts hinting at a classical education which actually began and ended with a detention in Latin for "accidentally" firing a rubber from a ruler so it bounced on Miss George's desk and hit her square on her pigeon chest, is it?

No, actually. Morton's toe, aka Greek toe. It's where the second toe is longer than the first. Or rather, the first metatarsal (foot bone) is shorter than the second. And, for your information, the ruler slipped. Non eram culpa, I thank you.

Aah. I know what you mean! When the second toe looks freakishly like ET's finger? Pity the monsters who walk amongst us, eh?

For your information, there are more of us than you would think. Estimates put it at between 2% to 30% of the population with this foot configuration. Like all things we hate most about ourselves, it's inherited from our parents. I and all three of my siblings have it while my mother remains resolutely square and smug of foot. Cheers, Dad.

So there are swathes of the population who don't wear sandals for fear of being pelted with rotten fruit. So what?

The problems that Morton's toe – rather, Morton's foot – create aren't only aesthetic. This foot type is inherently unstable.

Hang on. Is this leading to another cover story for daytime drinking?

Not at all. Listen, one of the primary weight-bearing areas of the foot is at the 1st MTP (metatarsal–phalangeal) joint, where the metatarsal meets the proximal phalange (near bone) of big toe. Plus, the big toe only has two phalanges, so it's more stable than the rest of the little piggies. However, if you're stuck with a stunted first metatarsal, weight has to shift across to the 2nd MTP joint and the second toe with it's three, highly mobile, phalanges.

Uh, long story short?

It's like walking on ice skates.

Oh, nice. I've always fancied myself Torvill to Christopher's Dean.

Sorry, more Bambi on ice than Bolero.

Damn. Could this be why I find balances so bloody difficult?

Yep. Your ankles, calf muscles, Achilles tendons, knees, hips, core, lower back – they're all having to work much harder at keeping you upright.

But I can work on it, right? I'm not doomed to hanging off the wall like a fresher having a whitey every time I do Tree Pose?

Well... to a point. With Morton's foot, it's not unusual to find:

  • poor foot dorsiflexion (the movement that brings the top of the foot towards the lower leg)

  • limited ankle mobility

  • flat or collapsed arches.

Hah! See? I can work on stretching and strengthening exercises for those. Wait for me, Christopher!

I hate to rain on your perfect ten, but if there's limited movement in one joint, other joints have to compensate. Consequently, you may also experience knee and hip problems (for example, arthritis, worn cartilage, piriformis syndrome) and lower back pain.

Plus, for any reflexologist fans out there, callouses on the medial side of the big toe indicate the uneven walking gait and overpronation (where the ankle rolls inwards) typical to Morton's foot. These callouses sit on the neck reflex.

What are you saying?

What starts down, must go up. I'd invest in a good pillow now.

You're quite the ray of sunshine. Anything else?

Yes, as you ask. In Chinese medicine, the stomach meridian ends at the top of the second toe. In someone with a Morton's foot where the second toe is subject to continuous friction, it's not unusual to find disorders along this meridian, such as:

  • sinus problems

  • stomach disturbances

  • eye disorders

  • chronic throat conditions

  • spleen and pancreas disorders.

That's an extensive list.

Oh, but I haven't finished. Because meridians work in pairs, it's necessary to look for disorders along the partner of the stomach meridian, the spleen/pancreas meridian, which rises from the back of the big toe (itself at a disadvantage from the uneven weight distribution). Disharmony here would manifest as, for example:

  • fatigue

  • digestive problems – think diarrhoea, constipation, IBS

  • metabolic problems, such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism

  • a sweet tooth and a general tendency towards addictions

  • obesity.

So my middle-age spread is actually down to my toe being too long? This could be the news I'm looking for!

No, that's due to the distance between you and your Quavers multibuy being too short. Like your first metatarsal, remember?

So what's to be done, beside cutting off the end of my toe with a hacksaw?

Less is often more, true. But start by changing your footwear. Buy shoes that are either a half or full size bigger, that have a roomy toe box so the second toe isn't rubbing. Arch supports will make a world of difference too, especially if your Achilles is prone to singing the song of its people.

Dammit it, I know what you're going to say next.

Sorry again. But I won't say don't ever wear stilettos; we all need to feel powerful sometimes. But keep 'em for special occasions like interviews or swinger parties. The head of the second metatarsal is already under pressure and heels will exacerbate this. Heels reduce ankle mobility and flexibility of the calf muscles still further and you really don't want a charley horse to strike in a ball-gag and PVC all-in-one.

Noted. So is there anything I can do to improve matters?

Sure, you mentioned strengthening and stretching exercises earlier.

Knew it!

Every day for the. Rest. Of. Your. Life.

I'll not let you harsh my buzz. Spill.

Fine. This is a great, low-cost option for easing tightness in the calves caused by restricted biomechanics in the foot and ankle.

Sit on the floor with your legs outstretched and place a tennis ball under your calf. Slowly roll the ball around so it massages all the muscles from behind the knee down towards the heel and from side to side.

Is there a high-cost option?

Yes, not doing it.

But it sounds... uncomfortable.

Not if you bite down on a wooden spoon.

O-kaaay. Any others?

Sitting in a chair, put the ball on the floor and roll your foot slowly back and forth over it. You can do this while watching Coronation Street

I might prefer Sky Arts, you know.

― or Love Island.

Low opinion of me notwithstanding, what else can I do to stop the inevitable felling of my Tree?

Stand in front of a wall – you might have to move the TV so you don't miss the Kissing Booth Challenge – and place your right foot a few inches away from the wall. Step the left foot back far enough so the heel is still in contact with the floor. Bend the right leg, trying to touch the wall with your knee without lifting the left heel. Feel the stretch but do not force it. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat five times then swap legs.

Slow heel raises are good too, as is scrunching up a dropped towel using nothing but your toes, but―

How did I know you had a 'but' coming?

― but ultimately this is a structural issue. While you will be able to improve mobility, ease discomfort and yes, maybe even stake your Tree a little more firmly, it's unlikely that balance poses will ever be your thing.

You're going to say it, aren't you? Don't say it, don't go th―

Remember, yoga is much more about how you face what you can't do than what you can.

You went there. You really are very, very annoying.

Funny. That's what Miss George said. Res ipsa loquitur.

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