The Leaning Tower of Your Body

Mortons toe

As early as age 14 I was diagnosed with a ligament tear in my knee, and soft cartilage in both knees. Fast forward a few decades and the musculoskeletal issues continued–with ankle sprains, cervical subluxation, kneecap subluxation, and so on. Over the years I saw everyone from orthopedists and physiatrists, to acupuncturists/herbalists, massage therapists, energy workers, chiropractors, a postural therapist, and a podiatrist. So you can imagine my *genuine* surprise when I recently learned about something called Morton’s Syndrome (also known as Morton’s Foot), and realized I had never heard of it.

Let’s take a look:

Morton's Foot in Xray View

You’ll see I’ve drawn a line on these sample x-rays to point to the lengths of what are called the first and second metatarsals (the long bones shown here in the middle of the foot). Morton’s Foot is when the second metatarsal is longer than the first (yes, it’s slightly more complicated than that, but this is the gist.) So, if you take a peep at the image to the left, you’ll see that second bone noticeably pops up over the line; whereas on the right image here, it doesn’t so much. Commonly, but not necessarily, an individual with Morton’s Foot will have a longer second toe than their big toe (as seen in the top image of this post).

Luckily for us, you don’t need an x-ray to see the heads of these long bones! To check your own feet, simply curl your toes downward; for most people this will be enough to allow the heads of the metatarsals to be seen clearly. If you need an extra push, just push from the underside of your feet (just under the second toe) while your toes are curled downward. Which one is longer, your first or your second?

At first, this may not seem like such big news. After all, you can’t even find proper stats on this phenomenon– sources will vary in saying anywhere from 10% to 20% to 25% of the general population share this structural anomaly. But, remember the story of the Princess and the Pea? The body can’t rest until everything is juuuuuuust right. Ideally, and I suppose technically “normally,” our weight is evenly distributed between the heads of the first and fifth metatarsals (this is the end of the bone by the line), and the heel. This creates a ‘tripod’ effect in the foot. But for us Morton’s Foot folks, our second metatarsal bone comes down first, because of its length. (Pea!!)┬áThe body then does some circus tricks and comes up with a brand new idea – a twist here, a turn here and voila! The body can put the weight back where it’s supposed to be, on the first and fifth metatarsals. So, picture an ankle that folds down and in (i.e. pronates), and a foot that points out like a duck– a position that forces the big toe’s long bone to come down first. I picture the body like Jenga here, that as we futz with the base, twisting our supports, everything above starts to lose it… slowly, but surely!

From the toes up, you can see the repercussions of our body’s circus act in twisted ankles, knees, hips, back and neck. Morton’s Foot could be the culprit in even fibromyalgia and chronic headaches. The truth is, strong power can come in small packages– and Chinese medicine is totally awesome at treating pain with its tiny needles and many herbs; and in this case, tiny pads that go in your shoes are equally recommended! The cheapest option can be to place pads under the balls of your big toe, affixed to an flat insole in the shoe (and slippers); this rightly makes the first metatarsal the first place of impact. Right now, I’ve just got those round felt pads that go under furniture legs in my shoes to see how it goes. So far – I really notice a difference in my gait and resting posture. (I’m quite excited, actually!!) My next step is to try out these fancy insoles that even accomodate for low and high arches.

How about you? Did you know about this already? (What did you do about it? Did it work?)