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Arthritic toe pathologies frequently lead to the development of painful apical pressure skin lesions that can compromise gait and affect quality of life. Historically conservative treatments involve the use of a toe prop with the intended aim of reducing plantar pressure from the apex of the digit. However, the effect of toe prop treatment on plantar digital pressure has not been investigated.
Twenty two subjects were recruited with lesser digital deformities and associated apical skin lesions. Individual pressure sensors were placed on the apices of the lesser toes and pressure was recorded under three toe prop conditions (leather, gel and silicone mould). A modified comfort index was utilised to assess the comfort of each condition.
Significant difference (p< 0.05) in mean peak pressure was observed at the apex of the 2nd toe when using the gel (p < 0.001) and silicone (p < 0.001) toe prop compared to no toe prop. There was also a significant difference in the mean pressure time integral at the apex of the 2nd toe when using gel (p < 0.001) and silicone (p < 0.004) toe props. There was no significant correlation between comfort and the recorded peak pressures. However, there was an indication that the silicone toe prop was more comfortable.
As compared to the leather and silicone mould toe props, gel toe props were found to be the most effective for reducing peak pressure and pressure time integral on the apex of the second digit in patients with claw or hammer toe deformity.