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String tied around toes

by Ernie
(Granger, Indiana)

capsulitis of second and third toes

capsulitis of second and third toes

About six or seven years ago I started to get the feeling as if a string were tied around the 2nd and 3rd toes of the left foot. It is not particularly painful, just irritating. It is not turning color, does not feel numb but it does feel somewhat different than the other toes although I would be hard pressed to describe the feeling. I spent a lot of time on my feet at work and drove a manual shift car for many years (clutch), so I thought that may have had something to do with it. After a year or two of it not going away I saw a podiatrist and he said something about a ligament that holds the toes together laterally, and gave me an insert to put in my shoe (went under the ball of the foot). After wearing it for six months with no improvement I returned to see him and he gave me a slightly different insert which again did not seem to help. Recently I noticed the same feeling in the same area of the RIGHT foot. I read about capsulitis and neuroma but they do not seem to be the same thing. I see a lot of hits on the internet of people with "string tied around toes" syndrome but no diagnosis or solutions. Any ideas?


RESPONSE

Hi Ernie,

I have been a podiatrist for a very long period of time and cannot recall ever having someone describe their toes as if there were a string tied around them, but that's just me.

Based on your description it sounds like this sensation is occurring at the base of each toe. I say that because the podiatrist you saw gave you two different inserts, one at least was supposed to raise the ball of your foot. I therefore, assume the insert had a metatarsal pad built into it which would be used for capsulitis or possibly a neuroma.

Since the podiatrist mentioned a ligament he probably had a working diagnosis of capsulitis as that is an inflammation of the ligament that actually holds the toe bone to the metatarsal bone behind it. There really is not a ligament that holds each toe together with the adjacent toe. If you look at the enclosed diagram the red arrows are pointing to the capsular ligament of the second and third toes. If they are both inflamed then you could have the sensation that you describe, assuming this string is occurring at the base of your toes.

Assuming your circulation is fine going into your toes and I assume it has been checked, then the two most probable causes of your sensation would be either capsulitis or neuroma.

In these instances both conditions cause inflammation at the base of the toes. I would assume that might be what is giving you the sensation of a string tied around your toes. Many people also describe the sensation as if their sock is rolled up underneath their foot.

Certainly driving a clutch could set this off on your left foot. The reason I know this is that I had a clutch on my last car and started suffering from capsulitis. Once I got rid of the car, the capsulitis went away.

Now I realize this is more of an annoyance than a crippling problem but obviously you are interested in getting rid of the pain.

Usually an insert with a metatarsal pad can be helpful assuming the metatarsal pad is properly placed. You did not mention if these inserts were custom made or just an insert that was pulled off the "rack".

At this juncture you might want to consider a cortisone injection or even a round of anti-inflammatory medication (if you can tolerate such medication) for perhaps two to three weeks in an effort to reduce the inflammation.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that a lesser possibility might be an actual growth of some sort in the area of discomfort. A growth like a ganglion cyst or bursitis that could be possibly growing in the area may also give you the same sensation.

The fact that you are starting to have this same type of problem on the right foot would lead me to believe there probably is not a growth but if treatment fails to alleviate the problem on your left foot then an MRI might be indicated.

Additionally, since you are beginning to experience the same problem on the right foot, the next thing I would look at are the shoes that you wear, as that is usually the common denominator when there is bilateral foot pain of a similar nature.

Two types of shoes that can aggravate capsulitis or even neuroma would be very flexible shoes like flip flops, boat shoes and any shoe for that matter that has a lot of "bend" in the forefoot. In other words, a more rigid shoe like a well made dress shoe or a good athletic walking shoe would probably be more helpful.

Activities such as ladder climbing, stooping down as in gardening or carpentry work, a lot of stair climbing without shoes can also set off capsulitis.

My suggestion would be to first think about the shoes you wear, the activities you perform and make any changes, if possible, then go back to your podiatrist and inquire about oral anti-inflammatory medication or perhaps a cortisone injection.

Marc Mitnick DPM
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Oct 07, 2017
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String tied round left foot big toe
by: Kevin French

Above is what I googled too, as I have that exact sensation of the feeling that string or hair was wrapped around my left big toe. It doesn't hurt, it's just a very strange sensation. When it first started I used to put my hand down to my foot as if to try and remove a hair from round my toe, lol

Aug 31, 2017
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Thank you!
by: Kelly

I too found this post because I Googled "I feel like there is a thread tied around my toe." Prior to my experience, I had never heard of such a phenomenon. My sensation started two days ago. It isn't painful--just distracting. Thank you for giving me a _possible_ explanation for my mysterious symptom. cor

Aug 11, 2017
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String/hair feeling on Pinky toe
by: Gretchen

Well I find this interesting that I am not the only one with this odd feeling. I have had back problems for years. A few yrs ago I got a spinal injection and I have been pretty good ever since. Two days ago I got thrown from my horse and I went down HARD right on my tail bone. Well now I have that odd sensation of a string on my little toe. Hoping it goes away.

Jul 16, 2017
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String wrapped around toe feeling
by: K

I found this page looking for an explanation as to why I have the sensation of a hair wrapped around my great toe on the left. It started yesterday and is intermittent. It has to be nerve-mediated but there is no injury and it's horizontal across the top of my toe at the base of the nail. Totally weird. Oh, I'm in the medical field too and if someone came to me with this complaint I'd be scratching my head. Lol.

Jun 25, 2017
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My similar pain from lumbar nerve damage
by: Traci

I have had this pain or odd feeling for years and my neurological Dr. Explained it is from my herniated disc but n lumbar L5 area. If you look at a dermatome map it ties that area with L5.
That is just my personal experience.
Hope it helps someone.
Best wishes.

Jun 20, 2017
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Same thing
by: Nan

I have had the same sensation for about a year. For the first 6 months it came & went. For the last several months, the feeling is always there. Added to that is a sensation that the tip of the toe has become disconnected from the rest of the toe. Those feelings last all waking moments. The seem on my sock if touching the toe makes it worse, so I am constantly rearranging my sock. It is my toe next to the pinky or last toe. While it does not look different, my nail has started to grow upward and it is hard to clip. My Primary Care Dr. & Podiatrist have no idea what it is. While I am glad to see I am not alone with this sensation, I wish none of us had it or at least had a cure. (My hair is long too & I thought it was hair at 1st too, but it is not)

May 25, 2017
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Second toe strung
by: Marcy

Wtf, so annoying as if the top 2nd toe tarsal was being strangled, wandering if a little neuropathy from sciatica, or if I am borderline diabetic? Strangest annoying feeling, usually while foot is bare or at rest.

May 18, 2017
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I have the same thing
by: missodessa

all day today I have noticed the same sensation of having a hair/string tied around my toes but nothing actually being there. I am sockless in nike slides most of the day in my house I've never had an illness broken bone or surgery. I do work from home sewing and occasional I get thread everywhere so I thought at first maybe it was thread that was stuck to my sandalor the place where I sit my feet t my desk. Nothing is there and the sensation followed me where ever I went. I decided to google it because it was so odd and thats how I ended up here. It doesnt hurt but it is annoying to feel like something is touching your foot but nothing is there.

May 02, 2017
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String tied around toe
by: Chris

I have the same symptoms in my third toe on my right foot. I too would check to see if I had something wrapped around it like a piece of hair. I notice it during the night. My feet are typically warm, not cold. It slowly goes away when I start moving and wiggling my toes. it's a relief to know that I'm not the only one experiencing it, but wish there was a clearer answer.

Apr 10, 2017
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This is Real
by: Michael

I have the same or similar issue. To putt plainly it feels as though a string or piece of long hair has become loosely wrapped around my two center toes. Currently no pain just the want to remove the wrapping but nothing is there. I have not seen anyone about this but probably will sometime in the future. I am certain my podiatrist is going to look at me funny.

Mar 31, 2017
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String Around Toes
by: Jeanine

I just had surgery to release a suspected pinched nerve on the top of my foot. My big toe and second toe feel like a wire around the base of them. They also feel like they are sleeping, pins and needles. I don't believe the surgery did anything. This stems from a broken ankle two years ago. It just continues to get worse.

Mar 23, 2017
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Started as feeling of string around baby toe...
by: Hilarie

It started 6 yrs ago; this annoying sensation like a string around my baby toe. I have very long hair so naturally I checked, rechecked, checked again with a magnifying glass b/c something had to be causing this feeling. I really hate to say it but over the years the sensation slowly moved to the next toe, then the next and has currently stopped just before my big toe. Much to my chagrin the 'string' was only the beginning; with the progression from each toe, my toes now curl under and all 4 toes have become deformed. With effort and great discomfort/pain I can momentarily massage them straight. If I don't wear supportive shoes, like slippers around the house the two toes closest to my big toe actually overlap now. All the nails grow awkwardly straight out of my once perfectly pedicured tootsies. This bending and twisting leads my toes to have callus' where they shouldn't even be touching the ground. Similarly the malformation causes odor under/inside the curl of all 4. I wash my toes multiple times a day and use powder. My doctor has no answer and its frustrating. I've become so vexed and have given up on finding a cause let alone a solution. Living with the daily agony coupled with the embarrassment at having to hide my once truly adorable feet is discouraging. Moreover, without exaggeration it effects the way I walk. Its like a 18 hour a day curse. Sorry to be so dramatic, but when you live with what started as a 'string' sensation which over time consumes and morphes all your toes causing pain with no solution in sight,,,you get dramatic. Good luck to all of you with a couple of weeks with this affliction. I pray that yours will be short lived. Amy ideas Dr.? Please

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Hi Hilarie,

Most of the cases that people have written in about appear to be related to the possibility of neuroma, which is a nerve entrapment that could possibly give the feeling of a string wrapped around the toe(s)
Your situation is different in that it has spread from one toe to the next and has actually deformed your toes as it has changed the position of the toes making it difficult to walk comfortably.
There is a very rare condition known as Ainhum disease which is a constriction at the base of the toe, usually the fifth toe. This constriction will eventually be visible and because of the tightness, causes the toe to swell, simply because blood cannot drain from the toe. It will also cause bone disintegration within the toe and eventually lead to amputation of the toe.
Now, your symptoms are nowhere near that, and quite frankly, even though I am aware of the condition, I have never actually seen a case, but I am in the majority with that.
You have had the problem for six years and from what I know about Ainhum, the progression is very quick.
Having said all that, have you had an xray of the toes? If not I would suggest one with the idea of looking to see if there is any bone destruction in the affected toe bones.
There is also a casual relationship with your symptoms to scleroderma which has a genetic predisposition and affects many organs of the body, but in regards to musculo-skeletal issues could possibly cause the transformation of your toes.
Talk to your doctor about "working" you up for what is known as the collagen diseases and to include testing for rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis as well.

Marc Mitnick DPM

Jan 24, 2017
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Me too
by: Charis

I too have that same sensation. I have long hair and my first thought was that a hair got wrapped around my toe but nothing was there. Been going on for 3 days and so I googled it. It is on a toe that I'm pretty sure I broke last year so I think it has something to do with that. Glad to know I'm not totally crazy! 😊

Jan 10, 2017
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Hair around toe? Nope!
by: Ramona

For about a week now Injave had the same sensation, as though a hair or fine string is caught around me second toes. It is quite bothersome, and I even tried scrubbing all dead skin off and checking for a fine sliver or something. There is nothing there. It is the base of my toe, where it meets the foot, but at the next joint. It feels as if I have a toe ring stuck there. It is so strange - and I keep trying to massage it, pop it, stretch it- anything !!!after reading these comments I wonder if it truly is just some type of nerve inflammation. I am going to treat with ibuprofen and see if that helps.

Oct 06, 2016
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Neuroma or Neuropathy
by: Judy

I am having the same sensation. I had an issue previously with Mortons neuroma in this same area but it was quite painful and I saw a podiatrist before it cleared up. But I am also a diabetic. I assumed maybe the neuroma was returning but maybe it could be diabetic neuropathy?

Oct 01, 2016
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Sensation of string wrapped around toes
by: Yvonne

I broke my ankle and foot several weeks ago. For the last two weeks, I've had the sensation that there is a fine string wrapped tightly around my toes. Also, my foot goes numb if I have it down for any extended time. It feels like a block of wood at the end of my leg, with no feeling in it at all. Shouldn't my foot be getting better, instead of worse ? I'm sure it has to do with injured nerves and tendons, but I don't know how serious this is or if I should be seeking the medical advice of a specialist.

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You should telephone the doctor treating your broken ankle and let he or she know your symptoms. Let the treating doctor decide if that is a problem or not.

Marc Mitnick DPM

Sep 25, 2016
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After surgery pain
by: Ann

Hi, I'm hoping someone can help me.....I had my big toe, second toe straightened and bunion removed.....that was 08 June, now 25 Sept, I can't put my toes down when I walk, can only walk on side of foot...The pain at night especially is unbearable. It feels like something was left in my foot after surgery...Like tape around both my toes, like I have something in my sock plus a very tight string between my toes....You are all saying it doesn't hurt, mine does. At night it's so bad I almost think I'm going to go to the ER.....I want an MRI my surgeon says no he'd go for an xray. Most drs will not see you until after 6 months has passed since your surgery.....I'd appreciate reading if anyone has any ideas. I'm going to physical therapy....so far it's done nothing. Any ideas, please can anyone help?

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You are almost 4 months post surgery and for most people there should be a dramatic reduction in pain, not complete, but certainly much less then initially experienced after surgery.
At this point you should be able to bear weight on the foot even though there may be some discomfort.
Call your surgeon's office and demand to be seen. To me at least, it sounds like you are not healing properly. If, there is an issue, the earlier it is addressed, the better the chance of a good outcome.

Marc Mitnick DPM

Sep 17, 2016
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Same issues here, 45 yr old woman
by: Anonymous

I have been having this same issue for the past week and was hoping it would just go away. I'm hoping I don't need to see a podiatrist, I read the drs comments on here and my feet only know flip flops, I'm a Florida girl. lol. It is aggravating constantly trying to remove a strong that isn't there.

Aug 31, 2016
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String around toes
by: Diane

As time passes after my surgery to fix sciatica, the "string" isn't as tight. Perhaps due to walking more? Anyway, the top of the big toe gives me grief. It feels like a partial sock around the toes to the ankle is shrinking, pulling. Big toe remains numb. Some feeling is returning to other toes, but I think I will need help with a cane for the rest of my life. At least I have the leg.

Aug 31, 2016
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Toes
by: Anonymous

So happy to know its not just me. For a couple of weeks I have the feeling like toes two and three have a string or hair around them and themes nothing .

Is this a problem for many and why? Does anyone know?

Aug 04, 2016
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String around esp. Big toe!
by: Diane

It's apparent my sensation has to do with recent L5-S1 laminectomy microdiscectomy. Toes cannot move upward and big toe is numb. Annoying pain is making it difficult to do PT and to walk.

May 20, 2016
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Sensation of a string around the toe
by: Anonymous

I have the same issue with my right toe..second digit. I've had it off and on for 3 years. It is a weird sensation but not painful....just annoying. I am 54 and a diabetic. So, I have issues with my feet to begin with. My doctor stated it was probably a nerve issue related to my neuropathy. I'm glad I am not the only one who has this. Thanks for sharing your stories!

Apr 08, 2016
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Similar to thread
by: AT

In the past month, I have had moments where I feel like a long piece of hair is wrapped around my 2nd and 3rd toes.
After carefully looking, there is nothing there. It then goes away after 5 minutes. I will get it checked as it feels very weird.

Mar 29, 2016
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Same issue! Phantom Sock String!
by: SS

For just over two weeks, I have had the sensation as if my sock was sliding and bunching under the toes of my right foot. I keep pushing/clenching my toes as if to alleviate the material bunching, but there's nothing there! I cannot stop pulling on my sock, but it's not sliding down. I wore no socks and still felt it. I'm 40, female, weigh 123, and am 5'2". I'm not a runner, but am in my feet the majority of the day as I teach.
It looks like there's a little bit more flesh between my toes and the ball of my foot when compared to the left which feels fine, but it's difficult to tell.

I may try icing my foot and will inform my doctor, but she always tells me I'm too young to have any "issues".

Dec 09, 2015
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me too
by: Anonymous

I have the exact same sensation - like a string wrapped around my toes. Wonder if a pointier shoe causes it. Am asking my doc at my physical next month. No high hopes.

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Jackie

San Diego, CA




Dr. Mitnick, Just want to say thank you so very much for your quick response and very informative reply! After reading what you had to say, I called the doctor's office and was able to get in and see him the same day as my injury. Toe was x-rayed and luckily, it is not broken or fractured. Very badly bruised and will probably lose the toe nail. And although my toe and toe nail are still very black and blue and very sore, they ARE both starting to feel a little better. So again, thank you! I am so very happy that I came across your website. The service you provide is outstanding and immeasurable!

Rivi,

Albany, NY




Thank you so much for all of your advice. In searching the web for people dealing with this same issue i can tell you that you are a Knight In shining Armor! If I lived in Jersey I would gladly be your Spokesperson. Hopefully next time you hear from me it will be good news. God Bless,

Jill S.

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THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH FOR YOUR TIME AND EFFORTS, YOU ARE SO VERY APPRECIATED. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO.

Jackie

Whichita, KS




thanks again, this site is very helpful.

mark

Boston, MA




Like others have stated...This site is amazing and I am so thankful that it was created.

....Keep up what your doing. Your a life saver.

Michelle

Colorado




Thanks again for the information provided on your site. It's easy for non-medical folk to understand your writing, and helps provide better communication between patient and doctor.

annielou

Colorado


Wonderful advice

by: Anonymous

This is the best site for foot problem info.


Thank you for this information. This description fits my pain and inflammation behind my 2nd toe perfectly.

by: Max

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Again, I really appreciate that you responded to my inquiry, and that your mention of Parkinson's helped me to find my way to a diagnosis of this difficult to diagnose disease. Most patients see on average 16 doctors before they are diagnosed. I hope that you can help other people that ask for your expertise in the future.

Barb D.

Canada
I just wanted to say that I am very greatful for this website!! I have had a fusion in my rt foot and am finally getting a little bit better......

Bonnie

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Again, Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to answer my question....your an angel!

Nancie

Wisconsin
Thank you for your response. You have provided some great insight (to my question)....

Julie

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Thank-you so very much for responding so quickly and in such detail to my question!! I will give my surgeon a call today!! This website is terrific!!!! Thank-you again!

Renae

North Carolina
Many Thanks Dr Marc!
Thank you for your response. It sounds like a good plan to me. He did not cut the wart out first ...

KG

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Thanks again doc for having this website and we STILL need qualified Podiatrists in beautiful sunny Tampa Bay (Bradenton) Florida.

Bessie Mae

Florida
Dear Dr. Mitnick, Thank you so very much for taking your time to answer my question. You have greatly relieved my anxiety related to the continual tingly I feel in my feet. I will share your response with my podiatrist next week. God bless you for having this question and answer page on your website! Most gratefully,

Lynne T.

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Your webpage is excellent, I commend you on sharing your knowledge to the public.

Robert

New Jersey


Thank you. you were more detailed than what others have told me they finally called from the last xrays and my son is now in a cast for 2 weeks he did have a fracture that was not noticeable.

a mom

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I have read your website and I have to admit that I am amazed at all the information that is on here. I have learned more than the three years I have been going to several doctors that I have seen!!

Melody

Lenoir, NC


Thank you so much Doc for a quick and thorough response!

Rustam

Bellevue, WA


I cannot thank you enough for your response, opinion, and suggestions! I want you to know how much it means to me, and I'm sure everyone else who has ever asked you a question! I feel like you're a lifesaver and have empowered me to take a stronger role and stand up for myself and my feet!

Jodi

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