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Conservative Approach in the Management of Lesser Toe Deformities in Older Adults

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  • 1 Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Malta, Msida, Malta.
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Background: Toe deformities are common foot abnormalities in older adults, contributing to functional disability, loss of balance, falls, and pressure lesions. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the custom-made molded silicone toe prop in distributing apical and metatarsophalangeal joint peak plantar pressures and force-time integral in toe deformities, including hammertoes and claw toes, and to observe any difference in pressures between flexible and rigid toe deformities.

Methods: A prospective quasi-experimental pretest/posttest study was conducted including 20 “healthy” older adults with a hammer or claw toe at the second digit. Ten subjects presented with a flexible toe and 10 subjects presented with a rigid toe. A molded silicone toe prop was devised for each participant. Dynamic plantar pressure measurements were taken/recorded before applying the toe prop and after the toe prop was placed under the toe.

Results: Significant differences in mean peak plantar pressure and pressure-time integral were observed at the apex of the second toe in both the flexible and rigid toe deformity when using a molded silicone toe prop. At the metatarsophalangeal joint, pressures were significantly reduced in the rigid toe deformity but not in the flexible toe deformity.

Conclusions: Silicone molded toe props were found to be effective in reducing peak pressure and pressure-time integral on the apex of the second digit in participants with both flexible and rigid claw or hammertoe deformity. Lesser toe deformities may be the cause of several foot complications, including pain on walking, corns, difficulty in wearing footwear, possible ulcerations caused by increased pressure at the apices of the toes, and other comorbidities, that could possibly lead to falls in older adults and thus need to be addressed appropriately.

Corresponding author: Cynthia Formosa, PhD, Room 14, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Malta, Msida MSD2080 Malta. (E-mail: cynthia.formosa@um.edu.mt)