What your toes can tell you

Geneticist explains 'Morton's Toe,' problems it may cause those who have it


A simple way to tell if you're at an increased risk of developing a stress fracture is to look at your toes. If your second toe is longer than your big toe, your risk is higher. Dr. Charis Eng, the department chair for the Genomic Medicine Institute at Cleveland Clinic, says the condition is inherited; It's called "Morton's Toe" and affects runners the most.

"People with Morton's toes who do exercises that pound on the ground, jumping, running, skipping, are at an increased risk for stress fractures," she said.

"Morton's Toe" was appropriately named after being discovered more than 70 years ago by Doctor Dudley J. Morton. An estimated 15 percent of us have it and the best way to treat it is to be fitted with shoes that have specially made insoles. The special shoes allow the toes enough room to move around.

Along with stress fractures, "Morton's Toe" can also cause problems like instability, calluses, and achilles tendonitis. Eng says the longer the toe, the bigger the risk.

"Some people just have a teeny-weenie Morton's toe, so the longer the toe obviously you can see where the stress lines are completely different in your legs," she said. "Those are people who would have a higher likelihood of getting stress fractures."

Eng recommends low-impact sports like swimming or biking for people with "Morton's Toe."