Crossover Toe

Though it can occur at any age, crossover toe is most often seen in adults.

Crossover Toe images





  • Abnormal foot structure (bunion, arthritis, extra-long second toe for example), combined with
  • Abnormal foot mechanics due to tight calf muscles, an injury or even a steroid injection in that area of the foot.
  • These factors lead to overuse and eventually to a condition known as capsulitis.

What is Capsulitis?

Capsulitis is an inflammation and then weakening of the ligaments at the base of the second toe that, if left untreated can cause destabilization and dislocation of the joint so the second toe is then free to move on top of the big toe, creating ‘crossover toe’.

Crossover Toe Figures


Mostly pain and swelling in the ball of the foot at the base of the second toe. If the toe has already started to move, there will be soreness and pressure on top of the toe from regular closed shoes.


  • As with many of the conditions I write about, this one responds best to massage in the early stages when the second toe is still in place.
  • Most obviously massage and stretching can easily address tight calves on an ongoing basis to reduce wear and tear on the feet. I will probably give you gentle stretches to do regularly at home.
  • It is helpful to decrease the amount of time on your feet if you are usually on them a lot.
  • Ice packs will become your friend because this is an “itis” condition, meaning inflammation, which is heat in the tissue so ice is the perfect remedy for the swelling and the pain. Remember, wrap the ice pack in a thin towel and leave it in place on your foot for 10-20 minutes out of any hour.
  • Ice massage. I keep an ice pack in my studio to apply after a therapeutic massage session and I can also use ice as a massage tool.
  • Topical analgesics come in many cream or gel forms that can provide relief when ice is not readily available. I recommend Arnica oil, Bio-Freeze, Magic Stuff as well as a composite oil that I make up myself called ‘Aches and Pains blend’. It contains many pain-relieving oils from the world of aromatherapy, such as Birch, Basil, Peppermint, Camphor, Cypress, Marjoram, Eucalyptus, Oregano and others.
  • For some, anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can help ease the discomfort and swelling.
  • If you see your physician or physical therapist they could recommend using spacers between the toes and/or taping the toes in place. I have taken continuing education in taping so I’d be happy to re-apply tape as needed in with your massage appointment.Crossover Toe Spacers
  • Stiff soled shoes reduce pressure on the ball of the foot and many people benefit from custom orthotics that support the arch and distribute weight away from the irritated joint.
  • As a last resort or if advice is sought too late, surgery has helped many. My opinion is to keep this on the back burner unless absolutely necessary.

Last words:

  • Be kind to your feet from an early age and wear appropriate footwear if you need to stand for long periods.
  • Prop your feet up often and get regular foot massage. I charge a minimal price for a 30-minute session; if done regularly, it can help keep your feet in excellent shape for many years.
  • Notice any changes to your foot and toes and take action early. Knowledge is power but it’s also the booby prize because it doesn’t help you unless you do something about it!!