Ghosts, and witches, and webbed toes…oh my!

This Halloween, all manner of elaborate and scary costumes will hit the streets and parties to show off their creativity and spook other trick-or-treaters. Those with webbed toes will have no trouble pulling off their creature from the black lagoon costume, but webbed toes aren’t as “scary” a condition as many people believe.

Webbed toes are common among birds, amphibians, and some mammals, such as kangaroos. In humans, this condition affects approximately 1 in 2500 live births. Webbed toes are also sometimes referred to as “twin toes,” “duck toes,” “turkey toes,” and “tiger toes,” though the official name is Syndactyly.

Syndactyly is a condition in which two adjacent digits are fused together. In simple syndactyly, the digits are connected only by skin or soft tissue. In complex syndactyly, the bones are fused together. Fusion may be partial, with only a small portion of the toes webbed, or it can be complete with even the nails fusing together.

Webbed toes are primarily a cosmetic concern and generally do not adversely affect walking, running, or swimming. Since your big toe controls the power and balance of your gait, a fused second and third toe can function as a second big toe, providing an athletic advantage (albeit a small one). On the other hand, movement of the fused toes may be limited, impacting balance and causing problems with activities needing prehensile toes.

While there are few adverse side effects, minor consequences can result from syndactyly. People with webbed toes may have trouble wearing flip flops, toe socks, and “finger shoes.” They may also struggle with activities requiring flexibility and gripping of the toes (such as walking over uneven surfaces). If the toes grow at different rates or to different lengths, this can cause bending and cramping.

While the majority of people with webbed toes simply live with the condition, corrective surgery to separate the digits is available. Some famous people with webbed toes include Ashton Kutcher, Dan Aykroyd, and Joseph Stalin.

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