Toes are the digits of the foot of a tetrapod. Animal species such as cats that walk on their toes are described as being digitigrade. Humans, and other animals that walk on the soles of their feet, are described as being plantigrade; unguligrade animals are those that walk on hooves at the tips of their toes.
The toe refers to part of the human foot, with five toes present on each human foot. Each toe consists of three phalanx bones, the proximal, middle, and distal, with the exception of the big toe (Latin: Hallux). The hallux only contains two phalanx bones, the proximal and distal. The phalanx bones of the toe join to the metatarsal bones of the foot at the interphalangeal joints.:557 Outside the hallux bones is skin, and present on all five toes is a toenail.
The toes are, from medial to lateral:
- The first toe, also known as the hallux ("big toe" or "great toe"), the innermost toe
- The second toe, or "long toe"
- The third toe, or "middle toe"
- The fourth toe, or "ring toe"
- The fifth toe, or "little toe", "pinky toe", or "baby toe"), the outermost toe.
With the exception of the hallux, toe movement is generally governed by action of the flexor digitorum brevis and extensor digitorum brevis muscles. These attach to the sides of the bones,:572–5 making it impossible to move individual toes independently. Muscles between the toes on their top and bottom also help to bring abduct and adduct the toes.:579 The hallux and little toe have unique muscles:
- The hallux is primarily flexed by the flexor hallucis longus muscle, located in the deep posterior of the lower leg, via the flexor hallucis longus tendon. Additional flexion control is provided by the flexor hallucis brevis. It is extended by the abductor hallucis muscle and the adductor hallucis muscle.
- The little toe has a separate set of control muscles and tendon attachments, the flexor and abductor digiti minimi. Numerous other foot muscles contribute to fine motor control of the foot. The connective tendons between the minor toes accounts for the inability to actuate individual toes.
Sensation to the skin of the toes is provided by five nerves. The superficial fibular nerve supplies sensation to the top of the toes, except between the hallux and second toe, which is supplied by the deep fibular nerve, and the outer surface of the fifth toe, supplied by the sural nerve. Sensation to the bottom of the toes is supplied by the medial plantar nerve, which supplies sensation to the great toe and inner three-and-a-half toes, and the lateral plantar nerve, which supplies sensation to the little toe and half of the sensation of the fourth toe.:583
In humans, the hallux is usually longer than the second toe. There is an inherited trait in humans, where the dominant gene causes a longer second toe ("Morton's toe" or "Greek foot") while the homozygous recessive genotype presents with the more common trait: a longer hallux. People with the rare genetic disease fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva characteristically have a short hallux which appears to turn inward, or medially, in relation to the foot.
The hallux may not be the longest toe on the foot of some individuals. The name stems from the Latin for the same, similar to the pollex, which refers to the thumb, the corresponding digit of the hand. The fifth toe is the outermost usually the smallest toe of the foot.
Forefoot shape, including toe shape, exhibits significant variation among people; these differences can be measured and have been statistically correlated with ethnicity. Such deviations may affect comfort and fit for various shoe types. Research conducted by Freedman for the U.S. Army indicated that larger feet may still have smaller arches, toe length, and toe-breadth.
The human foot consists of multiple bones and soft tissues which support the weight of the upright human. Specifically, the toes assist the human while walking, providing balance, weight-bearing, and thrust during the gait.
Long-term use of improperly sized shoes can cause misalignment of toes, as well as other orthopedic problems.
Morton's neuroma commonly results in pain and numbness in the third and fourth toes of the sufferer, due to it affecting the nerve between the third and fourth metatarsal bones. If this occurs, the symptoms will be felt up left-hand side of the third toe (and the right-hand side of the fourth toe.
Deformities of the foot include hammer toe, trigger toe, and claw toe. Hammer toe can be described as an abnormal contraction or “buckling” of a toe. This is done by a partial or complete dislocation of one of the joints, which form the toes. Since the toes are deformed further, these may press against a shoe and cause pain. Deformities of the foot can also be caused by rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes mellitus. Deformities may predispose to ulcers and pain, especially when shoe-wearing.
A common problem involving the big toe is the formation of bunions. These are structural deformities of the bones and the joint between the foot and big toe, and may be painful. Similar deformity involving the fifth toe is described as tailor's bunion or bunionette.
A favourable option for the reconstruction of missing adjacent fingers/multiple digit amputations, i.e. such as a metacarpal hand reconstruction, is to have a combined second and third toe transplantation. Third and fourth toe transplantation are also good.
Society and culture
Within reflexology (a pseudoscientific alternative medicine with no supporting evidence), the third toe is referred to as the Fire Toe. It supposedly can tell how direct the owner is - how focused they are to complete tasks and obtain their goals. A straight toe is said to mean great focus and determination. A pointed toe means they are bossy. A downward-pointed toe means that the owner can be easily prevented from achieving their goals. It is called the Fire toe because it represents the Fire element (big toe is ether, second toe is air, fourth toe is water, and fifth toe is earth). The fire relates to heat and fire, which in turn relates to perception and will, hence what the toe represents. Rubbing the third toe helps to stimulate it, and therefore restrengthens the person's fire element.
In classical Latin hallex, allex, hallus  and allus, with genitive (h)allicis and (h)alli, are used to refer to the big toe. The form hallux (genitive, hallucis) currently in use is however a blend word of the aforementioned forms.
In other animals
While the thumb is often mentioned as one of the signature characteristics in humans, this manual digit remains partially primitive and is actually present in all primates. In humans, the most derived digital feature is the hallux.
This article uses anatomical terminology; for an overview, see anatomical terminology.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Toes.|
- Finger, for the hand digits
- Morton's toe
- Nail (anatomy)
- Polydactyly and Syndactyly
- Runner's toe
- Toe cleavage
- Toe tag
- Webbed toes
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